Saturday, May 2, 2009

changes coming soon

In a few days, there will be a brand new edition of my Web site,, including a new site design, new content and a regularly updated blog. I'm planning on posting some short stories, fragments, and possibly a complete online-only novel at some point.

I'm hoping everyone who reads this will make sure to come back to visit the site and see what I've got to offer.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Donald E. Westlake, 1933-2008

A hero of mine has died.

Donald E. Westlake, who wrote more than 90 novels, died on New Year's Eve from an apparent heart attack. Westlake was (is) my hero at the keyboard. He had a gift for humor that translated to the written page like no one else I've ever read. It's a true art to transfer humor from the spoken word, where dialect and inflection can play a great part in a joke to the page, where the words have to stand on their own. Westlake could do it like no other. He's credited for basically inventing a genre of writing: the comic crime caper. Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen followed in the path he carved. But I'm not sure either one would have been as successful if it weren't for the trail Westlake blazed.

He also wrote artful brutality under the pen name Richard Stark, books about a single-minded sociopath named only Parker. I can't do his books justice through description. Other writers, ones far better than me, will mourn his passing. I spoke to the man only once, in an hour-long interview where I found him gracious and self-deprecating. I didn't win any awards for the story that came out of the interview, but I treasure the memory of spending an hour with one of my favorite authors. It remains one of my proudest moments in journalism. We talked books -- not just his -- writing theory, life ... anything and everything seemed on the table for Westlake.

He had various other pen names: Tucker Coe, Edwin West, Samuel Holt, James Blue. But behind all those names was the wonderfully clever Donald E. Westlake. I got three of his books for Christmas, all Richard Stark novels: Dirty Money, Lemons Never Lie and The Outfit. I read them all within a couple of days. I did what I always do when I have a new Westlake or Stark novel: I devour it. It's like water to a man dying of thirst.

Now there will be no more. The fountain from which sprang so many happy hours losing myself in other worlds has dried up. One more new Westlake remains to be published: Get Real, in April of this year. I'll buy a copy. Hell, I'll probably buy more than one. Westlake is a treasure that should be shared.

So I guess I just wish I could say thanks one more time to him. Thanks for the humor, for the brutality (sometimes both wrapped together in unexpected ways). Thanks for the hours of enjoyment. You were a class act, Mr. Westlake. You will be missed.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

down in the French Quarter

so despite Troy losing a game they had no business losing (which will be another blog entry all on its own), Misty and i are having a great time in New Orleans. we're actually staying in Slidell, just across Lake Ponchartrain from Nawlins. we checked in this afternoon despite an unhelpful hotel desk jockey, left our bags in the room and headed into the Big Easy.

it was nice just to have some time to drive around the city, find decent parking and then gawk around some of the French Quarter. we stayed mostly on Canal Street or Decatur ... probably will tackle Bourbon Street when we come back for New Year's Eve/Sugar Bowl. but i wanted to write about some of the stuff we did before i go to bed tonight, so that i won't forget it. we ducked into the Crescent City Brewhouse. we ducked in for a quick drink, and ended up dining there, too. the beer was ok, but the food was awesome, and we can definitely recommend the baked brie (it comes with apple chutney, grapes, roasted garlic and crusty French bread) and the cornbread dressing (with andouille sausage). the food was amazing and the service was really friendly too.

from there we ducked in a couple of stores, but my favorite place was undoubtedly The Cigar Factory, where you could see cigars being rolled by hand and tour the humidor where they were being aged. i bought one and smoked it as we wandered around and enjoyed the brisk December chill. we also stopped in at the Green Room, where we were served the worst vodka gimlets in the entire known world. they were -- as Charles Barkley would say -- turrible, just turrible. from there we finally headed to the Superdome (which lived up to its name ... it really was nice). we had great seats and were surrounded by cool people. no complaints on this end.

oh, and here's a fun thing: i ran into people i knew from Troy, who said they missed me and the sports section just wasn't the same without me. i really appreciated hearing that. Janice Blakeney (Coach's wife) saw me, hugged my neck and said she and Larry both missed having me in Troy. that meant a lot. the first time i ever met Janice, she was mad at something i'd written in the paper. by the time she left, she was laughing with me. when i left Troy, she hugged me and said I could come back anytime I wanted.

oh, and i have to say ... i spotted my former lackey Ben Stanfield at the game. Ben was rocking the sweater vest, and i wouldn't be doing my job as his friend if i didn't make fun of him for it. you are NOT Jim Tressel, my friend. let the sweater vest go.

anyway, it's time for bed. good night.

the Big Easy

so Misty and i are headed out later this morning to go to the New Orleans Bowl to watch Troy play Southern miss. should be a good game, but i think we're really just looking forward to having a little bit of time all to ourselves.

we'll be down in time to wander through the French Quarter a bit and relax before the bowl game. we'll be driving right through Hattiesburg, and i thought of seeing if my friend Ginny and her hubby might like to join us for a coffee, but i haven't seen her on FB in a few days. we'll be going back through there on Dec. 31 and Jan. 3, so maybe then?

like a lot of people, we're going to be traveling a lot over the next couple of weeks. heading to New Orleans (twice!), and also back down to the Wiregrass for Christmas. i'm hoping i get to see some of my old friends while i'm down there. i know i'll see Chris V. (and yeah, big guy, you know i'll try to pick up a shirt for Josh at the bowl game tonight) and Bobby R. while i'm down. i'd like to catch up with Chad and Jen, too (hint, hint, Jen!). and Blair and i keep meaning to catch up, but it hasn't worked out yet. but it will, i'm sure. and Rachel Benton better come by and see me at some point. lol

i'm kind of meandering around here (likely because it's very early in the morning). i just ... i dunno. i think about how lucky i am. i have a girl who loves me dearly and accepts me despite my (numerous) flaws. i have a great dog. materially, i have a ton of things. financially, i'm doing OK. i look back on my life just two short years ago, and things have changed so much for the better. i think the biggest changes have come in my relationships with people ... building trust and laying the foundation for real, long-term friendships. another huge change is not finding my identity in work anymore, but instead finding it in who i am emotionally and spiritually. i used to rush to the office in the mornings and work through the night a lot of times. these days i guard my time jealously. i'd rather spend it on Misty or my friends.

ugh. sorry for the long ramble. i'm going to go dry some clothes and try to catch another couple hours of sleep.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


oh my goodness. in the battle between myself and the CrossFit program, CrossFit has won. easily. like Mike Tyson when he was in his prime, CrossFit came up and just whipped my ass today. if it were a boxing match, it would have been over in the first round. i would be that guy lying knocked out on the canvas with the little birdies circling his head.

in the past two days, i've done the following: wallball (all links in this post to video examples), which is a free squat while throwing a weighted medicine ball at a mark about 10 feet off the ground; burpees, which are harder than they look, especially after about the first five; kettlebell swings, which start out easy and get progressively harder ... the girl in the video there is insane; a squat/military press combo that i can't find a video to, and rowing (don't feel like i need to post a video of that).

i'm working muscles i didn't know i had ... and the ones i thought were in decent shape appear to ... well ... let's be kind and say they aren't anywhere as decent as i thought they were. these workouts only take 30-40 minutes, and at the end of them i'm so exhausted i have to force myself to get to my feet and go shower. but i think i did better today with the workout than i did the first day. here's what i'm really liking: the workout is challenging. it's different every day. and quite frankly, it's beating me into submission. in each of my workouts, i've had moments of "WTF??? why am i doing this?" but i've worked past that, and i'm glad. but honestly, the workouts are kicking my butt right now.

my goals are simple: to really be "in shape." and i define "in shape" as being physically able to do whatever i want. if that's run a 5K, great. if that means playing basketball or tennis or softball, that's what i want/need. i want to maintain that level of fitness. i can tell you that, while i'm sore, i feel better physically than i have in a long while. part of that is just knowing i'm doing something to get more fit. but i think part of it is the exercise itself.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday morning coming down

I'm still laughing about Gene Chizik being hired at Auburn. Sorry, but you're going to fire a guy with 85 wins -- including seven of 10 against your arch rival -- to hire a guy whose head coaching record is 5-19? At Iowa State? Really?

And don't tell me Tubs resigned. You don't pay a guy $5.1 million in buyout money when he quits.

On to more pleasant topics:

Misty and I joined Northridge Fitness yesterday. I went ahead and paid a year's membership in advance ... now we need to use it. Yes, I want to lose weight ... but the important thing for me is to be and feel healthier. Misty got to work out, but I had to work from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., so no weekend workout for me. I'm looking forward to getting in there Monday morning and banging out a good workout. I'm planning on doing the CrossFit stuff I mentioned in a previous entry. Northridge looks ... extensive. It's even got a boxing area so I can have a go at the heavy bag when I want to. And I will definitely want to. LOL

I'm also going to be concentrating on my diet, trying to work in more fresh veggies and unprocessed foods. This will help me control calories and make me more aware of the foods i'm putting in my body.

I look back on the last two years of my life and think about how far I've come ... from ending a horrible, self-damaging relationship with an abusive woman to building a good relationship. From being single-minded about finding my happiness in my career to finding out I can do other things and have a life -- a real life -- outside the office. Basically I've come from slogging mindlessly through the days to a point where I can see the joy in my life. And knowing the difference between those days and these makes all the difference.

"Oh, yesterdays over my shoulder
So I cant look back for too long
Theres just too much to see waiting in front of me
And I know that I just cant go wrong"

-- Jimmy Buffett, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Friday, December 12, 2008

weighty issues

i'm not happy with my weight. well, i take that back -- i'm okay with my weight. i don't mind being a fat guy ... until someone takes a picture. in the past year i've not felt like working out. i've had a lot of pain, which resulted in a diminished desire for nearly any physical activity. that results in depression, which makes me eat more. and the pounds pack on.

i've also been coping with injuries -- specifically to my left hand/wrist -- that have been excuses not to go to the gym or not work out as hard as i could. 

i've had three straight days here where there has been zero pain in my feet and legs, and now i'm itching to work out -- ready to go walk or run or DO something. i've been reading about a very challenging workout regimen: CrossFit. my local gym offers it (and boy, is it expensive!), and i hear it works wonders if you can keep up.

i keep thinking about this, and i think the gym is definitely something i need to do for myself. i also need to get control of my nutrition (stop eating out so much, cut out so much sugar and starch, etc.) ... i know i'll feel and look better. i'll probably end up getting Misty a membership too -- but only if she'll USE it. right now we don't use the resources we have, and we really need to do that.