Friday, March 31, 2006

Exhausted... Posted by Picasa


This was probably the dumbest thing I've done yet as a writer. (And yes, there's plenty of dumb stuff I could choose from.) I found out about a contest for YA fantasy novels in January. I'd been knocking around an idea or two for a YA novel, so I thought, why not? The deadline is...uh...90 days away....

But I did it. Finished it and put it in the mail yesterday, postmarked one day before the deadline.

While I'm very pleased with a lot of the novel, I obviously would have liked a few more weeks (or months) to tweek it a bit. I really wanted to see if I could meet a deadline, even a tight three-month deadline and still write something I felt good about. Am I glad I did it? Sure. Even if it doesn't win or place, I'll still have a novel that I can go back and take my time revising before sending it out again.

But I sure am tired.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Help Wolverton Pick a New Team

I knew I made the right decision dumping the Cowboys. Now they've signed former Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt, who not only stabs his teammates in the back on camera (although he's not as practiced at it as T.O.), but also provided one of the biggest playoff chokes of the last several years a few months back. He'll fit right in with T.O. (Totally Offensive). Way to go, Jerry. Integrity does count for something. Maybe one day you'll figure that out, then again maybe not. As Dylan said, "Something is happening, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?" I never thought Bob was talking about this Mr. Jones, but it appears the Jokerman is prophetic once again.

So...who should be my new team?

After 30 years of rooting against them, it sure would be hard to pull for any of the other NFC East teams. I just can't see it happening, especially not with the Redskins. I guess the closest I could come to pulling for anybody in that division would be the Eagles. At least they had the integrity to tell T.O. where to go.

Let's look at the rest of the league, AFC first:

The Ravens are probably the most obvious choice: they're in my own back yard. (Although front yard would probably be more accurate.)

There's really nobody offensive in the AFC, other than Jacksonville's coach. I could probably be persuaded to consider any other AFC team.

The NFC? I hate the Carolina Panther's colors and especially their 80's end-zone design. Yuck.

Sorry, won't ever like the 49ers. Too much baggage from "The Catch," I guess.

Arizona Cardinals? That organization is a mess. It's not Dennis Green's fault, it's higher up.

Atlanta? Too much black in the uniform. Although how cool is it to have a guy named Alge Crumpler on the team?

Chicago? Maybe. One of my favorite cities, that's for sure. (As long as I'm not walking down Michigan Avenue in January.)

Detroit? Always wanted them to win, but it never happened much.

Green Bay? Fun to watch, even with an aging Favre.

Saints? Watched them too much growing up in Mississippi, although I don't have the paper bags to prove it.

Seattle? Still can't get used to them being in the NFC now. Plus you never get to see their games unless you're on the West Coast.

St. Louis? Too many weird and wacky things going on there. It must be like a David Lynch movie in that locker room.

Tampa Bay? They just don't do it for me. Can't explain why. At least they don't have the goofy buccaneer that looked like Slim Whitman on their helmets anymore.

Okay, I've got a few months to decide. Let's hear your suggestions.

Friday, March 24, 2006

First I have to finish this one... Posted by Picasa

...before this one comes out. (John, I know the change in cover art is driving you crazy.) Posted by Picasa

How Did They Do That?

One of the greatest pleasures I get from reading is trying to figure out how the author did what he/she did. I read two wonderful stories yesterday, both from The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror Eighteenth Annual Collection – "Mr. Aickman's Air Rifle" by Peter Straub and "Wonderwall" by Elizabeth Hand.

Both of these stories do a great job of working on the fundamental level of great storytelling. They're entertaining and pull you in; that's what you want from short (or long) fiction. But there's much more there.

Straub's story concerns four men in the cardiac ward of a New York hospital. They're all connected by the publishing industry, but that's not the only connection. The first page or so describes the hospital (and does so much more), but soon the characters take over. It's at least another two pages before any of the characters speak, but Straub ties the lives of these men together without bogging the reader down in backstory. How does he do it? Don't know. That's one of the reasons I'm going to read it again.

Straub has chosen third-person for a reason: it's the most effective way to tell this tale. Hand's first-person narrative is perfect for the tale of a female drama student in the 70s and her friend David. You couldn't change either and have as satisfying a tale. But I digress....

One of the great strengths of "Mr. Aickman's Air Rifle" is its use of revealing character through dialogue. It's really masterful how Straub's dialogue advances the story, reveals character, foreshadows what's to come, and just sounds right. "Wonderwall," on the other hand, uses less dialogue and more internal searching of the narrator (understandable, since we're in first person) to show the reader what's going on.

Anyway, I'm just scratching the surface. Both of these are home-run stories in my opinion. Can't wait to read them again.

Now Playing = Exile on Main Street - Rolling Stones
Now Reading = Air - Geoff Ryman (in between various short stories)
Listening to in the Car = Coldheart Canyon - Clive Barker
Watching on DVD = Veronica Mars Season One, Disc Two

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Dog park? Dog park? Pleeeeeease?  Posted by Picasa

Just a Mess or Stuff....or just a mess....

Right now I'm listening to Cindy and the rest of the U.S. Navy Band live via a great station, WICN Public Radio – New England's Jazz & Folk Station at I guess since I can't see Cindy on tour, this is the closest I'll get. The band sounds great, as always. One of the vocalists from the Cruisers (the U.S. Navy rock band) just sang a medley of Sinatra tunes. This guy really does a great Sinatra, especially pegging him in the upper register.


Too busy yesterday, so Bullet didn't get a walk. He reminded me of this fact at 3:30 AM when he had to go to his "area." Hopefully I can redeem myself in his eyes by taking him to the dogpark this afternoon. As long as a little whippet named Chester isn't there, he'll have a great time.


With roughly a week to go, I've got the end of my novel in sight. A few more nights on a few scenes and the rest of the time to do a whirlwind revision. Wish I had more time, but them's the breaks. I think, though, I might have to throw a little celebration in honor of finishing the thing.

As soon as this concert is over, I'm hitting the gym, hoping that neither Adam Sandler, Ben Afleck, Kevin Costner, nor George Clooney will be present on the big screen. Of course it could be much worse. They could be showing The Notebook.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

One Down, Nine to Go

Weighed in at Gold's Gym yesterday at 179.4 (down from 180.6 a mere five days ago, for those of you keeping score at home). Spent 40 minutes on the bike today reading Thomas Ligotti's The Shadow at the Bottom of the World. I'm tellin' ya – watching movies on the treadmill, reading books on the bike...what's not to like?

Monday, March 20, 2006

This Just In...

I really can't believe this....

First, understand that I've been a Dallas Cowboys fan for a loooooong time, nearly 30 years. That's right, thirty years: Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson, The Hail-Mary Catch, the 70's Superbowls, "THE Catch" (Dwight Clark), the 1-15 season, Jimmy Johnson, Jerry Jones, the Triplets, the 90's Superbowls, Barry Switzer (my stomach turns), Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, The Big Tuna...I've seen it all and I've stood by them in glory and in shame.

No more.

As of the Dallas Cowboys' signing of Terrell Owens this past weekend, I hereby promise to boycott the 2006 Dallas Cowboys' season and beyond as long as "T.O." is a part of it.

This signing goes way beyond the boundaries of being a bad idea. I can't even begin to discuss how stupid a move this is. I'm sure I'll elaborate on it at some point. I'm still in a state of amazement right now.

Workshop/10-Pound Report/Veronica Mars

My writers' workshop really outdid themselves yesterday, producing some home-run caliber writing in response to the exercises. Hard to believe we've only got two sessions left. I'm really excited about the DC Writer's Way reading coming up in a few weeks. For most of them, it will be their first reading experience, but they appear far more excited than nervous.


The 10-Pound Club is already having a positive effect – more energy, stamina, etc. As long as there's a decent movie on Cardio Theatre, it's a breeze. I'll weigh in on Wednesday (not required) to see how I've done this first week. (You can almost see Popeye's from the Gold's Gym parking lot. Cruel.)


I have to say, the third and fourth episodes of Veronica Mars: The First Season were much better written than the first two. I should receive disc two today or tomorrow, keeping The Wolverton Tour of Television Shows continuing for awhile...or until Cindy gets home.

Now Playing = The Return of the Manticore – Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Still Reading = Air – Geoff Ryman
Listening to in the Car = Coldheart Canyon – Clive Barker

Friday, March 17, 2006

The 10-Pound Challenge/Veronica Mars/Television to Wait in Line For

My membership in the Gold's Gym 10 Pound Club is going pretty well so far. I've been to the gym four times in as many days. I'm alternating days between the treadmill and the stationary bike. This afternoon I hit the treadmill for 27 minutes on "weight loss" at Level 7 while watching 50 First Dates (not recommended) on Cardio Theatre. But ah, the weekend is here.... We shall see if I can find those Popeye's coupons...

My morning wasn't even as enjoyable as a bad Adam Sandler movie. (Is there any other kind?) I went to Saturn to get my oil changed...and got a new water pump. But at least I produced eleven hand-written pages for the novel while I waited.


Since Cindy's on tour, I've begun the Wolverton Tour of Television Shows on DVD via Netflix. I finished the first disc of Firefly, which I thought was overall quite good. I'll definitely queue up the next disc.

I also watched the first two episodes of Veronica Mars Season One. While not as enjoyable as (and also quite different from) Firefly, I'll probably keep watching beyond the first disc. Veronica's relationship with her father is fairly entertaining and the mystery of what really happened to her murdered best friend keeps the interest going, but the stereotypical teenage kids doing stereotypical teenage things at a stereotypical rich-kids' California high school is getting old after only two episodes. Plus I can't believe I've actually watched something with Paris Hilton in it. I guess I'm one of those people who just doesn't get it. (You know you're getting old when you think Lena Olin is much hotter than Paris Hilton.)

Other shows lined up for the Wolverton Tour of Television Shows:

Taken (a mini-series, actually)
Buffy Season Two (I own Season One, but have never seen anything beyond it.)
Kingdom Hospital
Battlestar Galactica Season One (Already saw the mini-series)

These are shows I enjoyed during my "formative years." I want to see if they still hold up:

Kolchak - The Night Stalker
Night Gallery
Rat Patrol (I never actually saw this show, but my brother used to be so jazzed about it, I figure it's worth a shot.)

With all these TV shows being resurrected from the dead for DVD, you'd think somebody would bring back The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the original Mission: Impossible episodes. I know they would both probably look like a cheese-fest in 2006, but heck, they've got The Flying Nun and Gidget out on DVD for cryin' out loud.

Now Playing = Back at the Chicken Shack – The Incredible Jimmy Smith
Now Reading = Air – Geoff Ryman
Watching = Veronica Mars, Season One, Disc One

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Cancelled after only one season.  Posted by Picasa

Goodbye Popeye's, Hello Broccoli

The Gold's Gym 10 Pounds in 10 Weeks Challenge has begun. I paid my $25 and weighed in today at 180.6. (I was actually hoping that four-piece dinner at Popeye's yesterday would make a bigger impact, but I guess not.) On May 10, they'll weigh me again and if I'm 170.6 or lighter, I'll split the prize money with the others who met their goal. The guy at the counter today told me that over 120 people have signed up. So if I can (1) lose ten pounds and (2) make sure the other 119 people don't lose the weight (coupons for free pizza and wings, maybe?), this contest will be pretty sweet.

I'll be happy if I can just lose the weight and get my money back.


I got the first disc of the TV series Firefly from Netflix today and watched the first episode. People that know me well know that I rarely watch television shows, at least not during their first run. I just don't have time for it. But if I hear that a show is good from people whose opinions I respect, I'll watch it when it comes out on DVD. That way I don't have to adjust my supremely busy and important schedule to keep up with any shows.

I wonder how many other people are doing this? The vast majority of the Top 100 DVDs sold on Amazon are television shows. What you don't know is whether or not a DVD purchase of a season of a TV show indicates a buyer's first or second (or more) viewing of that season.

I also wonder how that will affect what initially airs on TV. Just from watching one episode of Firefly, I think it's a pretty good show. Apparently the ratings weren't that good when it first aired – it only lasted one season. But now the season is a huge seller on DVD. Does a studio face up to the embarrassment of giving a show a second chance? Interesting problems for the folks that work through the little screen.


Pretty good day of writing. Nearly 5,000 words on the novel.

Now Playing = Rabbit Fur Coat – Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
Still Reading = Air – Geoff Ryman
The Shadow at the Bottom of the World – Thomas Ligotti
Watching on DVD = Firefly (2002)

Friday, March 10, 2006

"Sampler" collection of Thomas Ligotti's horror tales.  Posted by Picasa

The Home Front, Thomas Ligotti and Other Stuff

Well, Cindy's been on tour for almost 48 hours and I haven't managed to make the house look like a garage sale just yet. I'm very proud of the fact that I have NOT visited any of my usual haunts (Popeye's, Pizza Boli's, etc.). I even cooked last night...if you can call grilling salmon cooking. The weather was just too good not to grill something.

I used the last of my Christmas/birthday gift certificates yesterday at Borders and picked up Jeff VanderMeer's new trade paperback edition of City of Saints and Madmen and Thomas Ligotti's "sampler" collection The Shadow at the Bottom of the World. Not yet ready to tackle City, I jumped into Ligotti's first story "The Last Feast of Harlequin." Man, this guy is incredible! Now I know why his earlier collection The Nightmare Factory is selling used on Amazon for nearly $40 (for a trade paperback). Looks like I'll be contributing to the Ligotti Retirement Fund on a regular basis. (As long as he doesn't retire from writing.)

The YA novel is coming along, but it's a race against the clock. I feel confident that I'll have a finished product for the contest, but I feel a little nervous about some parts of it. I know that with another month it could be much better. Since I don't have that month, I'll just have to push on.

It's the weekend! Yea!

Now Playing = Return of the Manticore – Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Now Reading = Air – Geoff Ryman
The Shadow at the Bottom of the World – Thomas Ligotti

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Talk About Fantasy...

Jeff VanderMeer has a great post on his blog about a really lousy experience at coffee shop. That reminded me of a few recent lousy experiences of my own...

I often have to stop in at one of the local Staples stores for paper, ink, tape, ink, pens, ink and whatever temptations they have there. Narrow that down to one store now: there are two that I will no longer visit.

A few weeks ago at the Staples across from Arundel Mills Mall, I walked up to the info desk, said "hi" to the girl behind the counter and asked if I could get a certificate for an empty ink cartridge I'd brought in. (They had promotion signs all over the store.) She said nothing, but looked at me with a "How dare you interrupt me while I'm smacking my gum?" look, plopped a pad of certificates on the counter, scribbled something on one and shoved it in my direction, staring at me like I'd told her I was a Barry Manilow fan or something. I said "Thanks." She never said a word, not "You're welcome," "Drop dead," or "'Copacabana' blows." This was not the first instance of lousy customer service I'd had at this location, but it will be the last.

Then at the Housley Rd. Staples in Annapolis, I was standing in line with my items, waiting in what I thought to be the only available check-out line. While I waited, I noticed an employee two registers over (one register over was empty) standing there, waiting on zero customers. He was just standing there, watching me and several others wait in line. He saw that I saw him, but he STILL didn't say "I'm open." He stared right at me, so I said, "Are you open?" He nodded his head about an inch, like he'd gotten caught setting off firecrackers in the bathroom or something. I took this as a "yes" and walked over there. He said nothing during the entire transaction. Again, this wasn't the first time something like this had happened at this location.

The only Staples I'll visit now is the one in Bowie. The employees there are always nice, helpful, and courteous. So are the managers. (These things almost always start at the top, whether for good or bad.) It's a well-run store that always looks great. They've got my business.

Why has customer service become like something from a fantasy story? It's just not that hard to do well – threat customers the way you'd like to be treated. That's it. You don't need an MBA to do it. I don't care if it's at Staples, Safeway grocery stores, Crown Cinemas or a Joe's Crab Shack. Customer service should be any business's number one priority.

What's wrong with the world?

Now Playing = Symphony No. 3 - Henryk Gorecki
Now Reading = Air – Geoff Ryman

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Clash of the Titans: Gold's Gym vs. Popeyes Posted by Picasa

10 in 10 and Other Fun Stuff

After a three-week absence, I walked into Gold's Gym yesterday and discovered they're having a 10 in 10 contest. Here's how it works: You weigh in on March 15, they record your weight. (I'm currently at 186.) They record it, file it and you pay $25. Then you have to lose ten pounds in ten weeks. At the end of the ten week period, they weigh you again. If you've lost at least 10 pounds, you and everyone else in the contest who's shed the weight splits the contest money. So if everyone sticks with it, you get your money back plus you're ten pounds lighter.

The biggest factor against my achieving the goal? Cindy leaves for Navy Band tour tomorrow and will be gone for a month. That means I'm left with the following options on a daily basis:

(1) My own cooking (not even an option)

(2) Places that are literally right across the street – The Italian Market, Chik-Fil-A, Popeyes (Love That Chicken), Fuji Steak House, Chipotle, and the dreaded Cold Stone Creamery

(3) Not across the street, but just as deadly – Pizza Boli's

(4) Broccoli sandwiches

At least there's no brewery across the street. And if I can get the employees at Caribou Coffee to put their chocolate chip cookies in a safe while I'm there, I'll be okay.


My books are getting out of control. Finding and selling used books can be a blessing and a curse. Finding time to read the ones I don't sell is becoming increasingly difficult. Plus there's at least 25 "must read" titles (translates "must buy") coming out in the next several months.

I've never done an accurate count, but I'd estimate that I own at least 2,500 books (not including my inventory to sell). If I've read even half of those books (It's probably closer to a fourth), that still leaves 1250 books unread. If I read 100 a year, it'll take me 12.5 years to read them. And again, new stuff keeps coming out and you keep discovering older books you weren't aware of.

And I'd like to write a few of my own.

Looks like it's time to purge once again. Ah, the suffering, the pain. And I'm expected to do this without Popeye's therapy?

Now Playing = Station to Station – David Bowie
Now Reading = Air – Geoff Ryman

Monday, March 06, 2006


Well, it was quite a night, wasn't it? I'm a little rusty on my Oscar history, but I can't ever remember seeing the top six awards go to six different films. That's pretty cool. And I'm almost positive a song about a pimp never won an Oscar before, but I could be wrong about that. It was also interesting watching Jon Stewart's reactions to his own jokes – he looked like he was either waiting to be fired, gonged, kicked in the teeth, or all three. Other than a Jewish joke that I thought was in pretty bad taste, I guess he did okay.

No surprises with the Best Actor award. The Academy could have just handed it to Hoffman months ago and saved everyone a lot of time. I haven't seen Capote, but am eager to check it out.

I did finally see Walk the Line (the day before the Oscars, at a $3.00 a ticket second-run theatre) and enjoyed it. I thought Joaquin Phoenix did a good job and I don't mean to take anything away from that, but I always felt like I was watching Joaquin Phoenix. I didn't get that feeling watching Reese Witherspoon, at least not the whole time. I thought she pulled off a great portrayal of June Carter and probably deserved the award. But she also had a pretty easy time of it. Not that the other actresses aren't talented, but most of the other performances in that category came from films that either didn't get a wide distribution or a wide audience. Huffman was her only real competition.

I was surprised at Crash winning Best Picture. It wasn't shocking (like it was when Chariots of Fire beat out Reds and On Golden Pond for the 1981 [presented in 1982] Best Picture), but still a surprise. Did it deserve the award? Don't know. It was the only nominated film I saw! I thought some of it was over the top, but that never stopped Ben-Hur/Forrest Gump/Titanic/Gladiator/(pick your own movie) from winning.

I was embarrassed for Lauren Bacall. I couldn't tell if she just couldn't read the script or if she was ill or what, but her presentation was one of those things you wished you hadn't witnessed.

I hated, absolutely hated having music, even soft music, playing while the winners gave their acceptance speeches. What were the producers thinking? Were they trying to make their "Time to wrap it up, buddy" music less abrupt? Sorry, didn't work. I hope they scrap that policy for next year.

Nice to see Robert Altman get some highly deserved recognition.

Hey, maybe the costume people from Memoirs of a Geisha and the special effects people from King Kong can get together and come up with a movie about an ape in a kimono. Okay, maybe not.

Now Playing = The Way Up - Pat Metheny
Now Reading = Air - Geoff Ryman
Now Listening to in the Car = The Bottoms - Joe Lansdale

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sorry about the lack of blog activity lately...I've been busy. Posted by Picasa