Friday, December 29, 2006

Merry Sickness

What's worse than a child sick at Christmas?

Two children, two parents, and both sisters-in-law being sick over Christmas.

In the case of my immediate family, we found ourselves in various levels of some bug-induced sickness and kneeling before various toilet bowls from December 22 until today (where I am the last to show any signs of illness - though those last signs are still pretty spectacular.)

Christmas Day was actually the day when we all held it together, but once the turkey had settled the vomiting began. Knowing we had a five hour drive to get home from Virginia (where we were spending the holiday with family as far afield as North Carolina and California) back to exit 16W on the New Jersey Turnpike, the word "dread" wasn't really doing the situation justice.

My wife put it best: "As soon as we find ourselves surrounded by loving people willing to help out with the kids, we let our guard down and relax - and then get sick."

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Here are two examples of many I could give which have hindered both progress on my writing, and also on my Christmas card and gift delivery. I call them "Spidermangirl" and "DarthVader In Pre-School."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Green Christmas

Not White like Bing's, not Blue like Elvis's, but lush and Green like the current festive season in New Jersey.

Maybe four years ago, the first snow came on Christmas morning. Last year, we stood in a good two foot trench of the white stuff shivering to see Santa come to town on a fire truck.

This weekend, I'll be attending what should be the coldest game at Giants Stadium all year long in a damn t-shirt and bermuda shorts.

Every holiday season as far back as I can remember has started with an event. Last year it was the trip to Poughkeepsie to buy our tree in early December when it started snowing as we picked out our Christmas centerpiece from a forest. This year, every time I hear "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" on the myriad radio stations that have been playing holiday songs since the day after Thanksgiving, I want to ask: "Which exit on the turnpike are you turning off? Because here, it looks like mid-September tops."

Luckily, given the nature of my earnings, my shopping was done in July after a particularly large windfall (it's all relative, but when you have an annual regularly salary of $0.00, a "windfall" can be finding a nickel in a storm drain.) I say luckily, because Christmas shopping should not be undertaken in near 70 degree sunshine. Unless you do it in July. Like me. Hmmm.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Alas Greg Wiggle

The news that Greg Wiggle is hanging up his yellow jersey for good was the second shocker out of Australia this year - coupled with Steve Irwin's demise.

Of course, those parents of you out there will probably be aware The Wiggles and the Crocodile Hunter joined forces for a DVD which is rarely out of our player. It features such hits as Old Man Emu, Australia Zoo and a personal favorite - Snakes (You Can Look, But You'd Better Not Touch.) Second only in popularity to the Wiggly Gremlin epic, it will now be viewed in a different light for two reasons.

The Wiggles are an easy target - they camp it up like several rows of tents, and wiggle their hips like The Village People. And yet, their out-takes reveal a bunch of 'mates' mucking around for the camera while they make billions of dollars doing something they would probably do for free. As a result, I like them more than any other children's entertainers.

Except, maybe, Laurie Berkner.

In other news, I'm still waiting to hear from an agent about her signing me up. I am always optimistic when sending the letter, and the longer it takes a decision to arrive makes me feel better and better - until, as has happened twice already, the "sorry, but it's not for me" form letter shows up. I will keep you informed of any developments.

In the meantime, I continue work on the sequel to something that isn't published yet. So far, it's much darker and much more indicative of what I'm going through now with both kids and one income which doesn't cover both of their needs (and wants at Christmas) by a country mile.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Life List

I like lists. Coming to the United States, I read a lot of lists - particularly sporting lists - by way of a crash course education.

So, it follows that I write lists. The first thing I do every day is write a list of what needs to be done. That's not to say any of it gets done, but it helps me prioritize - which means at least the important stuff gets done.

I keep a list of the states I've stopped in long enough to buy a cup of coffee (12). I keep a list of how many soccer stadiums I saw matches at while in England (38). And I keep a life list - a list of things I want to do before I die. And this Sunday, quite out of the blue, I ticked off the first one.

It seemed as far-fetched as any of the others on the optimistic list when, more than a year ago, I wrote "Score five goals in one game on a Sunday morning". For those of you who don't know, I play every Sunday in an over-30s game. For those of you that have seen me play, you will see how optimistic the idea of my scoring five goals is.

I am a very mediocre player, but as a forward I usually get a goal a game. Most are tap-ins from about three inches out. But as I stuck in the third this past Sunday, I still wasn't thinking about the life list.

The relevance is this - also on the list (and most of the contents I will not elaborate on, but one involves Natalie Portman and a pot of honey) is "Write a book and get it published." Now, before Sunday, I would have thought it more likely to get the book published than score five times in a single game (which we won 7-3 incidentally). But... I've finished the book, and I'm trying to get it published right now. So, pessimism be damned. If I can score five times, twice with my LEFT FOOT!!!, landing a publishing deal is going to be a snap.

Monday, November 13, 2006


I was left home alone this past weekend, with nothing on the agenda but to finish a re-draft of TWIMCT.

This was the fourth time I've redrafted it, and while there were lots of minor changes (including a spelling mistake on the first page - a page I must have looked at a conservative 200 times), the bulk remained the same. So, I now I can genuinely say I have finished writing a 66,000 word novel. Hooray for me.

Everyone who has read the book in its various drafts has told me how funny it is. No offense to them, but I hope when someone who is prepared to pay me reads it sometime in the next week or two, they agree.

I am excellent at getting ahead of myself, and sometimes it's ridiculous (see the t-shirt story) but sometimes it's great. I read the magnificent Three Martini Playdate a few months ago, and it is hands-down the best parenting book I've ever read. I liked it so much I contacted the author, the multi-talented Christie Mellor, and she kindly agreed to read TWIMCT when it's done and lavish me with a quote for the back cover. That made me feel like a real writer for the first time.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I, Robot

Will Smith found himself in a world of trouble in the semi-good "I, Robot" movie. My own recent "I, Robot" experience has been life-changing and a lot less perilous... To be precise, it was an iRobot experience.

Another of the distractions preventing the final draft of TWIMCT from ever getting finished has been some work offered to me that actually resulted in financial gain. Obviously too hard to pass up, this work for a realty office took priority and resulted in some tidy little paychecks. One of these checks was spent on an iRobot brand Roomba robotic vacuum, the real version of the thing we were supposed to all have by the 1980s. We opened the box with low expectations, but I wanted it to work very, very much - what with all the work I had put in and time I had sacrificed to earn the money to buy the darn thing on the off chance it would help maintain a degree of cleanliness in the house.

And by golly, it's great. Better than great.

You must understand, with two young children and a cat in the house no matter how hard you vacuum or scrub and wash the floor, within seconds of finishing you will be walking on a coating of Cheerios, disregarded Graham Crackers and cat litter. It's soul-destroying to finish cleaning up, then hear that familiar crunch of a misplaced breakfast cereal nugget as you go to put the cleaner back in the cupboard.

We are never going to rid the house of food scraps as long as we continue to allow the children to eat. And the cat litter is far more pleasant than the alternative - ie. cat shit. So, the Roomba has become our dog of sorts; it rids the floor of unpleasant food scraps, does what it's told to, and draws praise and loving looks from anyone watching it for a few minutes as it does its thing.

This morning I fired it up to clean the dining room while I went out to buy more food that would eventually end up crumbed on the floor. By the time I got back, my Roomba was blinking at me with a full tank of dust and enough Cheerios for a bowl to satisfy a hungry giant.

In short - it's better than a pet, and does crap I find the most depressing of tasks with a cheery beep. I am in love with a robot, a bit like Harrison Ford in Bladerunner. A very little bit.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Finding The Time

The first question people ask me when I say I've been writing a book since January while looking after a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old is "How do you find the time?"

I always give the same answer: "I don't know."

They assume I must put in the time during late nights - there's no such thing at Chez Keeble, unless you count my going to bed at 8pm then being awake between midnight and 3am with the youngest kid screaming as I rub teething gel on his molars.

It must be early mornings then - but, define "early." My wife's alarm goes at 5:15am and she leaves the house at 6am. The first child is usually awake at 6:01. On the rare times I am awake, but both kids are asleep, I will admit to doing some work on the book. I will also admit to checking my fantasy sports teams, reading The Sun online, and catching up on two-month-old e-mails in my inbox.

At least this phenomenon explains why the stage I have reached now - the final (hopefully) redraft is taking so long. I found it fairly easy to whack out the initial bones of the story which I would then amend during a rare calm in the near constant infant storm. But this redraft is the big one that an agent will be seeing, so every word has to be perfect. Even with one child asleep and the other in front of the T.V. watching The Wiggles, my careful scrutiny will be soured by Captain Feathersword's rockin' on the sea, not to mention his getting tossed about.

Perhaps an answer is a laptop that I could take to another quieter room, rather than my being tied to the desktop in the increasingly cold, un-insulated sun porch? Unfortunately, laptops and I don't really get along.

The other thing is that I allow myself to get ahead of myself on a daily basis. This morning I had some time earlier where I could have eeked out 10 pages of redraft. Instead, I looked at t-shirt shops online and designed a shirt to promote my book release. That's right, a t-shirt to promote a book that isn't even a book yet and isn't even finished.

Still, I have some time now to do some... oh wait, the kid just woke up and I have spent the precious half-hour I had writing this.

So, you see the problem. If I find the time, I spend it doing something else.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Happy Birthday x 7

By the time October is done, I will have taken the kids to seven birthday parties. That's about one every four days.

This says two things:

1) We know a lot of people. Plenty more than last year as more than half these parties are for people we hadn't met 12 months ago.

2) January in New Jersey might be cold and bleak, but there's a lot of good lovin' going on.

Of the seven parties, two were for twins. This means we have bought nine birthday gifts this month. I am just grateful at every party thus far, I've managed to engage the fellow parents in conversation and let the kids do their thing unattended. Well, I say unattended. The truth is they are attended by young employees of the party venues. And that's their job. Their choice is to watch over four-year-olds. By the time they get married, they will be sworn off kids for life.

I have little affiliation with T.V. shows. The latest couple to catch my eye were Entourage and Deadwood but the genius that is Pity The Fool starring Mr. T (of course) is the funniest show I have seen since Curb Your Enthusiasm's second season. Now CYE has officially jumped the shark, it would be fair to say PTF is my favorite new show currently on air. I pity the fool who doesn't watch it. Make it your bid-ness to tune in, sucker.