Tag Archives: mom

Happy New Year 2015!

Happy New Year everyone! I think I’ll do for 2015 what I did for 2014: I’ll post “a look back” this week…and “a look ahead” next week. WordPress provided me with an interesting report, but they’ve gussied it up so it’s more flair than substance this year. A few interesting tidbits from it though:

My most popular post for 2014 was The Origin of Hotty Toddy, a post I wrote in an attempt to poke fun at the obnoxious University of Mississippi football chant. I think what happens is that since they were winning this year, more people heard the chant and wanted to know a little something about it and my post turned up in the google search. Kinda funny.

The most popular day for my blog in 2014 was Oct 4, which was, probably not coincidentally the day after the Black Bears beat Alabama. Yeah, I post about other stuff (like this entry), but random googlers tend to find the Hotty Toddy post.

032714_2005_MegaCon20142.jpgMy top commenters are some pretty decent writers/bloggers, so I’m honored they visit AND comment on my page. Because of that, they get a shout out from me now! Krystol Diggs, who is a former student of mine from Full Sail. Kayla Dean, who I met when she attended the Hemingway Writers Retreat in Piggott, Arkansas. Freeda Baker Nichols, another writer I met at Hemingway and who is a far more consistent blogger than I am! Dot Hatfield, yet another writer I met at Hemingway! You see a trend, don’t you? Rounding out the top five is my mom—thanks, Mom! Show these writers some love and check out what they have to say since they’re often nice enough to leave comments for me here!

I did a handful of shows/appearances/speaking engagements again this year and had a blast at all of them. In March I returned to Memphis where I was the keynote Speaker at the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference. I met a small press publisher that expressed interest in my work. We’ve been talking for several months. Nothing hard and fast, but it’s promising.

In April, I returned to the Hemingway Writers Retreat where we had a great retreat. I was also a comic guest at MegaCon again this year. I moderated a panel “Break-in Stories” with a handful of really talented folks!

In September I got to go back to the Shoals Alabama area where I was a guest at the Geek Gathering in Sheffield. It was a fantastic little con and I sure wish they’d had something like that when I lived there. That area remains the only place I’d willingly go back to in a heartbeat! Then in October, I was a presenter at the Florida Writers Conference where I met a whole slew of new people.

Creatively, it’s been a decent year, too. I’ve been talking to a few artists not mentioned on this page before about projects, so hopefully something will come of those and you’ll see it here.

ArkansasReviewIn August, my short story “Broken Down Truck” was published by Arkansas Review (v.45 #2) and in September, my graphic novel adaptation of The Remaining was published.

With all the advances in digital media, I’m looking to release some of my older comic work digitally and possible make it available via print on demand.

My novel, Buying Time, was made available in print via Amazon and in Kindle format on Christmas day! So I hope you’ve picked up your copy! Autographs are free! J Oh! And if you’ve already read it, pop on over there and leave a review on Amazon. I hear they really help!

It’s cool to see technology advancing so quickly…cool, but a little scary. Hopefully you’ve all “liked” my author page on Facebook so you can keep up with all the new stuff.

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How long?

Hi blog. Did you miss me? I missed me.

Seriously, though. Things have been a mess time wise, but I hope think they’re cooling down. I know, don’t get my hopes up because the holidays are right around the corner, right? Sigh.

My classes have been full, but I’ve made some cuts to the graded work and have actually gotten some help—so that is good. I still enjoy the heck out of the campus classes—I mean, what’s not to love about teaching comic writing, right?

Brittany receiving her diploma

Brittany receiving her diploma

In other big news, Brittany graduated from Full Sail–and she was the Valedictorian of her class! That’s right. Tis true. And she is anxious as everything to get to work! I’m pretty anxious for that to happen, too! Ha! The cool news is that in just the last few months she was cast in major roles for two independent films. She was the lead in Love Waits and is the co-lead in The Colors of Emily (she plays Emily). She’s slated for another big role in March, and The Colors of Emily is actually a trilogy and so she’s booked for both of those in the future. All in all, fantastic success out of the gate!

As you can see from the picture, Mom, Dad and Ang were able to come down for not only Brittany’s graduation, but for Thanksgiving. We had a great time, but man did it go by in a hurry. Brittany wanted to go to Hard Rock Café to celebrate…so we lost our hearing while we were there. I think we sat in the loudest spot in the place.

Brett marched for the last time, as well, and was pretty bummed about it. They put on a pretty cool end of semester show that wasn’t just the

Dad, Brett, Mom, Angie, Brittany, BJ, and Me at Hard Rock.

Dad, Brett, Mom, Angie, Brittany, BJ, and Me at Hard Rock.

band, but kind of an all-around “talent show.” We snagged the family picture one of those nights goofing around. The show was really very cool.

Cat & Mouse is in the hands of a couple of publishers now so it’s just playing the waiting game. I think it has a better shot with one more than the other…but my contacts are better at the other one.

An independent publisher is looking hard at trying to make The Gifted happen as a series of graphic novels. As an indy publisher, but biggest obstacle to getting a graphic novel done is the art. Even if it doesn’t happen, I’m thankful they are making the effort. I’ll talk about that more when I can, of course.

Nothing new on Beah, Citizens or Rejects, but you’ll be the first to know.

I’m also hopeful that I’ll get Buying Time on Amazon and Kindle within the week—hopefully before Christmas.

Okay…hopefully I don’t crash and burn before next week! See you then!

Us being us

Us being us

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I’m Attached to my Teeth

I like my teeth.

I’m rather attached to them. Or rather, they’re attached to me.

And I don’t say that to suggest I’ve got the million-dollar actor-perfect teeth—though my parents might suggest I do after seeing me in braces for two and a half years. Funny story about that.

I love to chew gum. I particularly like double-bubble bubble gum, y’know, the kind you used to be able to get for 1¢ per piece. (Remind me to tell you a story about my dad and bubble-gum…but that’s digressing far too much this time) I love the stuff and one of the most difficult things for me to do when I had braces was to give up chewing gum…and ice. But this story is not about ice.

So I hadn’t had my braces that long when I had to go in to get them “tightened.” Anyone who had braces before the last decade or so knows that tightening hurt like the dickens. I was in pain. I was in my bed moaning—okay, I was probably crying—I was in 7th grade, after all. My mom walks in and you could tell she felt very sorry for me and was doing her motherly best to sooth me. In fact, she tells me she picked up a treat for me to help my brace-blues. She reaches behind her back (this was in the days before Wal-Mart, kiddies), and gives me a huge pack of—you guessed it: GUM!

I would like to tell you that I burst out laughing because I thought it was a good gag. I would even be happy telling you that I chuckled knowing she meant well and then gave it out to all my friends the next day at school. I wouldn’t be horribly disappointed to tell you that I broke the rules and chewed the stuff anyway.

Nope. I broke out in tears (I was in 7th grade, I said!) and couldn’t believe my own mom would torture me in such a way.

Those of you feeling sorry for my mom right now must know that she’s heard me tell this story a million times and so she knows I’ve recovered from that dark episode in my youth.

So when the dentist tells me that I’ve got a crack in my otherwise fairly healthy teeth, I don’t react too well to that news. I’m a pretty good dental patient when it comes to cleaning and all. But my mind will not block out the filling of a cavity (after I got my braces off, no doubt) in which the dentist informed me he could give me no more pain/numbing shots because I’d reached the max and proceeded to fill the cavity even though I could feel it! No, my mind will not block that out. So when they tell me that not just a filling will do, they have to “shave” my tooth and put a “crown” on—like calling it a crown is going to make me feel better about it—I’m not the best patient.

Yes. I recently went to the dentist.

Yes. I like my teeth. But not quite the way you think!

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Writers leave Legacy

As most of you who read this page know, I’ve had the privilege to Mentor the Fall version of the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Writers Retreat held at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center in Piggott, Arkansas. I generally sing the praises of the writers, but thought I’d do something slightly different this time—not to suggest the writers shouldn’t have their praises sung: they created brilliant writings, as always.

Noticeably missing this year were Bob and Wanda Jones. Wanda, an exceptional poet, passed away just weeks ago after a long battle with cancer. She wrote a story last year about craving blood that still haunts me.

A retreat is a different monster than a workshop or a conference. In general, a retreat allows the writers to get away from the daily grind at home and focus solely on whatever it is they wish to write. Not all of them come with something in mind to write, but many do. Those who don’t, rely on the daily writing exercises to get their writing muscles going.

Each morning, I present the writers with some sort of writing exercise, generally with the idea of targeting some specific aspect of writing. One of the favorites at Arkansas is an exercise I do about dialogue, forcing the writers to listen to the different voices around the table and then attempt to convey personality and attitude simply by specific choice of words.

Last year I tried a “smell” exercise, trying to hone in on the five senses. I think smell is often overlooked in most writings. While it was a good idea, it didn’t work as I’d hoped.

This year, I tried a POV (Point of View) exercise in which I scattered the writers (there were 13 of them) around the Education Center and then had them watch a skit (brilliantly performed by Diana Sanders and Karen Trout!) which wound into several of the rooms in the center allowing them only glimpses at best and often not allowing them to hear parts of the conversation. One writer was placed outside the front door (it’s all glass) and had to try to discern what was happening by peeking inside.

At the end of the week, the exercises are collected into an anthology. The writers may also include other work they’ve created while at the retreat, but the exercises makes up the bulk of the material.

This year, I had a special treat in that Mom decided to attend. She’d mentioned it a couple of times before when I first started doing it and decided at the last minute she wanted to try it. Thankfully there was room for her (thanks, Diana!). It felt a little odd “critiquing” Mom. J

The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Writing Retreats are, I think, the model for retreats—and not just because I’m a mentor. In fact, there is a retreat in the summer which is mentored by someone else and I recommend it as well. But I think writers should at least try a retreat sometime during their writing career—just get away from all of life’s day-to-day worries and write.

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That little contraption

I’ve got this little tray-contraption chock full of nuts and bolts and screws. It’s something I got several years ago when I realized that tossing every little piece into a Tupperware bowl just wasn’t working. Plus, the bowl couldn’t hold them all anymore. One of the trays has so many screws in it that it’s hard to open. So why is it that when I need a certain sized bolt or screw I don’t have the size I need?

It’s true. Just this last week I was re-attaching bathroom cabinet doors, drawer knobs, and the hardware that goes along with them. Without getting into my wife’s method of UN-attaching them, I discovered I needed 10 screws to reattach the doors. I could put the hinges back on the doors, but couldn’t attach the hinges to the cabinets themselves.

So I went to visit my little contraption.

Notice the duct tape at the bottom and the plastic "hand cuffs" holding the handles together.

Notice the duct tape at the bottom and the plastic "hand cuffs" holding the handles together.

It’s not that big; about 18 inches tall. There are 3 “doors” across and 4 down, giving me a total of 12 doors (see Mom, I can do math!). One latch at the top releases all the doors so that they fold down opening the trays up to me so that I can remove the necessary piece and then close it back. I’ve got an exact duplicate attached to back of it, making the contraption seem 2-sided.

Which reminds me of a time my Dad asked me about my little contraption. Once on the phone shortly after I’d purchased the contraption, Dad asked me where I got it. He said he’d seen it during his last visit and wanted something similar for himself. I told him I’d purchased it at Sam’s and it wasn’t one, but was two. He insisted that it was not. He had seen it very closely and examined it and it was one solid piece which had trays and opened up on both sides. I assured him he was wrong…but he’s my Dad.

During his next visit, he wanted to see it. I took him to the shed, showed him the plastic “handcuffs” that still held the handles together…and then pointed out the duct tape across the bottom. I had to promise him that I had indeed added the duct tape after the bottom “handcuffs” broke and that the tape didn’t come as part of the purchase. I offered to buy him 2 contraptions and tape them for him.

He returned to the house.

Anyway, I had one screw the size that I needed. I rifled through for a minute but couldn’t find any because they’re so small. So I dumped them all out…on the ground. In over 100 screws, not one…NOT ONE…was the size I needed. That’s just hard to believe. What in the world, then, do all those 100+ screws I have go to? Why do I have them?

I didn’t want to go to the store, so I did was all good Southerners did.

I used duct tape.

No, not really…I got the next size up, but I sure thought about using duct tape!

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Man or mouse?

I don’t like mice.

Actually, I don’t like most rodents, not even squirrels. Yeah, I know that’s nearly blasphemous in this neck of the woods. And yes, I’ve eaten squirrel, too—it was fried. That statement doesn’t carry the same sort of weight as it did, say when I was in California—you should have seen the reactions from them—but many of our younger generations around here have never tasted it.

You know how the saying goes, though…tastes like chicken.

Now is that time of year, though, when many commonly discover they’ve been landlording an immigrant family of mice. We usually discover they’ve left in a hurry and left their droppings for us to find.

I remember my grandpas always had cats around the house, farm and barn to help keep the mice at bay.

I also remember my first real personal experience with a mouse. I’d just graduated college and was renting a house with a good buddy of mine. One night while trying to sleep, I kept hearing a scratching noise. I’d never heard the noise before so I had no clue what it was. After about an hour, I decided to see what it was, and turned on the lights.

That’s when I saw him run.

I was about 22 or 23, fresh out of college, and thought I was far superior to this mouse.

You’d have to have seen my room to understand what I am talking about here; the only real furniture in my room was the bed. I’d taken milk crates and 2×6 pieces of wood to make a set of “shelving” for myself. This open shelving held books and clothes alike, and it ran the length of one wall.

I chased the mouse around for an hour before he proved to be faster than me and ducked into a hole.

I set a mouse trap directly in front of that hole the next night…once again proving my superiority over the mouse.

When I first moved to Piggott and was staying with Mom and Dad for a while, I must have brought one with me.

Once again, Mann set out to prove superiority to the mouse.

The good thing about modern homes is there aren’t many little holes for mice to duck in. I first spotted it when it ran under the treadmill. This mouse, idiot thing that it was, was probably looking for a lighter workout than it received that night.

Mom and Dad were both there that night and the three of us set out to trap and get rid of it. Dad got on one end of the couch, Mom on the other, and I waited out front, cutting off any possible route of escape.

Mom had a towel, I had a rolled up newspaper, and Dad’s weapon of choice was a flyswatter. I’d like to admit here publicly as to never having seen a flyswatter used a weapon against a mouse. As they say, there’s a first for everything.

Well, that little mouse would run one way and Dad would swat at him with a flyswatter…then he’d run another and Mom would scream and throw a towel at him. Then he’d run at me…poke his head out from under the couch just enough that I couldn’t swat him with the newspaper. I really think he was trying to size me up, see if he could make a dash past me. Maybe he thought since I had a paper I’d just read to him.

Either that or he was catching his breath.

He eventually ended up under an antique buffet in the corner and the process started all over again. That mouse ran so much I could hear him huffing and puffing. Dad eventually got him with the flyswatter—who’da thought that, huh? But the whole process of the hunt took nearly an hour.

I wonder what mouse tastes like? I bet it tastes like chicken.

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April is a good month

April is a good month for the Mann family. Good, but always very busy. Seems like April is the month when so many things happen.

For instance, April 6 (which just so happens to be today), is the date on which my daughter Brittany was born. Yes, can you believe it? She is 14 years old today. She’s already talking about getting her driver’s license! It also happens to be the date on which my mother was born, albeit several years before Brittany. And it also happens to be the date on which my grandfather Bill Mann was born, in 1919. When Grandpa was alive, we had a few years in which we celebrated all three birthdays! And although Grandpa isn’t with us anymore, his twin sister is still living in St. Francis, Arkansas!

For as long as I can remember, Dad has always had a good time with the fact that he married an older woman. You see, Dad’s birthday is 4 days later…April 10.

I once teased Brittany and told her that I’d always be able to remember her birthday if I couldn’t remember anything else. The American Civil War battle of Shiloh, Tenn., took place on April 6 and 7 in 1862. Brittany even celebrated her 7th birthday on the grounds of Shiloh when she went with me to participate in a reenactment.

April is also Confederate Heritage Month in many Southern states. Admittedly, it’s becoming fewer and fewer as more Southern Governors turn coward and give in to political correctness. Why April? April is the month during which the war began…and ended.

Sigh.

Confederate Memorial Day also happens in April…mostly. Unfortunately, the Southern states can’t all get together to agree on this date. For instance, it was January 19 in Texas this year. In the Carolinas, it’s May 10 (but will be observed on May 11)…and then in Geo., Miss., Ala., and Fla., Confederate Memorial Day is April 27. An interesting tidbit about this finds that the Federal Memorial Day began after many in the North discovered Southerners honoring Southern dead after the war. As is often the case, the Feds took the date and turned it into Memorial Day, causing the Southerners to switch to a different date. Initially, Memorial Day was only for Union dead…that changed after WW1. If you’re a Southerner, you should mark this date down on your calendar and remember the Southern dead who generally do not get remembered any other time…unless they’re being portrayed as the villains. They are no more villains than the current US Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last, but not least, April is the month in which I was married. Yep, April 28 of 1990 (for those of you ticking away on your fingers, this makes 19 years!) is the day I tied the knot with BJ. Of course, for those who knew me before then, you’ll remember we dated for SEVEN (yes, 7!) years before we got married. There were quite a few, I think, who wondered if it would ever happen.

So, Happy Birthday Brittany, Mom and Aunt Juanita! May you have many, many more!

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