Fan Art: Waffledogs Forever

Getting fan mail is pretty cool. But one better is fan art, which I was over the moon to receive from my new friend Robert. Robert likes Temp: An Accidental Fairytale, and recently during a long-winded conference call he took to doodling and came up with this masterpiece.

If you haven’t read Temp (and you should), waffledogs are my food of the fantastic future, where two of the greatest vittles in known existence are combined into a single confection called, you guessed it, the waffledog. I think waffledogs could be salty or sweet and enjoyed as breakfast, lunch, dinner, blinner, or an any time snack. I’m open to franchising pitches, although the only thing I know about the restaurant business is how to eat. Still, it could happen.

But until then, enjoy Robert’s awesome waffledog art. Thanks again, Robert!

Posted in buddies, snacks and sustenance | Leave a comment

Scoop: Dagorhir Slices Up Fun at Blackburn Park

Did you miss me? Aw, that’s sweet. I’m around, but I’ve been busy working on the sequel to Temp and contributing to my alma mater’s alumni blog. If you’re a Mayer fan, then bless you. Enjoy this post about the fantasy life, and stay tuned for the fall release of Temp’s sequel. Cheerio!

When you’re a writer, you essentially sit alone in a room all day and talk to yourself. That’s not healthy behavior. It’s important to get up and go visit the world you are describing. Talk to people. Get messy. Pay attention to who folks are, what they do, and why they do it. Soak in the sounds, smells, and sensory nuances that make an environment what it is.

That was the enterprising attitude that led me to the sidelines of a thing called Dagorhir.

If you’re not familiar with Dagorhir, it’s basically a group of folks who gather in local parks, dress up like medieval or fantasy warriors, and pop each other with sticks for a couple hours. Through the miracles of Facebook, I recently learned that a former high school cohort does this nearby.

I was intrigued.

He arranged for me to show up, enjoy the crowd, and snap a few shots. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but let me tell you, these people are not messing around.

I showed up to the appointed park at the appointed time, camera ready, sunglasses off so I could take in the full glory of the forty or so people bolting across a dusty field with swords in full view of picnickers, tree climbers, runners, and a busy street. I scanned the troops for my friend, but then remembered I hadn’t seen him in years and had no clue what he looked like outside of Facebook. I queried the crowd, knowing he was a prominent member, but no one knew a Jeff.

“Jeff!” I yelled into the crowd of warriors. Nobody turned. “Jeff!” I tried again. At long last, a lone soldier eased around to face me. He was a stern bearded fellow, bedecked in layers of armor. Silly me, here he goes by Leaf.

We caught up on the pleasantries and he filled me in on the ground rules of battle, which are intricate and fairly strict. These players are serious about their craft. They have cool swag that they make themselves and can tell you which type of foam is best for forging which type of weapon. A lot of their handiwork looked good enough to make it onto a movie set. Dagorhir is a real sport, with lots of dust, sweat, running, and good fun.

Some might scoff at Dagorhir for being unusual, but I admire the clan. These are people who embrace their imagination and still know how to play. As kids, we know how to play with gusto, but the too-cool years of teenhood smack that out of us. I wanted to visit this group because their behavior is considered off-the-beaten in our society, but mostly because I admire that they can stick to their guns and rock what they think is fun.

If you are the type of person who pokes haughty jibes at others for loving costumes and swordplay, then someone should blow a raspberry at you. Actually, let me: Pffft! Scoffing is no fun at all, but joining up with fun folks to whack swords and run around with arms cut off? That actually is fun.

I say long live Dagorhir, even if it is wicked hard to spell. The next time you see some medieval warriors going at it in a public park, give them a nod. Or, better yet, grab a foam sword and get to clobbering.

Posted in buddies, crafts and being crafty, going places, it's okay to heart firearms, makin' cool s*** out of junk | 1 Comment

How Lawnmower Debt Made Me a Better Writer

This week, I’m ditching my own blog in favor of guest starring on Washington & Lee’s schmancy new alumni blog. It’s headed up by a snappy young gent by the name of Ryan Catherwood, a guy with a great vision for enhancing the school’s social media initiatives and feeding hungry students with real-deal info about what it’s like to have a specific career. Cool, yes?

Cool.

So, if you’d like to read this week’s blog about the writing life and how it links to sticky lawnmower debt, throw on a bow tie or your Lilly Pulitzer and pearls and head on over to Dubyuhnell’s alumni blog. And if you have no idea what Dubyuhnell is, that’s okay… It’s preppy-phonics for “W&L.”

Posted in buddies, self marketing without being a loser, the writing life | 1 Comment

Writing is a Lot Like, Umm…

Being hit with a heavy dose of inspiration is a lot like diarrhea.

Yeah. I said it.

You’re sitting somewhere, minding your own business, when all of a sudden a tide of creative mojo washes over you. Plot problems resolve themselves in midair before your eyes, cloudy dialogue becomes clear as a bell, and the worlds align.

Bam! You just got yourself a bad case of the inspirations.

Problem is, just like when you have the trots, being hit hard means you need to take care of business. Now.

You rush to the lab (aka, the laptop) and jot down your fresh stream of ideas with a fury you can’t control. A fever takes you over and you lose yourself to the process. An unknown amount of time passes and you begin to feel that this is all that life is anymore, and it’s all that life ever will be. You and your idea receptacle, which is oh-so-thankfully here to sweep those ideas away from you so they can be sorted and sanitized later when you’re feeling better.

Then, just when you think it’s over and settle yourself down to watch some evening television, you get hit again. Fearing the worst should you ignore the impulse, you race back to the laptop and let it all out. Round two!

This can happen several more times, until the next thing you know you’re plum exhausted and your Friday night has dissolved into some alone time you never intended to have. Time to hydrate, preferably with something that comes from a glass bottle. Yo-ho-ho-ho, the writer’s life for me!

I’m always amused by the way the writing process is romanticized by those who write, those who pretend to write, and those who don’t write but have always thought there was something whimsically ephemeral to it. I don’t want to say that the writing process isn’t magical. Disappearing into a world you’ve created for hours on end is at the very least mythological or something like it. Psychologists have other words for this, but they’re not nearly as charming or complimentary.

But creation can also be messy. And messy is okay. As I heard on a recent back episode of Gossip Girl, “if you walk in halfway through surgery, it’s going to look a lot like murder.” That’s right–I watch Gossip Girl while riding my stationary bike, and I have unlimited depths of shame about it. But I figured that while I was comparing one of the world’s most sacred artistic processes to the runs online, I might as well come out of the closet on everything.

Writer’s block, on the other hand, is a lot like… The other thing. You know the one. Don’t make me say it. I already said the d-word on the Internet. I don’t want to say the c-word, too. Okay, fine: Cookie. Are you happy now?

If you’ll excuse me, I have to take care of some business. Some writing business, that is. Phew, now that I got this blog out, I feel so much better.

Posted in taboo-boos, the writing life | 2 Comments

Writing Totally Sucks, But I Love It

Steven King once said that writing, even on the worst day, is a lot like being on a playground. I agree with him. Most of the time.

In reality, many times writing is that playground, except it’s haunted by ghostly bullies who have free reign to come right up and spit in your face and basically beat the hell out of you. If you’re any kind of writer, I’m sure you know them, too—they have nicknames like Dickey Doubt, Laney Self-Loathing, Willy What-the-Hell-Am-I-Doing.

I’ll tell you exactly what the hell I’m doing. Sitting alone in a room all day, talking to myself, trying to conjure up conversations between stuffed bears or martini-guzzling psychotic relatives.

Some days, the metaphorical sun comes out, rainbows glisten in the sky directly above, marshmallow cereal rains from the heavens, and turtle doves coo. But some days, all you can do is walk the yard, try not to get the crap kicked out of you, and just keep discreetly waggling your pants so the dirt you just shivved out of your cell falls out.

But hey, that’s creation. If it was wicked easy, everybody would do it.

Creation, especially when you’re working from totally imaginary events, is tricky. It takes intense focus and optimism, both of which I apparently lack. I find that despite tacking my pants to the chair with upholstery staples, my mind still tends to wander. Mundane tasks become urgent. I file my nails. I make farting noises by blowing air out of pursed lips. I spin in said chair. I consider a visit to Taco Bell.

I write a blog like this to try to justify the “writer” title, which I always feel is just one blown deadline away from being a total fib.

The good news is that if you sit still long enough and whip yourself into plopping out whatever you can, eventually you get some words on a page. Maybe they’re not good. Maybe they are (they probably aren’t). But either way, you’ve begun, and beginning is the first step on a journey that is bound to have some sunny days.

If you plow along, even the rainy, bully-ridden ones still amount to completed work.

I think that if you want to be really good at anything, you have to be ready and willing to fail at it. A lot. Screw-ups are the impetus for cowgirling up, and that’s how we learn. So what if your first, second, eighth drafts are junk. What if there’s something good layered in there?

If you want to be a real writer, you have to make yourself try. You have to be okay with failure, and then hold a gun to your own head until you get up and try again. Just remember—starting is the hardest part. Then getting a draft is the hardest part. Then editing is the hardest part. Then publishing is the hardest part.

Then, starting the second book is the hardest part. But that’s exactly what I’m doing. Right after I finish this delicious taco.

Posted in the writing life | 6 Comments

Rural Roller Skating: Evolved, Yet Exactly the Same

I grew up in a relatively rural area where existence was pretty simple. My biggest pleasure in life was getting to sit in the cart at Wal-Mart and snarf down a freshly microwaved bean burrito smothered in cheese ooze, then oogle the mice and fish for sale. That’s right, kiddies—my Wal-Mart used to have a snack bar and sell living animals. Organic wasn’t a word then, and Pluto was still a planet. It was another world.

My second greatest pleasure in life was attending any and all school skate nights at the local roller rink. That’s where I learned to zoom freestyle on my pink in-lines, listening to the honky-tonk droll of “Achy Breaky Heart” mixing with the whirr of wheels from my mulleted classmates. It was there that I discovered the gift of uninhibited speed, first felt the freedom of dancing alone in the dark, and eventually broke my arm.

I recently revisited that exact same roller rink and found, to both my pleasure and horror, that the place hadn’t changed a bit. Fermented is really a better word.

There’s something seriously eerie about visiting a place that hasn’t changed in two decades, especially when one of the things that hasn’t changed is the air inside it. The clientele was the same, with kids warbling round the rink on shaky bird legs and a handful of obese parents absently waiting on the bleachers for them to clock out. The difference was that the parents, mullets and all, were now rocking glowing iPads instead of kitschy romance paperbacks.

Another major change was that my limbs weren’t as lithe as they once were. Once I’d felt like the belle of the roller ball as I fearlessly swooped, dodged, hopped, and did tricks backwards. Watching Whip It, I’d even deluded myself into thinking that I could probably manage the same way Ellen Page does. But like the roller rink I’d once thought of as a home away from home, my skating abilities had definitely deteriorated.

Now, my sole goal was to get up enough speed not to be inchworming along like the kids I used to make fun of. But success in that arena brought on another problem: Once at speed, I had to manage not to crash land into children who I could crush, children who were part of a generation that knows all too well how to sue. Also, falling from a height of six feet is much scarier than falling from four.

The creaky old speakers now wheezed nearly unrecognizable “RaRa’s” from Lady Gaga instead of Billy Ray Cyrus and the batches of kids sported skinny jeans instead of mullets, but the greasy dark was just as fun as it used to be. Armed with only a glow stick, a dusty disco ball, and the will to fall, skating could still be fun.

Change is inevitable. My old burrito-slinging Wal-Mart has turned into a shimmering bastion of designer wine and organic milk. Country roads have been paved and overrun with SUVs, and old neighborhoods have been plowed down by homes for people from India and New Jersey. But even though progress is inescapable, it’s nice to know that one place will never change: Sparkles. Except that’s not its name anymore.

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Google’s Newest Product: God

Google has come out with a lot of ritzy gadgets. There’s Google Voice, Chat, TV, you name it. Google is an invaluable tool to me because it answers all my questions. It’s a warm and faithful servant that never lets you down.

That’s why I think Google’s next big breakthrough should probably be Google God. Think about it. Google answers all your most personal questions on demand, no matter what time it is. Does God do that?

But answering questions isn’t enough to qualify you as a diety, no sir. Omniscience is good, but it isn’t good enough. Here are some other qualifications that could make Google God work:

  • Google speaks every language
  • Google embraces all people, holidays, and hobbies, as evidenced by its regularly changing logo
  • Google can cross reference all philosophical literature through Google Books
  • Our Google is an awesome Google
  • Google’s autofill knows you better than you know yourself
  • With cell phones, Google God can be with you wherever you go

If Google made Google God, then you could simply filter your life quandaries into an easy to understand, instantly gratifying deity engine customized just for you. Input a few facts about yourself, and you can have peace and clarity pronto. When are you most likely to die? Ask Google God. Afraid of something? Google God will tell you how to deal with it. Need an uplifting scriptire? Google God is there for you. Worried that the jambalaya you accidentally left out all night may no longer be safe to eat? Google God has your back.

I have to stop writing now because I think I’m too close to something too big. I’m hoping that God is giggling along with me. He’s probably already thought of the whole idea anyway.

Then again, I’m pretty sure Google has, too.

Posted in buddies, free stuff, taboo-boos | Leave a comment

How to Blow Your New Year’s Resolutions With Style

I like New Year’s resolutions.

At least, I like them when they’re all shiny and new and un-blown. That always lasts a few days, and then you’re right back where you started, sitting all frowny faced in your stretchy pants with a blog you keep swearing to yourself that you’ll update.

Given that today is the 11th of January, I can sigh in something like relief knowing that I’ve already nailed one of my early resolutions, to update my blog on the first of the year, right into the ground. One great consolation to passively ignoring your promises to yourself is that there’s a sort of peace that comes with failure. It’s as cozy as a warm piece of store-bought pie.

Another resolution I’m not doing so hot on is learning French. I was pretty decent at Spanish back in the day, and I figured I could probably learn French in a year if I applied myself. Then again, I was great at lots of things when I was younger that I’m total crap at now, including eating lots of store bought pie and not gaining weight and spending hours on end in bouncy houses without having to visit a chiropractor. Life is simpler when you only weigh 70 pounds.

If I’m being honest, the French thing really boils down to food. I was recently introduced to the wonders of Julia Child and quickly became hooked on her whole philosophy: “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.” Julia seems to have all the answers, and she was a woman who knew how to love eating. Since she loved France so much, I figured I should go, too. But I also figured that it would be handy to learn some French first. The good news is that I’m a fantastic eater. The bad news is that French is kind of hard.

A college friend recently made me a coat of arms emblazoned with butter and the kickass motto “plus de buerre.” So, while I’d like to act like I’m learning French, mostly I just say this phrase on repeat. That’s enough to get around a foreign country on, right?

Most of us, if we ever had the gumption to make a resolution in the first place, are going to blow them. But I say that if we’re going to do that, we might as well blow them sky high. Less exercising, more napping. Less quitting, more cigars. Less green tea, more beer.

In other words, plus de buerre.

Posted in going places, holiday heaven & holiday hell, snacks and sustenance, taboo-boos | 1 Comment

I Declare the Season’s Coolest New Holiday Tradition: Revenge

This time of year, people like to talk a lot of b.s. about giving, the magic of the season, etc. I’d like to take a different tack and talk about a new seasonal theme that, in my opinion, is just as relevant to the holidays: Revenge.

Think about it. This doesn’t have to be a time of giving and getting crap from HomeGoods that, let’s face it, will ultimately end up in a landfill. The holidays can, and should, be about so much more.

I’m talking about the gift that kharmatically keeps on giving, the gift of getting even. Why now? Because during this season of light and hope, I’m bored by the same old traditions. I want to spice things up.

I’m not going to sit here playing coy, pretending that I’m one of those people who doesn’t believe in revenge. Oh, I do. I so do. Generally, I just prefer to leave revenge to God, and that’s only because I think that if I try to execute balance on my own, I’ll either fall shy of what’s truly deserved or I’ll overshoot the mark and bring on some newly deserved nasty on my own head. I keep my paws clean because I think God will eventually nail evil people harder than I ever could.

However, you may not believe this. Or you may just be sick of waiting. In any case, the holidays are a great time to dole out some of what someone else has coming. Because in this starlit season of giving and loving and that extra glass of wine (or three), no one will see you coming.

If you’re ready to drop the act this ho-ho-ho season and slather some justice down on the hoe-hoe-hoes in your life, here are a handful of ideas to get you going. It’s a baby step primer for beginners, but I’d like to think that it could give even you justice-loving Joan of Arcs out there a moment or two of reflection as well.

Prep your poker face and your rock-hard alibi for the following:

  1. One word: Keys. Our lives revolve around them, and when they go missing, mayhem ensues. The degree that they go missing could be proportionally related to the horribleness of your offender: mailbox, inside a letter addressed to Castro inside the mailbox, the woods, the roof, or the toilet (bowl or tank, your choice).
  2. Where did I put my… It’s not stealing if you don’t remove it from someone’s possession. Taking a passport that’s safe in the study and moving it to an adjacent shelf or another table doesn’t make it any less safe. It may, however, cause the perpetrator to question their sanity.
  3. Forget online bashing and take tweeting to a new level. Pepper their car with bird seed and it will be covered with crap by dawn.
  4. Whiskey, tango, foxtrot? Put a raisin in their toothpaste. It doesn’t sound like it would matter, but it’s unnerving.
  5. The best part of waking up… Put dry coffee grounds in their shoes. It’s unpleasant.
  6. Matchy matchy. If you have access to their socks, take a small percentage (no more than 20%) and dispose of them somewhere they could never be found again.
  7. A penny for your bitchiness. Pennies aren’t a threat, and unless you leave prints, they’re anonymous. Load their personal space with copper to subtly let them know that someone (or something) has invaded their territory. The appearance of unusual objects is the kind of thing that makes you wonder, and wondering is the first step to unraveling. If you don’t like pennies, you could try anything from dried up markers to collections of empty spice containers.
  8. Spam for the greater good. Sign them up for as many charitable organization mailing lists as possible. Unlike slathering people with illicit material, this is spamming someone for a good cause. No one is more persistent than a charity who wants your money, and your evildoer is guaranteed to be inundated with messages. Who knows, maybe they’ll volunteer or something and stop being such a Grinch.

Now, obviously, these ideas (like all forms of evil) can be used for good. Maybe you just want to do a jolly ‘ole prank on a funny uncle, or video your sister searching for her keys or scraping crap off her car to incorporate it into your digital holiday letter.

Either way, I wish you a magical and balanced holiday season. May no one do anything nasty to you, and if they do, may you have it coming. Ho ho ho!

Posted in buddies, free stuff, holiday heaven & holiday hell, it's okay to heart firearms, taboo-boos | 3 Comments

Holiday Queries: What to Give People Who Want Nothing

With the holidays coming up, a lot of people find themselves in a pickle. Not a cute pickle ornament on the tree that means a dinky prize if you find it first, but a real honest to goodness problem. If you’re visiting someone, whether friend, family, frenemy, or foe, what do you bring as a gift?

I like to default to wine or booze, but some people don’t drink. And not everyone gets excited about homemade peanut brittle or that chocolate bark crap with the crushed peppermints on top. Googling “homemade gift ideas” brings up a lot of the same-old, same-old, and if you’re like me, you’ve already tapped too far into the most obvious resources. If you haven’t, though, here are things I’ve done that I can’t redo, just to prove I’ve put too much thought into the topic already:

  • Painted reusable canvas grocery totes
  • Homemade bath salts
  • Gift boxes of various teas
  • Homemade vanilla extract
  • Beer bread mix—just add beer!
  • 1950’s style cheese cookies
  • So on, so forth

So if you need to bring something to someone as a show of gratitude for hosting your ass this holiday season and you’ve hit bottom on googling “creative homemade gifts,” where do you turn? Right here, darling—I’ve got you covered.

This gift applies mostly if the host you’re visiting is cooking some form of main course, such as a Thanksgiving turkey or a holiday ham. However, the concept could work for just about whatever main dish hits their dining table. This gift is all about the aftermath, taking something off the host’s  plate while adding something special of your own. And the gift is… thrummm…

A gourmet leftovers kit. Ta-da!

The idea here is that you’re helping out with a meal, whether you’re there to help cook (and eat) it or not, and showing appreciation for the host’s hard holiday work by giving them the next day off. Everyone loves diving into day-after leftovers, and this nifty gift idea guarantees that the second-day sandwich will be as glorious as the candlelit grandeur of the night before.

Here’s what you need:

  • A decent container, whatever it is: Nice grocery tote, a basket with a ribbon, whatever. Cheap is good, and ribbon, a little paint, or just a nice gift tag can fix lots of flaws. You just want something to make it clear that this is a present.
  • Bread. If you’re short of time or don’t cook, go gourmet and buy a beautiful, fresh loaf or two of something fluffy from your local bakery or market. They’ll even pre-slice for you if you tell them it’s for sandwiches. Pick something big and pretty, or bake up something if you have a bread maker or just loving getting your elbows in dough (I do).
  • Some sandwich-style veg: Onion, tomatoes, lettuce, etc. I don’t eat veggies on sandwiches, so I always just ask the produce guy what he eats and he guides me through.
  • Homemade mayo. Okay, if you’ve never made mayo, don’t freak: It’s easy. Julia Child says so, and so do I. For honor’s sake, I can’t post Julia’s recipe here, but if you google then the recipe is sure to come up easy. Homemade mayo is simple to do and will be impressive to show up with. It’s also delish. If you are still wigged about cooking (whipping) food, just buy some fancy mayo at the store that your host wouldn’t normally splurge on.
  • Cranberry sauce. Recipes for this are also easy to google, and making knockout c-sauce is shockingly easy. Mostly, you just boil things and keep stirring, and it takes less than 20 minutes. Showing up with a glistening jar of goodness that even a sandwich-loving hobbit would appreciate is guaranteed to score you points. But again, if you’re squeamish, you can spring for a decent jar of cranberry jam at the store.
  • Cheese. Go gourmet on this one by hitting up your deli counter for the best of the best. As for me, I’m a whore for the Boar—Boar’s Head, that is. Classics for turkey pairings are cheddar, swiss, or good ‘ole American. You could also be Fancy Nancy and swing towards brie or pimento or something else ritzy.
  • Some kind of side, like chips or crunchy veggies with dipping sauce. Since your host has earned it, bag them a crinkly container of their favorite splurge snack (Cheetos, anyone?). Or you could be ritzy again and get them some kind of crazy schmancy veggie chip. My favorite newfound addictions are called Humbles by Good Health, although they’re hard to find.

The cool thing about this gift idea is that the cost and time involved are all up to you. It’s easy to knock out the whole thing in one swooping trip to the market and not think of it again until you’re packing. You could even put it together as you pull into the last grocery store before you hit their house.

Or, if you have the time and the talent, you can make most things on the list and have it be extra special.

One note: Don’t let this gift be a surprise. Since your host is probably planning all the food, ask if this would be something they want. Let them know you appreciate them, want to contribute, and take something off their plate while simultaneously adding to the next day’s table.

If this gift isn’t up their alley, be clear: They’re getting a bottle of booze, and if they don’t drink it, you’ll be forced to. Happy holidays!

Posted in buddies, crafts and being crafty, holiday heaven & holiday hell, snacks and sustenance, Southern-isms | Leave a comment