Thursday, April 30, 2009
April 30, 2009
Flat-footed, Part 2
From his office on the main floor Biz heard the door open. Rumproast immediately abandoned his breakfast and raced for the stairs. The TV news cut to the weather. Cloudy, heavy smog, slight chance of showers. A voice wafted upward: "Oh, there you are, my little darling. How are you this morning?"
Biz sighed and trotted downstairs. "Good morning, Mom. You're here early."
Lydia Leightner bent down to kiss him. She stood six feet tall in bare feet, had straight hair touched up to look silver rather than gray. His Mom had gone through college on a basketball scholarship, then off to Stanford Law. Retired now, she helped him with his PI firm when she was in the mood for it. Apparently today, of all days, she was in the mood for it. "You're up early."
"I was on surveillance all last night. I'm not up early, I'm up late. And I've got a problem." He told her about the news report.
Mom crossed her arms over her chest and considered her from her seventy-two inches. Not for the first time Biz reflected that Yahweh was a vicious bastard with a sick sense of humor. "What are you going to do?"
Biz ran a hand through his dark hair, thinking up a smart-ass response, when the the office door pushed open and another tall woman stepped in. She was maybe an inch taller than Mom and instead of Biz's mother's pink and gray warm-up suit, wore a navy blue pinstriped suit with a champagne blouse, the skirt ending about two inches above her knees. And she wore heels, dammit. Biz said, "I think I'm going to talk to the LAPD."
The woman held out her badge, indicating she was with the elite Robbery-Homicide Division. "Are you Benjamin Disraeli Leightner?"
He waved her to his private office. "Come with me, Detective--"
"Rain. Summer Rain."
Biz did a double-take and shook his head. "And I thought my Mom had a sense of humor. Okay, Detective Rain, let's talk."
In his office, he pointed to a leather client chair the color of cultured pearls and made himself comfortable behind his desk. She settled in, crossing one of her long, lovely gams. He said, "Has anyone ever told you your legs are like--"
"--if you say 'a rainy day' I'm going to drop-kick your midget ass from here to Pasadena."
"Mom," he called out. "Call my agent. We want to pitch a new reality show: "Survivor: LAPD." To Detective Rain he said, "Once the ACLU gets involved I think you'll be the first one voted off the island."
Scowling, Detective Rain said, "You were working for Delbert Fontaigne." It wasn't a question.
"Yes, I'm sure you know that. Where's the rest of your homicide team, Detective?"
She was all questions, no answers. "Where were you last night between the hours of two a.m. and four a.m.?"
"I was apparently providing his wife with an alibi. Can I get you coffee, Detective Rain?"
To be continued...
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
April 29, 2009
by Mark Terry
Biz Leightner settled his four-foot, four-inch frame onto the captain's chair in his kitchen, sipping from his stinger. He smacked his lips. "Nothin' like the first drink of the morning," he said to the empty room.
Not a client in sight, either. Probably too early. It had been a long stakeout, spending the night behind the wheel of his tan Ford Mustang convertible--the classic--peeing into an empty Dom Perignon bottle, nothing for company but his pearl-handled Colt .45 and his Pug, Rumproast.
Not a client in sight, either. Probably too early. It had been a long stakeout, spending the night behind the wheel of his tan Ford Mustang convertible--the classic--peeing into an empty Dom Perignon bottle, nothing for company but his pearl-handled Colt .45 and his Pug, Rumproast.
It was divorce case, the client a distraught Trophy Husband convinced his multi-millionaire wife, Shala Fontaigne, was doing the Mattress Mambo with her executive secretary. Trophy Husband wanted proof. Fair enough, Biz had thought, as long as the check clears. Or the credit card gets approved, either way. He ran a 21st century PI firm after all. Got to keep up with the technology.
He wondered if Del Fontaigne had a prenup with the lovely Mrs. Fontaigne, founder, CEO and President of the multi-million dollar corporation, ShalaVu, designer and purveyor of upscale shoes for the Jimmy Choo wannabees. If not, why not put up and shut up, pal?
Rumproast whined from the floor.
"Yeah, baby? Time for breakfast?" Biz considered his options. Eggs? Bacon? Did it count for breakfast if you'd been up all night? He was drinking a stinger. Did Froot Loops go with Stingers?
He leaped down from his captain's chair, crossed to the pantry and brought down the kibble for Rumproast. He clicked on the TV on the way to the dog bowl to catch the talking head say, "...report the apparent murder of Delbert Fontaigne, husband of ShalaVu founder and Chief Executive, Shala Fontaigne."
"Holy Ravioli," Biz breathed, leaning frozen over the dog bowl. Rumproast whined, wanting breakfast.
To Be Continued...
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
April 28, 2009
When I posted a letter to S about a publishing contract, it took readers about 3 seconds to make the connection that it was Stephen Parrish. I don't know how they made that connection, I really don't. Anyway, it's official, Stephen's signed the contract and he'll have his first novel published by Midnight Ink. It's called Adamant Stone. If you haven't already done so--since you guys are way ahead of me, apparently--go on over and congratulate him.
Monday, April 27, 2009
What's The Point?
April 27, 2009
I think I'm a better than average writer at transferring information. Yes, "transferring" is the word. I'm transferring information from one area and writing about it in another. I'm clear, I'm accurate, I'm good at it.
But is that the point of fiction?
But I think a bigger point of fiction is transferring emotion. And that's a pretty difficult task. I'm not bad about transferring the adrenaline rush, the sense of urgency, possibly even panic and fear.
Other emotions, I'm not so sure.
So my goal in fiction is to work on depth, on digging deeper into my character and my story, to not just push the character from A to B to C, etc.--which I'm pretty good at--but to get the reader to feel what he's feeling, not just see, hear and taste what he's experiencing.
And how do I do that without slowing down the damned pace? How do I do that without paragraphs and pages of internal monologue that just gets in the way of the other things I do well?
No easy task.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
No, I'm Not A Luddite--I Loves Me Technology
April 26, 2009
Saturday, 2:10 PM--power goes out during thunderstorm.
Sunday, 8:47 (or so) PM--power comes back on.
Thank you, Thomas Edison.
Friday, April 24, 2009
April 24, 2009
Okay, I'm back. I was chaperoning my youngest son's 5th Grade Camp. They left Wednesday and spent until noon today at a camp about 70 miles away. They did the high ropes and a campfire and shelter building and rock climbing wall and made S'Mores and I came yesterday at noon and stayed overnight until noon today. So I'm tired. The photo is my Sean, building his outdoor shelter.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Erica's Synopsis Book Camp
April 21, 2009
For reasons completely unknown, She Who Must Be Read, Erica Orloff, has turned her blog into a boot camp for How To Write A Novel Synopsis this week. I think this falls into sainthood or something similar. If you head on over there, she'll let you put opening paragraphs and long segments of your novel synopsis up on her blog and she'll go through critiquing and editing it for you. And it's free. Really, folks, you'd have to pay big bucks anywhere else to get this kind of one-on-one training, so head on over and check it out.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
April 21, 2009
Just read an ad for a full-time features writing position at a newspaper in Michigan that also required some layout skills.
This ASTONISHES me.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Tuesday's Trivial Question
April 21, 2009
Who among you has actually used a typewriter? If yes, was it electric or manual?
April 20, 2009
One of the books I'm reading is "The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama. You might have heard of him. (I wish I'd read it before I voted for him; it would have settled some of my qualms).
Talking about politicians, he notes that most sensible people organize their life in such a way that they're not rejected all the time. (Arguing that politicians set themselves up in a win/lose situation with no second place).
I thought about writers, especially novelists. And I wondered what other career choice sets you up for so much rejection: actors, maybe musicians, sales people. And it did make me wonder: are we nuts? Why would we embrace so much rejection?
So, your thoughts?
And what careers do you think involve so much built-in rejection?
Friday, April 17, 2009
April 17, 2009
I've noticed this blog is getting spammed a lot recently. In fact, I went back to an older post and there were more than 50 spam comments in a single comment section. For the time being I've put on the comment moderation function in hopes of eliminating this.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
April 16, 2009
I'm very widely read in the genre of mysteries and thrillers, ie., crime novels.
I'm somewhat familiar with children's fantasy and adult SF.
Sometimes I try to write children's fantasy and I guess I'm doing okay with it although I'm not yet published in it.
I'm currently working on an SF novel and today I'm wondering what I think I'm doing writing in a genre I don't read much in.
It's possible this is Shiny New Idea syndrome, that the going was getting hard so my mind is casting about for reasons to go work on something else.
It's possible the difficulty I'm having with the SF novel is that I just am not all that well-versed in the genre, at least as it's being published today. (Thirty years ago, yeah, I was better read in it).
There is a school of thought that suggests you should stick with a genre and build your readership and reputation in that area. Today, at least, I agree with it. Yesterday, mmmm, not so much. Tomorrow, who knows?
What do you think?
This Writing Life
April 16, 2009
It occurred to me that the title of this blog is "This Writing Life." Okay, kidding. I knew that. Here's the train of thought:
My oldest son for a while--he's 15, this comes and goes--wanted to be a high school band director. Then, for whatever reason, we went on the high school marching band trip to Disney World and he came back and decided that, no, he no longer wanted to be a high school band director. (I'm not quite sure what the disconnect was, but I think he saw it as a nightmare for the band directors, which is interesting. I would argue that the head band director was having a good time with his family, although having talked to him Tuesday it's obvious that his stress level has all but disappeared since the Disney trip; the middle school band director was only okay about it, but I think he had personal things going on simultaneously; the other high school band director didn't act like he was having a good time at all. It may be outside his comfort zone. I don't know why, maybe I'll ask him, since he's also my guitar teacher).
Currently, and this isn't the first time, Ian's thinking about history and international relations and political science.
Which would be interesting and exciting. I'll be supportive of whatever he wants to do. It's his life, he has to live with the decisions he makes, not me.
But I suspect it's going to come back to writing. Because unlike the music thing, which he enjoys but has to be nagged to practice his instruments, Ian writes on his own almost every day. And for his age, he's pretty good. He has a distinct voice and his ideas are good. His execution, well, he's 15 and it shows, but I think he can overcome that if he worked at it.
I also wonder about both my sons getting out in the working world as adults and then thinking, "Wow, this isn't anything like my Dad's life." Right. Dad commutes about 15 steps, doesn't have a dress code, goes to the gym every day, has time to do kid pickup or drop-off and occasionally chaperone various school events. Dad, unlike Mom, doesn't bitch about work much. Mom bitches about the people she works with all the time. And when they're in the working world, they probably will, too.
Only time will tell.
Anyway, there's a point here. What I was thinking after this was, you know, if you're a person that likes to write--not just having written, but actually likes the physical act of writing--and likes or loves to read (anything and everything), then writing for a living is a fantastic gig.
Yeah, it's got its headaches. No health insurance, no paid vacation, no retirement plan, the money comes and goes, dealing with the publishing industry can be a pain, editors apparently keep their jobs just about as long as fast food workers do, and publishers change their priorities constantly...
But you know what? I love it and it's great.
I don't think it's for everybody. You've got to have some hustle and some tolerance for uncertainty.
But for me, it's been awesome.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
April 15, 2009
Although my thoughts on the so-called "teabagging" going on today run to the "this is pretty silly and pointless" category, I realized I was missing a language joke, so I went and looked up "teabagging" on the urban slang dictionary and got:
April 15, 2009
Last week I had lunch with an old friend of mine. He runs his own business, employs about 6 people and, from the looks of it, is very successful.
I run my own business. I don't employ anybody, and within the type of business I run, I guess I'm very successful.
We got to talking about business in general and here are some things we had in common. By the way, he conducts market research and I'm a writer and editor.
--Sometimes you do things for free or for low money just in order to learn to do them and be able to charge more in the future. In my case, I wrote a nonfiction book proposal on my own. I intended to market it, but primarily I wanted the reason to do it and the feedback I got from agents was very helpful. So when I was hired to write one as a collaboration, I knew what I was doing and charged accordingly, and we picked up an agent, did some more rewrites and our agent is going to start sending it out shortly (today, probably).
My friend has done the exact same thing, doing specific sorts of projects and reports for little or no money just in order to be able to do them... and charge more in the future.
--There are things in your business portfolio that make no sense financially, but you continue to do because you like to do them. In my case, fiction. My friend wasn't specific, but he said he definitely has things he does where he asks himself why he continues to do them, but the reason is, because he likes to do them.
--There's a fair amount of worry involved in running your own business. My friend worries more--he's supporting a total of 7 families, after all, and he seems to be even more dependent on the economy than I am. I worry some, although I tend to define it as "concerned watchfulness." Either way, it's a burden you don't necessarily have on a normal day job.
--ownership is great. Both of us agree that working for someone else would be difficult if not impossible now. We like that the work is our own, that how hard we work results in how much money we make (in his case, seemingly a lot more than me, but I think there are tradeoffs on that. I wouldn't want to travel as much as he does and I'm not terribly interested in all the other headaches involved in having employees).
--the so-called freedom and flexible schedules are great--we spent an hour and a half on lunch--but ultimately, we both work a lot with pretty regular hours, sometimes in the evenings and weekends. As I've demonstrated post-Disney, there's a price to pay for a non-working vacation, and it's taking me a while to dig myself out of that hole. Worth it? Yes, but the immediate workload after a vacation can be frustrating. I worked Saturday and Sunday (yes, Easter) and put in 11 hours on Monday just trying to get where I felt I was a little bit on top of the work.
--our work has taken some odd little tangents and bounces. He guest lectures at a local university once a term and actually taught the professor's class one semester while she was on sabbatical. I'm actually running a seminar later this month called "Freelance Writing for Fun & Profit." I don't think either one of us started out thinking we'd do this, but the opportunities came up and we took them. There's some money in it and some exposure and maybe more importantly, just a new experience.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Disney and Writing
April 13, 2009
One of the things I was thinking about at Disney was something that applies to novelists in today's market. It's that Disney never just gives you a ride. Almost everything, whether it's a roller coaster or a spinning ride, has a narrative, sure. That's unusual enough. But I think the thing that makes Disney Disney is simply that they never just give you a ride.
For example, the newest ride at the Animal Kingdom, the Everest Adventure, isn't just a roller coaster. It has a narrative, that you're searching for the Yeti as you take a train ride through Mount Everest. But more to the point, Disney could have just given you a roller coaster ride through a fake Mount Everest. But they didn't. They give you a roller coaster that ends at tracks torn up by a Yeti, then reverse the coaster so you're slamming through the tunnels backwards... then the Yeti comes out, tears up more track, then you go slamming forward through the tunnels.
I don't think it's Disney's greatest ride or even greatest roller coaster, but it has those Disney signatures: it's got a narrative and it's not just a run-of-the-mill roller coaster. Disney never goes for the biggest or the fastest, they put their own unique spin on everything they do.
Obviously there's a point about writing there, but I'll take it one more step.
I'm reading The Second Perimeter by Mike Lawson, a book recommended by Erica Orloff, She Who Must Be Read, and if you go to the page I linked to, he talks about his decision to not write a book about a cop or a spy because there were plenty of good books about them by really good writers. So he made his main character a lawyer who works as an investigator/troubleshooter for the Speaker of the House.
Now, I'm probably not as enamored with the book as Erica was, but the character and his job are great and I think you can take a lesson from both Disney and Mike Lawson when considering your next book.
Although I wasn't being quite that deliberate and methodical when I created Derek Stillwater, who is a troubleshooter for the Department of Homeland Security and an expert in biological and chemical terrorism, it has occurred to me that I did create a character whose job I'd never seen before. He's not quite a cop, he's not a spy, he's not a lawyer or a soldier.
I don't think it means you can't write about a cop or a lawyer or a soldier or a spy. But I do think you're going to have to go the Disney route and figure out what's specifically unique about your cop, lawyer, soldier or spy. Because all you have to do is look at the books on the shelf and realize that's been done to death. Is your cop blind? Is your lawyer disbarred and just released from jail? Is your soldier a woman? Is the spy schizophrenic? What's the spin? What's unique? What stamp can you put on your character that's specific to you, so an agent or editor doesn't say, "Oh brother, another police procedural. Been there, done that."
It doesn't have to be gimmicky, necessarily, but it should be something that's at least a degree or two off the expected.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Disney, Day 5
April 12, 2009
Last Monday was our final day at Disney. We had a wake-up call around 6:30 or so. Buses were loading at 7:30, but we needed everybody out of their rooms--checked out--so the chaperones also had to do room checks to make sure they didn't leave anything behind (we found a variety of things, actually, like shoes and underwear).
Once we got that out of the way we took the bus to the Animal Kingdom, where we all went to Tusker House for a character breakfast. This was by far the best meal of the trip, an awesome buffet (Disney character meals have terrific food and the characters come around and you get pictures taken with them. Donald and I had a fist-bump thing going on.)
Then we were off for the rest of the day. The Group 1 left early, so they only had a couple hours. I was in Group 2, so we were to meet at 4:00 PM, load the buses back to the airport and head for Detroit.
Until then we rode the Everest Ride and the Safari ride and we went to Rafiki's Jungle thing, which was really lame, except I got into a conversation with the animal behaviorist. He's standing there was a variety of animal chow, which was boring, but he's got this huge skullnext to him, sort of behind the scenes. Turned out it was a black rhino skull. He also had a hippo skull and an elephant skull, so I talked to him about them for a while.
The Orlando airport was where we had a girl hauled out without warning for having a snow globe; one guy was wearing pants with rivets and zippers, so he got special attention, and one girl dropped her boarding pass, but luckily my youngest son spotted it on the floor and picked it up, saying, "What's this?" I read it, knew right who she was--one of the chaperone's kids, no less--and saved us all a major trauma. Our DQ had a panic attack, apparently because he wasn't there for the snow globe girl "in her time of need." The band directors got him calmed down.
The trip was fairly uneventful until we got to Detroit Metro Airport. One, it had been in the 80s in Florida, but Detroit had gotten about 10 inches of snow. Second, for some reason our luggage didn't start on the carousel for nearly an hour after we got off the plane. And third, as we were walking to the bus, the 82-year-old woman who had been traveling with us stepped off the curb bad, fell and broke her nose. Most of the chaperones and band directors helped her while I got the kids herded onto the bus, luggage loaded, and kids re-accounted for. It took about an hour to get her taken care of. The tour director and one of the chaperones took her to the hospital to get an x-ray. She's fine. I've talked to her son a couple times since. Embarrassed, but fine.
Then back to the school, where we damn near got stuck in the driveway because the 10 inches of snow hadn't been plowed terribly well, then home.
Overall a good trip.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Disney, Day 4
April 11, 2009
Sunday at Disney was what I thought of as the Martini Shot. Ie., the reason we were there. The wake-up call was 5:45--yikes!--because the kids needed to leave for Planet Hollywood at 6:45 for an early breakfast. I say kids because, well, I didn't go.
Here's the deal. They needed to head to their clinic. At the clinic, which was run by Disney musicians, the only people allowed in were the kids and the band directors. Parents not invited. Parents could come to the breakfast if they wanted to, but then they had to figure out how to get back to wherever they were going and at that time there was no Disney transportation.
So I got up around 6:30 and helped herd the kids onto buses, then went back to bed and got up around 8:00 or so. We collected Daniel, wandered over to the All-Stars Music Melody Hall and had breakfast, then back to the hotel room, then got the kids into swim suits and back to the pool. Leanne and I sat in lounge chairs with caffeinated beverages and talked to each other and other chaperones who wandered by looking for caffeinated beverages. The kids swam.
Around 11:00 or so we got a call from Ian who said they were done and headed for the Magic Kingdom. Leanne and I and Sean and Daniel hooked up with Betty and took Disney transport to the Magic Kingdom, where we also hooked up with Ian.
At 1:00 the band met in front of the castle to have its picture taken. This is when we discovered one of the kids had taken a hard fall and may have had a concussion (he did). His Dad took him to the infirmary then the ER after the photos. He's fine. I just got an e-mail today confirming how well he's doing. Post-Natasha Richardson we were all freaking out about concussions, but he was okay.
Then we had the afternoon free until 7:00, when the band had to meet up toward the back of the park. They went backstage--I had hoped to go, but they only needed 2 parents--to get dressed and warmed up for the parade. I had hopes of seeing what it looked like behind the scenes and taking photos, but actually they were told that Disney security would delete any digital cameras--all photos--if they caught anybody shooting pictures backstage.
So, once the band was gone, we got some food, staked out a place to watch the parade, and I took the boys on The Haunted Mansion ride. Then the band and 2 other high school bands marched through the park ahead of the Spectral Magic Parade.
Leanne went to find Betty, who kept disappearing, and I took the boys on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Then we got stuck on opposite sides of Main Street during the Spectral Magic Parade. We finally met up again and headed back to the main gate--it was closing in on 11:00 by this time. Then everyone got lost but me (ahem). We went into a bathroom, then I came out and nobody was around, so I thought they went on ahead without me, so I headed for the front of the park. What actually happened was they went out the other direction to watch the fireworks.
Anyway, we met up again, collected our group at the front of the park, then rode the ferry to the transportation center, then rode the bus back to the hotel and got there around midnight. Where we all collapsed into bed and fell immediately asleep.
I would also point out that this day was the hottest one--91 degrees. A very long day, but pretty cool, despite B's concussion. He didn't march in the parade, but he did get pushed along in a wheelchair.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Okay, More Disney
April 10, 2009
Back by somewhat popular demand, Day 3.
This was Saturday. We had a slightly later wake-up call--~7:10--and got on the buses at 8:10 to go outside the park to the Golden Corral for breakfast. The Golden Corral is an all-you-can-eat buffet along the lines of The Olde Country Buffet, and my impression was we did, as a matter of fact, eat all we could and definitely more than we should. We also had the first whiff of people complaining of nausea and I had a cold moment where I was afraid we might have a Norwalk virus going through the group. It didn't spread and it seemed to be mostly lack of sleep, eating too much food and going on amusement park rides, and what I suspect is a bit of drama to get attention (something of a recurring theme among some kids).
We rearranged groups to accommodate the afternoon schedule, then headed off to the Magic Kingdom. We met up again at 1:00 and headed over to Epcot. Now, I like Epcot reasonably well, but it's not a great park for a bunch of teenagers because it's short on thrill rides. This was a largely family day for us--we didn't have Daniel with us, so it was just the four of us. Ian decided, for whatever reasons, that he'd rather hang with us than with friends (probably because we merely ask the kids what they want to do and then do it; with friends it's a constant negotiation). We immediately rushed to Test Track and got on in a reasonable time, then went over to Soaring and made the very wrong decision to not get a fast pass. It said 70 minute wait, but it was probably closer to two hours and unlike most Disney lines, this one didn't seem to move. It exhausted me for the rest of the day, just standing there for two hours.
After we finally got out of Soaring we took a ferry across the lagoon to Italy, then ate lunch/brunch/dinner--it was now about 4:00 in the afternoon--at the US pavilion. When we got out there was actually a skywriter flying. He started out with a smiley face then started writing Jesus Loves You and there was more but I stopped paying attention. Plus I'm bemused that we spent half the time going, "Jennie? No, Jessie. No, oh, Jesus. Some hispanic guy? Oh, Jesus. Got it." Then we went to Norway and rode the Maelstrom, then wandered back to the front to catch what used to be called The Living Seas, but is now called, uh, I forget, but it has something to do with Nemo and Friends. Basically a large indoor aquarium. They've added a super cheesy clamshell ride where you watch clips from the movie--I was momentarily depressed that they'd eliminated the aquarium, but they haven't--but otherwise the aquarium is pretty cool.
After that we hung out and met up with other people from the group and watched Illuminations, Epcot's fireworks and laser light show, which for my money is the best one at the park. Then 15,000 people or so rushed for the entrance and our group met up again and found our bus and went back to the hotel. I believe this is the day of one panic attack. Also one girl apparently wrenched her knee. She seemed to be making much more of this than it deserved (another common theme, to take aches and pains and bumps and bruises and turn them into major medical catastrophes).
Oh yes, my moment of hell. This was the day we had too many people on the bus. Two or three of us ended up sitting in the aisle--adults for some reason--because the bus driver wouldn't move if anyone was standing. It was hot and airless and totally unpleasant and that 20 minute bus ride seemed to take forever. This was also the pinnacle of kid crabbiness for some reason. Day 3 was catching up to everybody and Epcot probably didn't have enough diversions for them, plus this is when we started really noticing the kids getting sick of each other in their usual groups, which were reforming.
We ran into a young woman alone--a friend of ours, actually--who had a fast pass to Soaring. Being alone is one of the no-nos. She said she wasn't with her friends because they'd annoyed her, but she did have friends to hang with, would it be okay to ride this ride alone. We gave her our phone number, told her to go ride, and if she didn't hook up with her friends afterwards to call us. She didn't and we saw her later with friends. But I think that was typical. People were hanging together, then they got tired and hot and got into an argument and went off with other people.
A few of us headed to the bar afterwards for a drink and to discuss the various crazinesses of the day. Wake-up call on Sunday was going to be 5:45, so staying up past midnight maybe wasn't a great idea.
Thursday, April 09, 2009
April 9, 2009
My wife and I are walking across one of the Disney parks (the happiest place on earth, which is why there are so many screaming children and stressed out parents) when we see a woman following her crying child, who is--like many little girls at Disney parks--dressed like a princess.
The woman snarls, "You are so high-maintenance!"
My wife and I look at each other and simultaneously say, "Well, maybe if you didn't dress her up like a princess."
We mentioned this story to one of the band directors who said, "If you create the monster you have to feed the monster."
Now, the lead band director, Jim, had his three daughters there--twins and a third, all under the age of 3 or 4, and we mentioned this story to him. He wasn't quite as amused, but he commented that he'd priced the Disney Princess Boutique experience and it cost $80 per child.
Okay, okay, I'm the father of sons. What can I say?
April 9, 2009
Since feedback would suggest nobody's reading these posts, let me get to the crapola part of the trip and then get back to your regularly scheduled programming, ie., me analyzing belly button fluff.
--one of my group's kids had a panic attack. Apparently there's a love triangle aspect to that. He's got a girlfriend at home (or did), but he was sniffing around another girl, who was hanging with a friend, and another guy was also sniffing around her, and when they weren't paying sufficient attention to him, he got to hyperventilating and ended up in the infirmary. Oh, the drama (Because, after all, chicks dig needy men--snort). I don't doubt the panic attack was, er, real, but the band directors weren't too fussed about it because apparently they've seen it before--about three times a week.
--one of my kids, unfortunately, got to rough-housing and fooling around with friends and did a face-plant on the pavement. His parents were on the trip, but we were pretty worried about him. He finally ended up at the Emergency Room and was diagnosed with a small concussion. He's fine. I suggested we get a T-shirt made up for him that said, "I Went To Disney World But All I Got Was This Stupid Concussion."
--The concussion kid's grandmother was on the trip. She's great. She's 82, clear as a bell, and hell, she was riding the roller coasters. Unfortunately, we had made it back to Detroit and were walking to the bus and she stepped off the curb wrong and fell and broke her nose. She's fine, as it turns out, but it scared the hell out of us. She spent some time at the ER with one of the chaperones and my wife talked to her son the next day and although she looks like she went a couple rounds with Mike Tyson, she's fine (Thank God).
--One of the kids got pulled out by security because she was carrying a snow globe in her luggage. TSA treated her like a terrorist, didn't say anything to any of the chaperones or even see if she was traveling with an adult. They grabbed her out of line and walked away. When we asked the TSA what was going on, they said, "We don't know." TSA--bad, you handled this wrong. They x-rayed it and then took her to a place where she could mail it home. Meanwhile, she's the girl the two guys were sniffing around, and our DQ went off on another panic attack because "he wasn't there for her in her time of need." A calming talk and a placebo took care of that.
Aside from that, there was just the usual: Larry, Darryl and Darryl got in a fistfight over something, but worked it out over a 10-pound bag of M&Ms; half the kids hated each other and broke off into other groups, then back again, over and over again, apparently working it out over fast passes or Gummy Bears or something. Lots of drama, some small incidences, but otherwise everything worked out fine and in retrospect was a great trip.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Disney Trip, Day 2
April 8, 2009
First off, let me provide you with the band directors' focus: exhaust the kids. His philosophy--and I essentially agree--is that you provide a framework that allows them a lot of freedom (at Disney, anyway), but which also keeps them busy and in an environment where they can't get into too much trouble. In other words, we weren't at the hotel much and when we were, they were pretty much locked in their rooms. Otherwise, they were at parks and could do what they want. But in that context, they were kept busy, busy, busy and as a result, tired, tired, tired. Chaperones just had to live with it.
The second day was a little bit tricky, though, because we went to Hollywood Studios (used to be Disney MGM), but it closed around 7:00. So it was decided that we would give the kids the option of going to either Epcot, Magic Kingdom, or Downtown Disney after our 4:00 meeting in the afternoon, but it would depend on the number of chaperones. So the chaperones signed up for where they wanted to go in the afternoon--most chose Magic Kingdom--and then the kids signed up. It turned out that about 6 kids wanted to go to Downtown Disney, 12 to Epcot, and the rest to Magic Kingdom, so it worked out. One of the band directors went with the 6 to Downtown Disney, there were 4 or 5 chaperones going to Epcot and the rest of us went to Magic Kingdom. This was all pretty much decided in the morning. We got some extra kids in our group and the tricky part was transporting from park-to-park as a group and at the end of the day we were using Disney transportation instead of charter buses to get back to the hotel.
6:15 wake-up call. Disney was using what we called "the pervert voice," which might have been Stitch, on the wake-up calls, followed by Mickey. At 7:15 we left on the bus to go to House of Blues for breakfast. The food was so-so, but they put on a great show. One of the Blues Brothers (Elwood?) put on a show with the "help" of 2 of the band directors and got all of our group on their feet and dancing. (I later asked Daniel why his Dad wasn't in the show. He said, "They had a contest and the losers had to be part of the show." I just about laughed my ass off. I later asked Gary A--one of the ones in the show--and he said that was about right. Jim G had to do it because he was the primary band director then he asked Gary A and Pat P to pick a number between 1 and 10 and Gary said 6 and Pat said 1 and Jim said 6 was closer. Gary told me he thought it was rigged--it probably was.
And then it rained.
Off we went to Hollywood Studios in the pouring rain. We'd kidnapped Daniel for the day and my oldest son wanted to hang with us, so the 4 of us bought ponchos--at that point we were already sopping wet and the ponchos were sort of worthless--and headed for the Aerosmith Rockin' Roller Coaster. Now, I like the ride a lot, but I've never quite figured out Aerosmith's relationship with Disney. Then from there to the Tower of Terror, then we crossed the park to do Star Tours (which, sadly, had almost no line at all. It's a great ride) and the Indiana Jones show.
We were to meet Daniel's father for lunch at the Sci-Fi Theater. When we made reservations there it had been at least 4 years since we'd been there. Then it had been a burger, hot dog, chicken strips place and you sat in cars and watched 1950s black-and-white horror movie clips while you ate. They have since upgraded the menu so it's wildly overpriced--a burger and fries cost about $21. We suggested we blow off the reservations. Pat agreed. So we had lunch at Pizza Planet using our meal tickets and Daniel and Sean played arcade games while the three of us got food.
Back to do the Rockin' Roller Coaster again, and I bought some 3-D holographic Pirates of the Caribbean guitar picks as a tacky souvenir, then we met the band at the big hat in the center of the park. (If you've never been there, each park has a major landmark. Magic Kingdom is the castle; Epcot is the big ball they call Spaceship Earth; Animal Kingdom is the Tree of Life (and probably the Everest Ride now); Hollywood Studios is a giant sorcerer's hat.
This is where we re-group and go to the other park. It wasn't a horribly smooth transition. Larry, Darryl and Darryl didn't show up because they didn't have watches, cell phones, and they actually didn't listen to directions and went out to where the buses were. I was taking the health forms, so I had to wait for them to show up.
[Everybody who goes on the trip has to fill out a health history form, which is put in a binder. When the group goes to the park, the forms are delivered to the infirmary. A chaperone is assigned an hour or block of time and a phone number they can call every half hour or hour. A recorded message tells you that either no chaperone is needed in the infirmary or they are].
I sent my group on ahead while I waited for the forms. When they showed up, I was also assigned another student (she was great) to get her to the Magic Kingdom. We went over and actually beat my group to the park. Delivered the health forms, then spent the rest of the day at Magic Kingdom. The rain had stopped by about 11:00 and the day was mostly cloudy and in the high 70s--excellent park weather.
The tricky part of the day was meeting up to get back to the resort. One of my kids lost his ticket and I had to calm him down and tell him I'd deal with it first thing in the morning. Our meeting place was too general and there was confusion as to who was going with whom (made worse by students who were obsessing about other people in other groups--back to DQ, who was freaking out in my ear going, "Wait, we're missing S!" I say, "Who's S?" She wasn't in my group, so I tell him to come on, S is her own group's problem.)
Anyway, we make it back to the hotel relatively unscathed, all students accounted for. The band director hit up some of us chaperones about how to handle this in the future, we give our opinions, and then there's another official stand-up meeting.
My chaperone group and another chaperone visit the bar at the hotel, have a drink and discuss the various personalities and backstories of some of these kids, which helped explain why some of them behave the way they do. (Yes, you can, in most cases, blame it on the parents). Then off to bed about midnight. We also realized that one of the chaperones--the one complaining about the kids in her group--was treating them all like 5-year-olds and insisting they stay in her line-of-sight. So when they were allowed to choose other parks and groups, her entire group would pick a place where she wasn't going. Oh well. It got mentioned to Jim G and I don't know if he dealt with it or not, but the situation did seem to get better toward the end of the trip.
Thoughts: moving kids from park to park is the toughest part of the trip. You need very specific meeting sites. I take the blame on this one, because I told the kids to meet at 9:00 at the train station. Unfortunately, that's a big location with 4 sides to it and that didn't work out as well as we wanted it to.
So far, no medical emergencies, although some of the personalities are starting to display the problems that will get more pronounced as the trip goes along. Also, we're starting to see the downside of keeping the kids busy and exhausted--they get crabby.
Oh, one more thing. I was assigned Bus Leader, which essentially means I was given the ticket codes for all the kids on my bus. I shared those with the various chaperones, but what it meant was if someone's ticket got lost or demagnetized, I was the one who handled the problem.
Another good day, overall, with some minor headaches in the evenings. It was mostly a matter of focusing on your group and ignoring the distractions trying to get them onto the Disney buses. In the end we all arrived where we were supposed to arrive.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Disney Thoughts--Day 1
April 7, 2009
So, last Thursday, day 1 of the Disney trip. The alarm goes off at 3:15--yes, A.M. We stagger around the house for a while, then drive to the high school. It's in the 40s, but not uncomfortable. Wander into the band room with our luggage, are given key cards for our chaperone groups. Myself, my wife Leanne, and Liz B are chaperones for a group of 11 kids, two of whom were my kids. We had a 4th chaperone in our group--Jeff L--but he was driving the van that held all the instruments and uniforms.
Eventually the bus showed up. There were about 54 kids in this group. Of course, one of the kids showed up with about 1 second to spare before the bus headed for the airport.
Airport: they were not designed to herd 50+ high school students through, but we did with no particular problems. We located our gate and told the kids to find something to eat or whatever, not go off alone, and be back at 6:45. Surprisingly, everyone was. On the plane and off to Orlando.
From the airport, retrieve our luggage, find our bus, load up and go directly to Blizzard Beach. Got there at 1:30. So basically the day's almost 11 hours long so far. Once in the water park everyone scatters. We were in the 2nd group (the 1st group left the school around 2:45 AM, made up mostly of juniors and seniors), so we only had a couple hours at Blizzard Beach. My oldest son went off with a bunch of his friends. One of the 3 band director's youngest son, Daniel, came on the trip--he's 11, the same age as my youngest and they're friends--and because Blizzard Beach is nicely self-contained and relatively small, we let them have free rein to run around the park on their own. Which left Leanne and I without any parental or chaperone duties for a couple hours--hell, we might actually have to talk to each other! So we did some rides, floated around the lazy lagoon, and generally hung out in the sun.
Herded the kids back up around 4:00 or so, got back on the bus, checked into the hotel at Disney--All-Star Music--then around 6:30 we all loaded back into the buses and went to Downtown Disney. The immediate family had dinner reservations at Cap'n Jacks, then we wandered around and shopped for a while--I bought 2 T-shirts at The House of Blues--had ice cream, then met the group again, loaded into the buses, did the 2nd or 3rd of what would be about 4 dozen roll calls, and went back to the hotel. It was around 10:00. We had a stand-up chaperone meeting that lasted too long since we were all dead on our feet, did a final bed check and went to our rooms and passed out. (Or would have except I slept like crap that night. I often do when I travel).
Thoughts: I remember one kid buying a bucket of ice cream at Blizzard Beach--literally a small plastic beach bucket filled with ice cream and candy for about $10 and eating it. I just hoped he didn't barf all over the bus. He wasn't in my chaperone group, so whatever he did in his room I figured wasn't my problem.
This was an extremely loooonnnnnnggggg day. Almost 21 hours straight!
One kid spent $100 on his Oakleys. (I thought they were Ray Bans, but there were 2 guys in my group that bought Ray Bans and we called the the Ray Ban Boys. Other nicknames that developed over the trip on the part of Liz and Leanne and myself: DQ (for Drama Queen) and Sexy--because he wore a T-shirt that said, "I'm bringing sexy back." Three other boys not in our group became known as Larry, Darryl and Darryl. If you get the reference you'll know why we called them that. Thank God they weren't in our group. DQ was bad enough.
We enjoyed the warm weather and wondered why Disney was so loud. Caught a guy playing an electric guitar/synthesizer and a didgereedoo at Downtown Disney, which was pretty cool. Visited the Virgin record and bookstore and I noticed that in the 4 years since I'd been there last the bookstore part had shrunk to about a quarter of its original size.
It was a very promising start. Weather was great. The travel transitions had gone smoothly and everybody was getting along pretty well.
Freelance Writing's Annoyance
April 7, 2009
It's starting to feel like a conspiracy.
One client sent me a check for $100 instead of $150.
I get back from Disney to find a check for $400 from another client that was supposed to be $4000--and they even sent a copy with the invoice with the correct breakdown.
And I also had to follow-up on another client that's a slow-pay and they lost the invoice I sent them.
I'm Back, sort of
April 7, 2009
I'm back from Disney World. Overall, good trip, although there were some down moments, the worst of which occurred at the Detroit airport last night as we were walking to the bus.
--1 broken nose
--several cases of dehydration
--several cases of sunburn
--one sprained ankle
--one possibly twisted knee
--nausea that may or may not have been related to the dehydration and sunburn, but may also have been related to eating junk food for 5 days while riding amusement park rides
--2 panic attacks
--approximately 1,037,754 Drama Queen Moments (both male and female, though more female than male)
I'll go into more detail over the next couple days, but here are a few general observations and comments:
--Do not try to carry a snow globe from Disney World through carry-on luggage at the airport. TSA will treat it as a potential bomb and take you away. (Each group had this happen with varying TSA style treatment).
--Do not be a funky goth-like kid and wear pants with lots of rivets and zippers unless you like being taken by TSA to a special place to have a particularly thorough search performed on your person.
--Kids are often great, but you pretty soon realize just how fucked up they can become if their parents are fucked up. Some of these kids' backstories give me chills. How does anyone survive into adulthood?
--If you give teenagers a chance to rise to the occasion, very often they will.
--Teenagers, nonetheless, can do some pretty stupid things. Like the one kid who brought $140 in spending money that was supposed to handle at least one meal a day for 5 days plus miscellaneous expenses, but instead spent $100 of it on the first day on Ray Bans.
--Some parents sent their kids to Disney with no spending money. Period. I have opinions on what should be done to these parents, but if I voice it in print it will come back to haunt me in the future.
--The weather was fabulous. A little rain, but except for Sunday, when it was 91 degrees and humid with no clouds or breeze, the temps were in the upper 70s to mid-80s. Then we got back to Michigan, which had about 8 inches of snow, temps in the 20s and 30s and blasting winds. Snow in April in my part of Michigan is not unheard of, but it's not that common either. This really sucks. Big time.
Have a good day,