My Many Hats

March 21, 2008

Like so many people, I wear many hats in my life.  I’ve worn many of them while posting to this blog:  parent, husband, writer, businessman, academic, political junkie, sports fan, etc.  This morning I’ve been wearing another of my hats, one that people outside of Sewanee rarely see.  

I’m the coordinator for our local food buying cooperative.  Every month, a group of us orders organic foods, bulk grains and dried goods, and other hard to find items from a place called United Natural Foods, Inc.  The order arrives by truck, and we unload our items, sort them, and make certain everyone’s order is complete.  After the other members give me their checks, they go off to their homes to put their goods away, and I go to the bank to deposit their payments so that the check I just wrote to UNFI’s truck driver won’t bounce.  That’s what I was doing today; this was delivery day.

This is a volunteer position, one that I took on long ago because Nancy and I wanted access to certain foods that we couldn’t get any other way.  Between collating the orders, communicating with my buying club members, taking care of invoicing, and handling the finances on delivery day, I put in maybe five hours or so each month.  I don’t think it comes to much more than that.

This is a small town, and most people know me for my writing, or through Nancy or the girls, or from other volunteer work I’ve done for the youth soccer league and the kid’s summer swim league.  There are a few people who now know me because of my photography, which is kind of cool.  And there are also certain people around here who think of me simply as the Co-op guy.  

I’m fine with that.  It’s just another hat. 


Four Questions

March 20, 2008

I’m not the first person to ask these questions, nor, I hope, will I be the last.  But if you can answer them, you’re smarter than I am.

Why is it that when the government spends $200 billion to bail out Wall Street investment banks it’s seen as sound economic policy and a strong response to a growing financial crisis, but when it’s suggested that the government spend similar amounts to provide ordinary citizens with affordable health care, the idea is dismissed as “Socialized Medicine”?

Why is it that night after night political pundits criticize Barack Obama for his association with a black minister who, admittedly, said some pretty offensive things, but these same pundits say nothing about John McCain who actively courted, and eventually received, the endorsement of religious bigot John Hagee?

Why is it that any time Obama or Hillary Clinton makes the slightest error, the press immediately begins to question their readiness to be Commander-In-Chief, but John McCain, on three separate occasions, mistakes Sunni for Shia and erroneously states that Iran is working with al Qaeda, and it barely merits a mention in the evening news broadcasts?

Why is it that we still hear people talking about the so-called “liberal bias” of the press?

Today’s music:  Kenny Burrell (Soul Call — Thanks, Jim.)

Today’s post can be found at  Enjoy!

Plot Synopsis Project

March 18, 2008

Today’s post, which is coordinated with several of my fellow writers at, was the brainchild of my friend, author Joshua Palmatier. Josh had been getting lots of questions from beginning writers about how to put together book synopses for the purpose of interesting agents and editors in their work. Josh’s idea was to have several professional authors post links to one or more of their own synopses so that these younger writers could see how we do it. I thought it was a great idea. I hope some of you find this stuff interesting and helpful.

So…. Here is the link to the synopsis I wrote for my most recent book, THE SORCERERS’ PLAGUE, book I of Blood of the Southlands.

And here are links to synopses posted by my fellow authors:

Plot Synopsis Project participant links:

Patricia Bray:

Chaz Brenchley:

Mike Brotherton:

Tobias Buckell:

S.C. Butler:

Barbara Campbell:

David B. Coe:

Jennifer Dunne:

S.L. Farrell:

Diana Francis:

Gregory Frost:

Felix Gilman:

Jim C. Hines:

Jackie Kessler:

Mindy Klasky:

Misty Massey:

C.E. Murphy:

Naomi Novik:

Joshua Palmatier:

Maria V. Snyder:

Jennifer Stevenson:

Michelle West:

Sean Williams:

There’s also a book available that has other samples of plot synopses in it. It’s called I Have This Nifty Idea: Now What Do I Do With It? [Amazon; Mysterious Galaxy], edited by Mike Resnick. Check it out for more samples!

First of all, a Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all.  I don’t have any Irish ancestry, but my wife does, and we named our second daughter Erin.  And as they say, on this day we’re all a bit Irish.

After having one child or the other (or both) home with me every day for the past month (snow days, pneumonia, school breaks) I finally am back to a normal work environment.  And none too soon.  I have a book to revise, and then I need to begin writing the next one in the trilogy, which also happens to be the series finale.

So, I’m off to work.  

May the roads rise to meet you. May the wind be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall soft upon your fields.

Today’s music:  Russ Barenberg

My younger daughter turned nine yesterday.  (Yay!  She had a great day.  We all did, actually.)  Today is her party.  

It’s like a mastercard commercial…..

Pool party at a local swimplex:  $75.00.  Pizza, cake, juice, plates, cups, etc.: $100.  Not having a bunch of screaming, sugar-buzzed children in our house:  priceless.

Today I have the dubious honor of handing out my second BOW (Buffoon Of the Week) Award.  This week’s competition was quite heated — actually I feel confident in saying that every week’s competition will be heated.  It seems that American politicians and pundits are constantly looking for ways to be buffoons and, more often than not, they succeed. 

This week the choice for the BOW Award came down to two.  Both candidates played to our worst instincts, one of them resorting to homophobic comments, the other to race-baiting.  What a pair.

Read the rest of this entry »

My First Exhibit

March 14, 2008

Today, for the first time in my life, I hung an exhibit of my photography in a professional gallery.  Okay, it’s a very small gallery that is also a coffee house.  But it’s a gallery nevertheless.

The hanging of the exhibit was actually tremendously fun.  We pulled out all the photos — eighteen in all, from the year Nancy, the girls, and I spent in Australia and New Zealand — and laid them out so that we could see the space as well as the work.  I felt utterly lost; I had no idea where to begin.  But Katherine, the gallery director, who is very, very good at this, pointed out two walls that she felt were the most visible in the space, and therefore the most important.  So we figured out what to hang on each of them.  This only took care of five of the photos, but it gave us a place to begin.   

It was very much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  The first pieces are always the toughest.  But the more you get done, the easier it is to place the next piece.  Once those two walls were set, we were able to decide which pictures looked best adjacent to the first ones we put up, and then which ones to put next to this second set, and so on.  By the time we had finished, the exhibit looked even better than I had hoped it would. 

I have a couple of photos hanging in another local gallery, a space I share with other Sewanee artists.  But this show is entirely mine.  The show opens on Monday, though the opening reception isn’t until March 26th.  Already, though, I feel a little like a professional photographer.  I don’t usually fill in the “Mood” space, but if I did today, my word would be “thrilled.”

Today’s music:  Larry Carlton (Sapphire Blue)

A Post About Revisions

March 13, 2008

Today’s post can be found at either or  Come to one or the other — or both — and check it out!

Birthday Post

March 12, 2008

What do Darryl Strawberry, Liza Minnelli, and James Taylor have in common?  Okay, yes, they all have had problems with substance abuse.  Let me be a bit more specific.  What do they (and Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne) have in common with me?

Yup, that’s right.  Today is our birthday.  All of us.   And, I’m happy to the report that of the five of us, I’m the youngest.

I’ve never been much of a Liza Minnelli fan — just not my style of entertainment — and though I liked Darryl Strawberry when he was with the Mets, I was deeply disappointed in the way his career ended.  I’m sure he was too.  But I have been a fan of James Taylor since I was seven years old and my older brother first played for me his brand new copy of Sweet Baby James.  When the rest of my friends were listening to Free To Be You and Me and other insipid kids’ music, I was listening to Mud Slide Slim and One Man Dog.  When my cool friends in junior high were listening to Zeppelin and CSN and the Dead, I was too, but I was also listening to Gorilla and In the Pocket.  I didn’t tell my friends, of course.  James wasn’t cool; at least he wasn’t to them.  Once I reached high school I started caring less what other people thought of my musical taste.  I listened to JT and Flag and Dad Loves His Work, and I didn’t hide it from anyone.

I still listen to James Taylor.  I have pretty much every album he’s put out (except for the disc of Christmas tunes and some greatest hits collections made up of songs I already have on other recordings).  And I still encounter people who make it clear to me that this is not cool music, that it’s too mellow, too close to “Easy Listenin'”.  I couldn’t care less.  For me James Taylor’s music is like New York style pizza.  It’s like Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry.  It’s like M*A*S*H reruns.  It might not be the finest music in the world, but it’s familiar, and it’s comforting, and it’s damn good.

Taylor’s lyrics have always been sensitive and insightful.  At times they’re brilliant.  The song “Gaia” on the Hourglass album might be the most moving elegy for our environment anyone has written.  His melodies manage to be appealing without being trite.  

It’s been forty years since his first release; thirty-eight since “Fire and Rain” reached number 3 on the Billboard Top Forty. Taylor has enjoyed a good deal of success at points in his career.  He’s experienced lean periods as well.  But he never sold out, never tailored (pardon the pun) his sound to the market.  Forty years.  You’ve got to admire that.

James Taylor turns sixty today.  And as one birthday boy to another, I wish him the best, and I thank him for all that his music has given me over the years.

Today’s music:  “One Man Dog”