These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Harry potter mania, man

Yes, we bought the book. I got off work at midnight, hmm great timing, and then headed off to B & N to get our copy. Dawn got her book and I got the audio. We only waited in line for about 30 minutes with other fans, mostly adults, which was kind of nice. I think the kids all got their books first, since they probably registered months ago for this event. We had ticket number 282.
The store was jumping with activities early, too. I got sent out on assignment (sans wizard garb) to cover the story. It's BIG man, and I'm part of the history books now when people read the paper in later generations.
There I was,standing between woman dressed like Madam Hooch (a mother from the Chicago area) and young boys galore dressed like Potter. He's a favorite for some reason.
I got my quotes quickly enough, chatting with the mom and her kids, a kid who was dressed like Potter and this girl who was covered all in black (even her face was covered) and was pretending to be a Dementor. That was quite original, I thought.
The interesting part of the interviews (which I really didn't use more in my article) was the kids' ferocity and belief that Sirius Black is not dead. Most want him back. I guess I don't' blame them. Also, the Dementor girl is a Snape fan. I dug that, since I am, too.
I was not surprised by the kids there as much as I was by the number of adults dressed like Potter book characters. Most were decked out in capes or dressed in black like witches. I think it's great that an adult can be a kid again, especially in these times when we're all up tight over politics and war and terrorism. Potter acts as a release from all of these things and emotions. I wish we had more of it. It's the type of thing where all worries and views are set aside and smiles replace worry lines.
There was a definite aura of happiness at the B&N last night. I wish we had more of that stuff going on.
So now, I'm in a race with Dawn to finish up the book. I'm lagging behind. She's reading while I'm on here tapping away. But my advantage is that while she falls asleep quickly at night, I can stay up listening to the tapes and surpass her.
Viva Snape!

Friday, July 15, 2005

New beginning...Woes temporarily solved

I wrote like a madman yesterday, even if it was for about 45 minutes. Still, the machine's wheels were churning, the pistons pumping, the fuels burning, man.
Dawn and I had a good talk a few days ago that changed a lot about the book. Now, I am adding a new beginning; I've already started it and will probably finish the prologue today. I am adding a few new characters right off the bat, changing the police chief's family life around, also putting him in the story before the crime. It will make him more accountable, at least in the eyes of certain people. And instead of stringing the story along for a year, I'm narrowing it down to a five-month period or so. I just finished 'Salem's Lot and realized that the book, with the exception of the prologue and epilogue, takes place in a very short span of time. That got me thinking to begin with, even before our talk.
I'm much more at ease with this beginning. It's more striking and gripping before settling into the story. I think now I'm making it a story more about the town and its people than only with the crime itself. I can flesh out more storylines.
But I still face the same insecurities about failure that seem to plague me constantly. I wish I could overcome that. It's hard, though. I should just think about this as an ongoing newspaper article that doesn't end and maybe that will help me accomplish what I need to. We'll see. There has been too many false starts. I think that perhaps this one did the trick.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Meow, Purr, Meow

Cats are cuddley types of creatures who come for pets and strokes at their own leisure and convenience. It's all up to them and on their terms -- at least that's the way it is with one of our cats, Katrina (a bratty, domestic short-hair).
I've been enamored of cats, though,only since I met my wife's now eight- year-old cat Kit, who is probably one of the shiest cats in the history of cats, in 2001. Before we got 'Trina (three years ago this September), no one would have ever guessed my wife had a cat. He refused to come out when company dropped by the house. He often skulks low and then hurdled himself (as much as his 15 pounds will allow him) into the bedroom and under the bed.
But Kit took to me like nobody's business. Dawn was surprised how he came out and started wrapping his tail around one of my legs (and even let me hold him upside down like a baby). We struck it off very well and became buddies.
A few months after we got married and were living in Alice, I found 'Trina (or should I say, she found me). I went out one night to through the trash and heard a small "meow" on one of the stairs. It was dark but managed to see a small kitten (probably six or so weeks old) looking at me. I looked at it and then walked down to the Dumpster, tossed the trash in, and noticed a tiny figure running toward me from the stairs. It was the kitten. I picked it up and looked at it, carrying it back to the apartment.
I opened the door and said 'Hey Dawn, look what I got here." That did it. The brat cat was in our lives. We fed her that night, she became part of the family, and even decided to sleep above my head on the pillow. Her purring, roaring motor was at full-throttle -- but it was oddly comforting.
After a series of name changes (Joie among them, blah), we settled on Katrina (it's a name quite suitable for her, although princess and queen would also suffice).
So we have a bratty three-year-old, who has only finally become mostly domesticated and refrains from playfully biting (although Dawn's leg was at her wrath about a month ago) and a more serious-minded middle-aged feline, who's decided he's not having anything to do with his new senior food we've bought for him and 'Trina.
They are fun to watch, sometimes interacting and at other times not. They will chase each other throughout the house, 'Trina ripping around a corner and Kit's loud thumps as he's closing in on her. At other times, they'll be by each other and one or the other will swipe at the other's face with a paw. They're such good pals.
If I have any complaints about my two felines its this: Kit has a hairball problem that drives me nutso sometimes. Nasty little deposits, they are. And 'Trina, well, the brat decides that she enjoys rolling around the cement walk out back. She scoots out the door when we open it and then flops down and rolls on the dirty cement like a lunatic animal.
Other than that, hey, I can't complain. They're good company, Kit provides the rational in of the two and 'Trina provides the odd humor only an adolescent could achieve. Good combination.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The C-word cannot be spoken

Recently I've had to come to terms with my dad having...cancer. He was diagnosed in mid-June and it's still hard for me to say the c-word sometimes, although I'm becoming more at ease with it as time goes by.
I am unsure why the c-word scares me so much; I mean, it's only one disease of hundreds or thousands even that a person can die from. But there's something menacing about that word and the disease, as opposed to say someone had a massive heart attack.
We were all shocked by the whole thing. It crept up on us and we were left looking around like "What the hell just happened?" I can only imagine what it was like for my dad, who was facing this disease. It's been even harder after my aunt (my dad's older sister and a person who's more than an aunt to me and my siblings) was diagnosed with breast cancer. She subsequently had a masectomy in February of this year. (In addition, my uncle, dad's older brother had a stroke in Sept. 2004.) So life hasn't been great for our family over the past year.
It was funny, in an odd way, how they found my dad's cancer. Dawn and I went down there in mid-March and all was well. Great visit. Then in late April, early May, I get word from my mom and sister that my dad has lost weight, no appetite.
After going to his doctor, the guy prescribed my dad Zoloft because he thought my dad was depressed after having retired a year and a half before. Nothing. Pills Didn't work. He went back again later in May, and this time my dad was not doing well. He had this constant pain across his abdomen. The doctor conceded to doing an ultrasound.
This is where things start to go bad. The test showed spots in his liver. This doctor, who was so unconcerned with the pain that he gave my dad anti-depressants, called the very day of the test to tell him he had to go for further tests. My guess is he panicked.
My dad had to go through a CT scan. That verified the spots were there, at least four to five masses in his liver. A week later he went in for a biopsy and a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy revealed a large cancerous tumor in his colon. This was on a Wednesday. The surgeon said he'd have to remove it quickly, since it was blocking most of his colon.
Surgery was scheduled for Monday, five days later. About a foot of his colon was removed and he stayed in the hospital for six days before going home. He is recuperating and will have to go through chemo some time this month.
Nothing could be done about the tumors in his liver since they are connected to both lobes. The hope is the chemo will shrink them enough to work with them and have them removed.
I still wonder what most scares me about this whole situation. Is it the cancer itself? The question of my dad's mortality? The 2 to 5 year timeline the doctor said he has to live (only 10 percent of people with stage 4 cancer live beyond that period.)?
The possibility of a parent's death is something I hadn't really thought about. Both my dad and mom were relatively healthy and a serious disease derailing their lives was far from my thoughts.
Living in Michigan has been difficult through all of this. I don't get to see my dad like my brother and sister do or be there after he comes back from the doctor. But this is the way it must be and its something I have to deal with. I wouldn't change anything. I pick up the phone and talk to him as much as I can. I think this situation has brought the family closer. I talk to my sister and brother quite often now, as well as my aunts and other family members.
Fourth of July Sunday was particularly sad, though. I think it was the fireworks display here at Kollen Park that we saw the day before. My parents were up here last year and saw them with me and Dawn. Memories are both a blessing and curse sometimes. For me, the past and its memories presents a certain melancholy. I guess because those memories can never be regained and the emotion behind them can never be recaptured.
And now with our present situation, we have to move forward and see what the future holds with my dad and the cancer. His spirits are up most days and we encourage as best we can.
He became very emotional during his time in the hospital because he received so much support, phone calls, visitors and flowers. It makes me happy and proud that my dad is well-liked and regarded in the community. I love my dad.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Falling branches and bolts in a tire

So the TV news has word of a forest fire in the Allegan State Forest and I was off to it. Didn't know what to expect. Turned out to be about 30 or so acres burning due to a pump jack electrical short in the middle of nowhere Allegan. Interesting event. Never been to a forest fire before.
On the way back to town to type up the info, there's this sound going on with the tires. Even though I don't drive and haven't been behind the wheel since I was about 15, I know there's something off with the car, at least from a passenger's perspective.
We checked it out and found a rather large bolt embedded in one of the tires. Dunno how it got there but there it was. Luckily it seemed to be so tightly stuck that it appeared it wouldn't come out. Otherwise, we would have been SOL out there on M-40. I had fears we would have to pay for two new tires, since I had convinced myself the hole made by the bolt was too big to be repaired. But the gods were in my favor and all is well fifteen dollars later. heh heh
Weird thing this morning, though, when we stepped out to the tire place. There was a large branch from the oak tree (stands directly in front of our porch by the street) laying (or is it lying??) across the front yard and sidewalk. It must be about 12 feet long. The nearest branches on the tree are about 15 feet from the ground, maybe even more. My wife and I discussed the possibilities but couldn't figure out why it fell. There were no strong winds or storms and it appeared not to be a dead branch. It was too high for someone to hang from it, too. We heard nothing of the incident last night. You would have thought the noise might have awakened us. Nothing. I tried lifting it, and with my massive strength, I thought it'd be a cinch for me to move it to the lawn. Alas, it still sits across the sidewalk. Our landlord will take care of the problem.
It's getting late and guess what? I've still not attached my novel. I feel like a failure at times because of my lack of enthusiasm. I could blame it on going to the tire place or watching Waiting for Guffman but ultimately there's no excuse.
I must admit, I do a lot of thinking and talking about it to my wife and friends and that narrows down some ideas and plot. Oh well, lamenting, lamenting.
Hey, a shout out to Ab Nance in Ireland! Say hey to Bono.
Three more days 'til Harry Potter!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Back at the novel

After three weeks, I'm back at writing my novel. It's hard to get started again, sort of like trying to jump start a car with a low battery.
Despite stopping the writing process, I needed the time off. That first week off, we went back to south Texas to attend my dad's emergency surgery after being told a portion of his colon had to be removed due to a cancerous tumor (in addition to four to five masses in his liver). That week, of course, I did no writing because I had no computer and plus my attention was on my father and his week-long hospital stay.
The following week after returning, my body and mind were exhausted. It took days for my legs to get unused to being in a 90-degree angle by sitting in a car for the 1,500 mile trip there and back and the 150 mile daily trips to the hospital. We arrived on a Sunday night and it was back to work Monday afternoon. Good thing I didn't have to work early that day.
What excuse do I have for lack of writing for the third week? I have none. Sometimes it's much easier to sit back and not think about the looming demon that's the book. It's easy to avoid sitting down for an hour or so and doing some writing. It's easy to pop in a DVD movie and watch it or be lazy. I write every day at work and maybe at times I think that that work suffices.
But this weekend my wife asked me when I was getting back to the book. I told her it wasn't far from my thoughts and I had to sit down and start up again.
And so I did. I only wrote one single-spaced page but it will have to do for now. I need to get my rhythm back. If only I could whip the words out as easily as I can some of the stuff I write for the paper. But it's a different process.
Sometimes I despair that all the work is for not. My greatest fear (writing-wise) is that I finish it, satisfied with it, send it off, and no one picks it up. But I guess that's a reality I must face.

Out for a ride

My wife and I decided to get out Sat. afternoon. We were being lazy and sitting around (we'd gotten up early waiting for the rescue mission guy to pick up our old couch) and then did a little garage sale-ing.
We headed south near Fennville to an old antique place on M-89. We found nothing. The place is wicked, having three levels and full of stuff. It's sensory overload, really. It's amazing that some things considered junk sell for $10 or $20. There's a spot where there are lots of old books. Each time we've been there, I look around for an old Hemingway book, but I'm not lucky enough.
We left but based on a co-worker's recommendation, decided to travel across to visit an old cemetery. We got lost, of course, since I really didn't have proper directions, and we, instead, ended up on a short patch or road that deadended (it was a private road). However, we found one of the most beautiful stretches of land overlooking Lake Michigan yet for me. The road was mere feet from the bluff that overlooked the lake below. My wife said it reminded her of the Pacific coast highway. It was truly an awesome sight. We couldn't' stop to admire for long since it was a private road. It was a wonder to see the blue water and waves more than a hundred feet below us and stretching out to the horizon.
We finally got on track after calling my coworker and found the cemetery. It turned out to be in the opposite direction. It was a small cemetery, quaint and quiet, surrounded by large pines. Its entrance is marked by a horse-shoe shaped piece of iron, which can easily be missed since the canopy covers part of the narrow road. Some of the graves reach back to the 1870s or earlier. My friend said that back in the day the bodies of dead seamen washed up on the shore and the men were buried in the spot where the cemetery is today.
It was a short trip but it got us out of the house and we saw a few places we hadn't yet seen out here, since we've only been in the area for a year and a half.
Today was blah. Lots of housework, laundry, dishes, trash. Some of the usual for a Sunday afternoon before getting back to the work week.
But we did get to see the The Next Generation episode where the Borg makes its appearance. Cool stuff. But it didn't yet say its signature phrase: Resistance is futile.