Try to picture me now, six foot three inches of hangdog pout, twisting the toes of one foot back and forth on the floor in shame at having let something sit for far too long. A month or so back I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award, and like a lazy farmer wondering why the crops aren’t doing anything when the seeds haven’t been planted yet, I let this sit, and sit, and recede into the shallows of memory, assuring myself that I would indeed get around to it. Terrible. Well, after a few other projects have been swept from the deck, here I am finally, getting around to said thing. Despite my drag-assedness, I’m deeply grateful to the four stellar talents who were kind enough to nominate this tiny corner of the Internets: Michelle Gordon, Jessica West, Nillu Stelter and Debbie Vega. Thank you so very much ladies! Keep being awesome, and more to the point, keep writing awesomely. And sorry I’ve taken so long to accept your generous nomination!
The rules for this particular honor are: thank the person(s) who nominated you (check!), disclose seven interesting factoids about yourself, and nominate fifteen more deserving winners. As regards the seven interesting facts about myself, well… I’m not really that interesting a person. I can string words together pretty well on paper and I’m okay at parties until my material runs out, but you’d probably brush past me on the street and not even realize I was there. I suppose I write fiction to make up for the tame trappings of an average, middle-class upbringing and ongoing life. But if you’re looking to be regaled by recollections of jaunts through the African savanna or the backstreet jazz clubs of New Orleans or rubbing elbows with the famous and the powerful, you’ve clicked on the wrong link. It’s why I have to try to captivate you with my words; the rest of me won’t do it. Regardless, here goes with a few things you might not otherwise know about me.
1. As noted above, I am six-foot-three, shuffling along in a world designed for the five-foot-six. This means a chronic case of slouching and a neck somewhat out of alignment from leaning forward to look down. It also means, for whatever reason, strangers predisposed to think you are athletic. I am incredibly not. I marvel at shorter folks who can run marathons – I’m wrecked after a half-walked 5K. At the risk of sounding a bit Dangerfield-esque about it, I was such a lousy athlete as a child that even the teachers picked me last. Can’t throw, can’t hit, can’t kick, can’t field. And to think that a childhood dream (swiftly extinguished by reality) was pitching in major league baseball. Nope – closest I’ll get is field level seats, and you know what? I’m totally okay with that.
2. When I was a teenager, I drew comic books. This is similar to #1 in that I cannot really draw, either. My character was an anthropomorphised simian version of James Bond (for the simple reason that monkeys were easier to draw than humans) and I did seven books with him, only four of which were finished. The last one, that part of me regrets not completing, was a James Bond-Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover, in which Bond fell for Dr. Crusher. And because I couldn’t draw, the story was a lot of dialogue and character development as opposed to splash pages of pencil-crayoned ass kicking. Doing these books did teach me a great deal about how to create character beats and arcs, how to plot, and how to sharpen the storytelling edge to finish within the number of pages left in the purloined school exercise book.
3. I usually wear at least one piece of Disney-related clothing on any given day. It started a few years ago with one solitary T-shirt; now the wardrobe has expanded considerably through ties, boxers and other apparel, and I’m writing this with a grinning Mickey Mouse displayed proudly on the left breast of my black golf shirt. We’ve added Olaf to our growing empire of stuffed animals; he’s on a shelf in our living room, enjoying the summer and peering down at the mischievous kittens who are plotting to knock him from his lofty perch.
4. Speaking of kittens, after we said goodbye to our beloved Muffins, we acquired two new furry friends to carry on her legacy: siblings Dudley and Daila. Dudley is an orange tabby while Daila is a tortoiseshell, and while they are both very sweet, Dudley is a master thief! He has stolen articles of clothing, stress balls, batteries and keys, but his favorite target is pieces of fruit, specifically, bananas. We have to hide any bananas we buy in the microwave, otherwise we’ll wake up in the morning with a banana in our bed. Last weekend Dudley figured out how to open the desk drawer in our kitchen, and pilfered a ball of string. Even though we were proud (and a tad terrified) of his ingenuity, we were somewhat disappointed at his descent into cliche. It’s all right, he’s young, he’ll grow up and be quoting Proust before you know it. (A la recherche du souris perdu, anyone?)
5. My wife and I are part of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, and we mentor a young boy we’ve known since he was nine. It was a year and a half after we met him that we were introduced to the then-11-year-old who would become our adopted son. So you don’t have to be a major in anything to connect those dots and realize that the experience of mentoring made us realize that we could parent an older child. A project still lingering on the backburner is a detailed article about being a mentor which I’m hoping to get finished in the next couple of weeks, so watch this space for updates on that.
6. The infamous novel to which I have alluded from time to time is still working its way through the query trenches, now numbering 11 rejections all told. I refuse to accept that this is a trend, and I soldier on. One rather disappointing (yet interesting) tale from this process is having a Twitter pitch for it favorited by one particular agent after she had already rejected the query and sample chapters, which were sent to her because she favorited the same pitch in a prior Twitter contest. (She was great about it though.) With that sort of thing, you just have to laugh and keep going. There was another form rejection I received that was so apologetic I almost felt I should have responded, assuring the agent that I didn’t take it personally and that I wasn’t going to go fledermaus-scheise on her. Probably a result of too many wannabes doing just that. As an aside to any literary agent out there who might be reading this, I promise promise PROMISE that I won’t be a jerkwad if you say no to me. I’m taking a stand against that crap. I may even develop a variation of the Serenity Prayer for rejected writers, or something more basic, like “I will not break, I will not bend, I will not turn into a raging douche-a-holic.”
7. And lastly, I have struggled with my hair since as long as I can remember. The avatar I use for all my social media profiles is one of the rare few pictures in which I find it looks somewhat respectable, instead of like a wildebeest flayed by a helicopter rotor.
Ok then! Onwards to the third part of this here deal. Versatility to me suggests, at least by its dictionary definition, individuals with a wide range of skills. Applied to blogging it would therefore seem to mean people who write well about a lot of different subjects. This runs contrary to most blogging advice, which posits that in order to build an audience you should focus on one topic you know really well and then just write the bejeezus out of that, rather than trying to be good for all time zones. I suppose that when you become established as a “voice” that others seek out, you are then freer to weigh in on whatever you want, as opposed to trying to build a niche audience from nothing. Some blogs I follow are informative writing resources, others are pop culture treasure troves, others still are founts of creativity expressed through wildly imaginative fiction. What they share, however, are voices I look forward to hearing, and find myself missing when absent.
You’ve been bearing with me for this long, and I want to shake it up and end on something of a twist, so here it is: rather than list fifteen names and links you won’t click on, I’m going to do Q&A’s with each person I nominate. I enjoyed hosting Emmie Mears in June and it’s given me the itch to do some more of that there stuff. I just think you’ll get more of a sense of why I admire these writers, and it’ll give them a chance to talk about what drives them, what scares them, what they’re after and what they want their legacy to be. None of this fill-in-the-blank, true-or-false quick answer claptrap, we’re going to dive deep down, tug at the heart and probe the soul. I’m gonna be the Brian Linehan of the blogging world if it kills me. (I am aware that Brian Linehan is dead, so that could be taken the wrong way. I meant in the sense of his detailed interviewing style.) And each will of course be asked for their favorite swear word.
This might take a while so don’t expect all fifteen to show up in the next week, or even the next couple of months – it’ll be an ongoing feature here and I’ll categorize them so they’re easy for you to find. To my unwitting subjects: watch your Twitter DM’s and your email inboxes, like so many arrows loosed by an intrepid archer, or darts flung at a perforated cork board by a drunken punter round the pub, my questions will be coming for you. Mwa ha ha.