Tuesday, February 26, 2013

5-Tool Baby

Apparently Uri is a 5-tool baby.

A few weeks ago I spotted a fellow perched on the maple tree's highest branch in my back yard. He peered through binoculars into my living room and appeared to be inspecting Uri sucking on a rattle and drooling buckets on his chest. I threw some unripe turnips at the trespasser until he scampered down the tree trunk and hopped onto my neighbor's porch roof, out of sight.

Since, I've spied several more crusty-faced ol' chaps lurking about the vicinity of the baby. They carry clipboards and stopwatches, and sport Tom Landry hats. I began to suspect who these people were.
I put Uri on display in his bouncer on the back deck. Sure enough, two beady eyes poked over the fence. Utilizing my skills learned from my misspent years as a jackalope wrangler I crept behind the unwitting intruder. While he scribbled in a notebook, I struck.  He barely twitched when I cracked him in the jowls with a cucumber.

When he came to hours later, I grabbed him by the collar and demanded he explain why he'd been stalking my baby. He began sweating like a death row inmate who'd been informed the guillotine was out of order but the testicle clamps had been charging all night.  He reached inside his flannel blazer and retrieved his credentials. He was a scout employed the Tuckersville Blobfish.

"We project your newborn to be a future 5-tool player at the major league level," he said.

"You're out of your gord," I replied. "His skin is too smooth and the whites of his eyes too brilliant. The ink is not even dry."

"No, it's true." Blood trickled from the scout's shriveled nostrils. "Let me show you." He yanked a folded piece of notebook paper from his pocket. "My notes."

The paper said:
Hitting For Contact- Exhibits strong hand-eye coordination skills. Easily smacks a suspended nipple at one month. Projected to hit in the low .300's, at least.
Hitting For Power- Devastating infantile power. With conditioning, could squeeze the spuds out of a Mr. Potato Head. Projected as a middle of the line-up presence. 40-50 per year homerun potential. 
Speed- Pumps legs incessantly. Illustrates potential speed, or shit in britches. Within 6 months, should be able to move across hardwood floor like a greased waterfowl over a glazed donut.
Arm- Tosses a pacifier three inches. Adjusted for age, a baseball should travel 300 feet.
Fielding- Alert and responsive. Once snatched a floating piece of lint out of air amid an involuntary movement. Should have excellent range and quickness in field.

The scout spoke. "We wish to see your baby in a Blobfish uniform before his first tooth sprouts. The Grapefruit League starts in February. We think your tiny infant has the skills to excel at the highest level. However, due to his squishy little undeveloped brain, we are uncertain if he currently possesses the mental capacity required to compete with athletes 43 times his age. Therefore, our offered signing bonus is adjusted for our fears." He offered a contract with one hand and a pen with the other.

I crumpled up the contract and stuffed it between his rotten teeth. "You filthy parasite! He's never even seen the stars or caught a firefly in a bottle. Be gone." I shooed him out of the front door and into the street. Because he was slow and decrepit he was walloped by a street cleaner going about its rounds.

Monday, February 18, 2013

My Author Interview on JeriWB: What Do I Know?

Author Interview: Matt Bower

This Friday’s tête-à-tête introduces you to Matt Bower. I am continually amazed by the wealth of experience and advice offered by the authors interviewed here. So let’s say hello and get to know more about Matt.

1. Please provide a brief synopsis of your book.
Save Me, Rip Orion is a novel I’d categorized as a work of literary fiction and satire.  An abandoned house is set aflame. Roscoe stumbles upon evidence that reveals the arsonist’s next target. Evoking his childhood icon, the mighty Rip Orion, Roscoe decides to become the real life version of the superhero and apprehend the pyromaniac. However, the fantasy rapidly unravels when events don’t unfold in classic comic book fashion. To save the world, Roscoe must play the role of villain.
Matt Bower Save Me Rip Orion 682x1024 Author Interview: Matt Bower
Click cover to purchase via Amazon.
However, SMRO is not a typical hero versus villain tale. As the plot unfolds, the classic superhero origin story deconstructs until the line separating the heroes and the villains blurs. Capes and cowls become silly props, and prayers for a savior to swoop from the heavens go unheeded. As the cliché goes, “Good guys wear white, and bad guys wear black.” Not so. Everyone wears grey, and superheroes only exist in comic books.
2. Tell us a little bit about what motivates or inspires your writing.
Writing has always been means to point out what I consider judgment lapses and/or idiosyncrasies that define us all as members of the human race. From the comedy sketches I have written to Save Me, Rip Orion, I want the audience member or reader to think, “Man, we humans sure can be knuckleheads.” For instance, one comedy sketch I wrote concerned two people visiting a grave; one visitor was the deceased man’s daughter and the other was his college fraternity brother. Each took turns recalling their time spent with the departed; the daughter recalls when her father let her cry on his shoulder after a tricycle accident, but the frat bro recalled the time his dead buddy dipped his testicles in the piranha tank. The sketch got laughs but I was more proud of pointing of how perspective can mean so much.
Matt Bower Author Interview 225x300 Author Interview: Matt Bower
Ultimately, aren’t all authors trying to say something about the human condition? I understand that I am far from unique in that respect.
3. It’s hard to pick just one, but what do you consider your favorite novel and why?
Yes, picking just one novel as a favorite is quite difficult. I’ve never really considered one novel my favorite. Since I’m on the spot, I’ll go with Slaughterhouse-Five, mostly because I finished it recently and it’s fresh in my mind. I enjoy satires and this one is fantastic. Stories that generally shame the general population rank high on my list. Vonnegut makes you laugh, but feel uneasy about it at the same time. That’s not easy to too.
Matt Bower Slaughterhouse Five Fav Book 195x300 Author Interview: Matt Bower
4. What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?
My blog is entitled Crooked Lullabies. I must mention that a song by the same name exists, by a musician named Megan Landry. I discovered this unfortunate coincidence recently and by accident.
Generally, Crooked Lullabies is simply a dumping ground for my ideas. Many of the pieces are relatively polished essays, while other bits are short and silly. For instance, one recent post contains my opinions on topical issues such as gay marriage and immigration, but another post is a scouting report on Jabba the Hutt’s goal-tending skills. Obviously, no common thread exists from post to post.

5. Are you traditionally published or self-published?
Save Me, Rip Orion is self-published. When I began writing the novel three years ago I planned to publish the traditional route. By time I had begun my fourth draft of the novel my focus was solely on publishing the manuscript independently on e-publishing platforms. I had no desire to stress over writing the perfect query letter, or a five page synopsis. I didn’t want to wait for weeks to hear back from an agent or publisher, and likely receive a boilerplate rejection notice. The e-publishing world is very kind (perhaps too kind) to independent authors. Social media has exploded. The brick and mortar stores are crumbling. Theoretically, a self-published book has the same opportunity to reach readers as a traditional published book.
I hired an editor to format the text to be compatible with e-reader platforms. I also badgered my wife until she kindly employed her Photoshop skills to create the cover art for SMRO. How convenient is that?
6. Can you offer one or two helpful tips for fellow writers when it comes to marketing and publicity?
Marketing is an aspect of self-publishing that I’m still learning. My advice would be the same advice you’d read a million times over if you did an internet search for “advertising a self-published book.” Simple as it sounds, posting updates on Facebook is a good idea. I have submitted SMRO to various book blogs for review. Also, inquire if book blogs would be willing to sponsor a guest blog.
Although some authors consider Amazon to be the pusher man of the e-publishing realm, submitting your novel to the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program might be your most gainful option. The KDP Select program allows 5 days of free giveaways every 90 days. The more books you give away, the more the book becomes visible. Amazon owns such a large share of the market that being noticeable on the site is imperative.
7. Describe your writing background.
My writing background extends back to my pre-K years. I recall drawing pictures in crayon and then dictating to my grandfather what words to write underneath the crude drawings. Eventually, I was able to write the words myself and soon enough I was creating sequels to my favorite movies. Eventually I wised-up enough to write my stories on a buddy’s computer so that I could print multiple copies. I sold them for 50 cents a pop during recess. I used the money to buy leftover snacks at lunch.
Of course, the writing bug followed me throughout my high school years, and then I majored in English with a concentration in Writing at Lock Haven University. Several courses in poetry (blah!), playwriting, and fiction writing were required. Shortly after college, I wrote a full-length play entitled If Leopold Could Talk, which placed as a finalist in the New Century Writer playwriting competition.
Since graduating in from LHU in 2001, I have committed much of my free time to being a member of several comedy troupes, but most notably a professional troupe called The Cellar Dwellers based in the Pittsburgh area. I have written a handful of sketches which had been performed.
Matt Bower Cellar Dwellers Author Interview: Matt Bower
8. What does your drafting and/or editing process entail?
I wrote four drafts, front to back, of SMRO. I maintained the same strict habits while writing each of these drafts: I would write for a bit over two hours, and then go back and edit what I had just written. After each draft was completed, I would re-read the entire manuscript and tighten up the dialogue, cut out the fat, etc. Of course, writing four drafts was a part of the editing process, too. Meanwhile, I had a few friends read the drafts and provide a few suggestions. I also joined a writing group. I admit that I’m not sure this option is for all authors. Although I participated in about eight meetings, only one of those meetings was spent discussing my work. Yes, I did get some helpful comments but I also spent several hours focusing on works beside my own. A participant in a writing group also must be able to decide which criticism to consider and which to leave.
Finally, after I re-read the fourth and final version of my novel, I hired an editor to proofread, aid the prose, and provide both small and big picture suggestions.
9. What future projects can we look forward to?
I don’t know. I look back at the last three years of my life and consider how many hours of work I committed to SMRO, be it brainstorming, outlining, or actually writing and editing the novel. I have a newborn now and I’m not sure if I can sacrifice the time to complete another full-length novel anytime soon. The most invaluable lesson I learned, albeit accidentally, is that writing a novel requires tons of work and patience. I will continue to update Crooked Lullabies, no doubt. Right now my main focus is learning to be a father, and cleaning up drool.
Matt Bower Author Interview 02 Author Interview: Matt Bower
10. Is there anything else you want your potential readers to know?
First and foremost I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed. Feel free to check out my links listed below.
You can connect with Matt Bower on his blog or Goodreads.
Save Me, Rip Orion is available for Kindle from Amazon US and Amazon UK.