Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I wrote this yesterday for Leah Petersen's five minute fiction challenge.

I did not win, I was not even a finalist. But I liked what I came up with...

I first spotted her at the blood pressure machine, left arm cuffed. She wore sweatpants and a tank top. Her hair was unkempt at best. I shouldn’t have given her a second glance.

But there was something about her. Though I couldn’t even see her eyes, I couldn’t peel mine away. Maybe it was her skin, so smooth, pale, just the suggestion of freckles on the shoulders. I guess I’ll never know.
I stood, frozen, the cart still empty in front of me. I’d been heading for the pharmacy aisle with the intention of also making a quick trip through produce, but I couldn’t move. I listened, entranced, as the machine click click clicked, the cuff slowly releasing its grasp on her arm.
Finally, it relaxed, the reading done, and she withdrew her arm, satisfied, I think, with the result. She spotted me immediately and gave a sort of hesitant half-smile. Her face was extraordinary. Porcelain, the disheveled red hair serving to highlight her delicate features.
“It’s all yours,” she said.
Puzzled, I simply blinked a couple of times, then, broken from my reverie, realized what she meant.
“Oh, right,” I said. “Thanks.”
I had no desire to take my blood pressure – I’d fought hypertension for years and frankly feared the results – but my guilt at being caught staring got the best of me, and I took my seat in the machine.
She didn’t give me a second glance as she walked toward the front of the store. The cuff was already squeezing my arm, sending tingles into my forearm.
I cursed, disturbed with my utter inability to initiate even the most rudimentary conversation with her.
I pushed the button to interrupt the reading, pulled out my arm and, heart racing, rushed to the front door.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


First I read Lisa Adams' version. Then Jennifer Mendelsohn's. And so I decided to join in. Because, you know, why not.

So here are ten favorite things, things that just make me happy, in no particular order. May include nerdity.

1. My wife's hair. Thick, deceptively curly and gifted with a mysterious, hard to name combination of blond, brown and red tones, depending on the light.

2. Sinatra. His voice, his style, his essence. It's still Frank's world. We just live in it.

3. My books. I have way too many of them, but I love them all. And I had the chilling thought yesterday that I may not actually get to read all of them. There are so many, and so many more come out every year, and there's only so much time in a day...

4. Autumn. I like the crispness in the air, the leaves, the sweaters, the time falling back, the hot beverages and Brach's autumn mix.

5. My glasses. Okay, I both love them and hate them. I hate them because I hate the fact that I need them. My eyesight is deteriorating, so I can't read small print anymore. And it's not just small print. It's small-ish print that gives me trouble now. Still great with regular vision and long distance. But reading is becoming a glasses-madatory event. Which brings me to the glasses themselves. I specifically chose them because they were as close as I could find to the pair worn by David Tennant as Doctor Who. At last, a sort of costume piece I can wear in the real world without anyone giving me a second glance. And not as uncomfortable as wearing my home made Spider-man costume under my regular clothes way back in fourth grade. Yes, I am a nerd.

6. Donuts. I talk about them a lot more than I actually eat them, but I love them. Torus of love. Frosting of light. Sprinkles of peace.

7. Jerry Goldsmith. His music continues to challenge and inspire me. Much more than any of the individual films he scored, I love his music. It's complex, rhythmic and filled with moments that make me smile, or pause, or simply shake my head in awe. Star Trek: The Motion Picture remains his masterpiece, and some thirty years later, I still find myself listening to it all-too-often.

8. My house. It's not the greatest place in the world, it's not my dreamhouse, there are plenty of things I'd change if I could. But I love to be at home. I love to be with my family and my stuff. I love being at home.

9. Pie. Cherry pie, especially, but I also like a nice sweet/tart blueberry pie. I love baking apple pies. Some of my fondest memories involve gathering with friends once a week to bake pie and watch Twin Peaks. My dad recently passed away, and his favorite was always cherry pie. He didn't really care for anything else. I inherited this love of cherry pie and I'm thinking I need to bake and consume one soon in his honor.

10. My kids. I know, a sentimental choice, but I love the way they make me smile, the way they already seem smarter than I am, the way they make me challenge myself to become a better person. And they're both cute as buttons.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Marian Call - My New Favorite Singer

I don't really know, anymore, how I found out about her.

I could swear she began following me on the twitters. And then I began following her. It could have been the other way around, but it's hard to recall now.

Got to FlyShe is Marian Call, an Alaskan singer/songwriter/nerd. I got interested in her twitters because of the nerdliness factor. It was only incidental, to me, that she was an Alaskan folk musician. 

Over the past few months, however, I occasionally dropped by her website and listened to music samples and followed with interest her announcement of a self-funded, self-motivated, fan-driven 50 state tour. I figured she'd have to get to South Carolina at some point and I should do my best to make sure she showed up at a venue near me. I mean, how many times do you get to meet in person someone from Alaska that you only know via twitter?

I don't know how much I actually contributed to her choice of venue (although I was able to convince a local publication to run an interview with her), but last weekend she performed at Coffee Underground, a great space in our great downtown. And she was, well, great.

Marian Call's signature instrument is a typewriter. It serves as percussion during a couple of songs, including the delightful Nerd Anthem. It's a clever device and entirely fits in with the spirit of the song. And although she sings about spaceships and Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, you wouldn't necessarily know it by listening to the lyrics. Her songs are always smart, melodic and a delight to hear. She's also a performer who really shines on stage, bringing with her a lot of natural if unpolished style and wry charisma that make her a lot of fun to watch.

If she's coming to your area, she's absolutely worth checking out. Failing that, check out her debut CD, Vanilla, which contains the Volvo Song - a favorite of mine as it includes a reference to donuts.

But I don't want to leave you with the impression that she's some sort of geek novelty act. She's a smart songwriter and lovely performer and her songs are about much more than just geekery.  I can't wait for her to embark on another round-the-country tour and swing back through this area. She's just a delight. And so photogenic!
So one day, I'd like to write a song for her. Not that she needs my help, she's an excellent songwriter. But I'd love to write something in the vein of my two science-y songs (Love Theme from This Week in Science aka TWIS Theme and World Robot Domination, both of which can be heard here) and have her perform. Ah well. A boy can dream...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

All the Way

Sammy Davis, Jr., stared into the cold, lizardlike eyes of the alien being sitting across from him, sighed, then tossed his cards onto the table.

“Man, I just cannot read this dude.”  Sammy finished off his highball and sighed.
Dean Martin threw a $100 chip in the pot.  “I’m in.”
Peter Lawford folded quickly and all eyes turned to Frank.
Sinatra exhaled a long plume of smoke and called the bet.  “All right, kid.  What’ve you got?”
The alien flipped its hole card with a long, spindly claw and attempted to grin as it exposed a fourth king.
“Read them and weep,” it said in a growling monotone.

“Dammit,” Sammy stood quickly, kicking away his chair. “We’re in deep trouble, cats.”

Lawford chimed in, “He’s right, Frank. There’s no stopping this guy.”

“Cool it.” Sinatra leaned forward, stared into the alien’s eyes. “I’m changing the deal."

Friday, September 3, 2010

Book Giveaway!

I don't know for sure how I first stumbled across his website, but it may very well have been related to Columbo. Tim King has written about his love for Columbo, and I, too, have a long history of loving the rumpled detective. (Speaking of which, have you seen the new Columbo Collection of short stories, written by William Link, one of Columbo's creator?)

But since that initial contact, I've gone on to find that I really enjoy and appreciate Tim's thoughts on writing, both on his regular blog and his specialized Be the Story site. I follow him on the twitters and I'm even friends with him on the Facebook.

And so I was pleased when Tim asked if I'd like to participate in his Big Book Giveaway. He's written two books so far, an autobiographical look at Love Through the Eyes of An Idiot and From the Ashes of Courage, a romantic novel. I have the second novel (and several other ebooks, including the sure-to-be-a-fun-read Shatnerquake) on my hard drive, ready to be read, but I still have trouble actually reading long-form works on my computer. One day, I will. I'm sure of it.
From the Ashes of Courage (Ardor Point #1)
Meanwhile, I'm pleased to offer a (hardbound real-live book) copy of From the Ashes of Courage to one lucky reader.

About the book:

Gail Bishop is a headstrong, driven, single-minded businesswoman, a successful independent professional at only 29 years old. But she still feels empty. Eddie Chase is a fun-loving real-estate agent who made a mint in the boom market, now fast running out of money. And their friends set them up on a blind date, unaware that many years ago, they were once married to each other.
Now, both are taken aback by their feelings for each other at a romantic, seaside cottage on Ardor Point, and by the impact this will have on the rest of their lives. This long-languishing relationship that Gail thought was surely dead, could it hold the secret, the meaning of life that she’s looking for?
A heart-wrenching story of human kindness and love without strings.

TO ENTER THE DRAWING simply add a comment to this post. I'll randomly select a winner on, oh, let's think, how about next Wednesday, September 8, 2010. So add a comment before Wednesday and you'll be eligible.

Thanks for playing. Tim will ship the book directly to the winner, with, I assume, a personalized inscription.

UPDATE: September 8

Thanks to, the winner is (insert drum roll here) commenter #5, Wendy! Congrats! I'll be emailing you soon!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I’m a Mark Harris now, a Man From Atlantis.  I was a Fonz until last season.   My parents are Bradfords.  Still.  Most of my friends are Starskys or Fonzies or Columbos.  Except for one guy who’s still a Gilligan.  He’ll never get an Angel that way.  You’ve got to move on.  We can’t all be Gilligans forever.  That’s what my Dad says.  He’s really more of a Ward than a Tom.  They’re all still living in syndication.  I like the new stuff.  Every season, something new comes up.  I like to pick my favorites early and take a chance that it will stay on for more than one season.  Though nowadays, some of the new shows don’t even last that long.  They disappear after a few episodes and we never see them again, not even in syndication.

Somebody, probably a Tom Snyder, figured out that word, syndication, from the Broadcasts.  For a long time we thought that when a show went away, the Broadcasts were angry with us.  Some go away very quickly.  But sometimes, they return, usually in between the games and daytimes but before the new episodes begin.  That’s syndication -- the time in between new shows.

All the Broadcasts tell us how life should be lived.  We try hard to follow the Broadcasts.  Most of them take place in a mythical world called Los Angeles.  It doesn’t really exist anywhere, or so the Sagans say.  But we all know that.  Nothing in the Broadcasts is real.  They’re simply messages, telling us what to do.  Messages from someone far away.

A Potsie kid told me once that the Broadcasts started millions of years ago on some long dead planet.  I told him, “Sit on it.”  That’s about the only thing a Potsie understands.

I found this short story on a floppy disc. A floppy disc. I wrote it in August 1996.