Monday, May 30, 2011

Interested in reading my debut novel, ASHFALL, four months early? I've donated an autographed and personalized advance reading copy (ARC) to help rebuild the Slave Lake Library. I will ship this ARC to the winning bidder anywhere in the world.

Over 40% of Slave Lake was destroyed by wildfires, including the town's library. It hardly made a blip in the news, because all the tornadoes happened at the same time. All proceeds from this auction go to help rebuild the Slave Lake Library. The library is also looking for donations of books not more than two years old to help restock their collection. Bid on the ASHFALL ARC and find out more here: Slave Lake Auction Site.

Thanks for your support! Bidding on the ASHFALL ARC is open until June 3rd.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

ASHFALL at Book Expo America

If you're at Book Expo America this week, I'm told there is a fast-dwindling supply of ASHFALL ARCs at the Publisher's Group West booth. Here's a photo Cynthia Compton, the amazing owner of 4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville, Indiana, was kind enough to share.

I'm thrilled with the support and enthusiasm Tanglewood Press and Publisher's Group West have shown ASHFALL. Here's Cynthia's photo of the PGW booth, with ASHFALL front and center. Thanks for your hard work on behalf of my debut novel!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day in the WalMart Parking Lot

Margaret (my wife) and I drove to Brown County before dawn today to spend our morning writing and hiking. On our way back, we stopped at the WalMart in Beech Grove to do a little Mother's Day shopping. (Nothing like the last minute, right?)

Anyway, as I got out of the car, a burly guy accosted me. He launched into a long and convoluted sob story involving his pregnant wife with a hurt foot, his two kids, the job he'd lost, and the application he'd put in at a homeless shelter. The upshot of it was that he wanted money, supposedly to pay for a hotel room for his family that night.

Now, I live in downtown Indianapolis, so I get panhandled pretty often--two or three times a week on average. Some of the panhandlers ask for money for gas--they claim to be stranded somehow. So I offer to buy them gas. Nobody has ever taken me up on that. Some of the panhandlers ask for money for bus tickets. So I offer to drive them wherever they need to go. One person has taken me up on that--we had a lovely conversation during our drive to Wheeler Mission. Some of the panhandlers ask for money for food. So I offer to buy them food. Twice that offer has been accepted. All the rest stomp off or make up a long, convoluted explanation about why they really need cash, not gas or transportation or food. I never give cash, because I don't care to support an alcohol or drug habit.

I was in a hurry--Margaret wasn't feeling well, and I wanted to get my Mother's Day gifts bought and delivered while it was still Mother's Day. So I kind of blew off the burly panhandler. He responded with a frustrated-sounding "God bless you."

I hurried into WalMart's garden center and picked out two orchids almost as lovely as the mothers I planned to give them to. On our way out of the parking lot, I mentioned the panhandler to Margaret.

"Yeah, I've been thinking about him," she said.

"What do you think?" I asked.

"What if he was telling the truth?"

We were a block down the street by this time. I pulled into the Lowe's parking lot and turned around to return to WalMart.

We found the panhandler one aisle over from where we'd been parked, begging from someone else. I pulled up and rolled down my window.

"What hotel are you staying at?" I asked.

"The Red Roof behind Steak 'n Shake," he replied.

"Where are your wife and kids?"

"Two rows over."

We drove in the direction he pointed out and found a very pregnant woman limping behind a double stroller that held two lovely little girls. We drove the mother and younger child to Red Roof while the father and older child walked with the stroller.

We paid for their room and gave them the leftovers from our lunch. They'll hear whether they got into the homeless shelter tomorrow. I left them with my phone number, just in case that doesn't work out.

It cost us about the same amount to give that family a place to spend the night as it did to buy the orchids for our mothers. But I think that family gave us a Mother's Day gift. As I sit in my comfortable home writing this blog post, I'm keenly aware of the sturdy roof over my head and the blessings that enabled us to acquire and keep it.

I hope that for some Mother's Day, someday, we can all give each other a gift: a country in which no mother or father has to beg in a WalMart parking lot to provide a safe place for their family to spend the night.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


So, I'm doing an after school project with my wife's fourth-graders. We meet in small groups three times a week to collaboratively write non-fiction books. My Thursday afternoon club chose to write about soccer.

One of the kids (who wanted to write about basketball, but got outvoted) is researching and writing about famous soccer players. Today she was very excited to get started because she'd researched and written about three new soccer stars for our book. She read the first two pieces to us, no problem. Then she started the third one, about Brazilian soccer phenom Caca.

The Latino kid in the group starts snickering. I say, "What?"

"You know what that means?"

"Yeah, it means feces in Spanish. But in Brazil they speak Portuguese. It doesn't mean feces there."

"No, that's not what it means."

Okay, now I was stumped. I'm pretty rusty on my Spanish, but I know the curse words cold. I struggled for a moment for a way to talk about it without saying the literal translation. "It means feces, crap." (I hope I don't get my wife in trouble for saying "crap" to her fourth graders.)

"No, it means something way, way worse."

"What?" I asked.

I got nothing but giggles in reply.

"It means what comes out when you do a number 2, right?"

"Yes!" the kid screamed. "It means poo!"

I tried to use the opportunity to explain what "feces" means and the difference between colloquial and scientific terms, but it was hopeless. They'd all dissolved into giggles.