Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Local Books Alive is Saturday

I will be participating in the Books Alive! Local Authors event at the Bay County Public Library on Saturday. Here are the details:

What: Morning presentations and afternoon book signings by 24 local authors; free admission, open to the public
Where: Bay County Public Library Meeting Room, 898 W. 11th St. in Panama City
When: 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
Schedule: 10 a.m. presentation by Sharman Burson Ramsey; 11 a.m. presentation by François-Marie Bénard; noon-1 p.m. lunch on your own (as the room is rearranged); 1-3 p.m. book sales and signings
Details: 522-2120 or bmead@nwrls.com

I talked with Sharman Ramsey by phone today to prep a story about the event for Friday's paper. She knows a lot of the same people I do, and she credits them with her success in finding a publisher. Specifically, she said, Karen Spears Zacharias told her who to contact at Mercer University Press.

It's often who you know that gets that first foot in the door. The rest is up to you.

(I will post a link to my Undercurrents column later this week, which will feature my talk with Sharman.)

Other local authors participating in Saturday’s event will include Anne Ake, Sherry Anderson, my good friend and former News Herald colleague David Angier, Carole Bailey, François-Marie Bénard, my other good friend Mark Boss, Bert-May Brady, Michael Brim, Jay Furr, Bruce Gamble, my also good friend Michael Lister, Judy McCarthy, another person with whom I am friends Nick May, Janet Nicolet, Pamela Peterson, Christopher Scharping, Todd Vandermolen, Linda Williamson, Greg Wilson, Marlene Womack, the Gulf Coast Woman’s Club “Heritage of Bay County, Florida” and myself, whom I sometimes don't like not at all.

Come out and see us!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

A Lesson in Breaking the Rules

SEASIDE — It was dark and clear as I slid the car into a narrow spot close to the Seaside Repertory Theatre, only to see a sign that the spot was reserved for visitor check-ins. Surely that’s just for business hours, I thought. Then I grumbled to myself that it was too narrow for the car anyway (surrounded by oversized SUVs) and I backed out.
I don’t generally break rules, and I told myself that was why nothing was ever easy. What would it hurt, after all? Who could it harm?
We circled through the square, packed with pedestrians, not an empty parking space in sight. Cars and SUVs ahead of us waited for openings, so we passed them and turned behind the Central Square buildings in search of a ready spot.
It was Friday night in tourist heaven, and cars were packed in every which way. (I was sure someone who was not a visitor checking in would have already grabbed the space I’d vacated, and they wouldn’t think twice about it.)
We found a spot a few blocks away from the theater and strolled cobblestone streets. The full moon reflected on the white buildings cast plenty of light.
Down narrow lanes we could see the square, where families gathered for the weekly movie to be projected on a screen in the amphitheatre. I wondered if they would notice the warning as the movie began — the one forbidding public display of the film — and if anyone would even consider not breaking the rules.
Who were they harming? No one I could think of.
We had come to view “Den of Thieves,” the latest play produced by the REP. It’s the story of Maggie (Megan Bode), a shoplifter looking to change her life, who gets tangled up in a crime with Paul (Alan Daugherty), her sponsor in a 12-step program, at the urging of Flaco (Brook Stetler), her jealous, drug-dealing ex-boyfriend, who brings along Boochie (Teance Blackburn), his new girlfriend, a topless dancer.
Max Flicker, Justin Baldwin and Bruce Collier play supporting roles as gangsters. The show is very funny, but is recommended for mature audiences because of adult language and themes (much of it thanks to Boochie, whose favorite “f” word is not the first one you might think of).
Caught trying to steal $750,000 in drug money, the quartet become prisoners in a mob boss’ den. Given until sunrise to choose one person to die and three to donate their thumbs, they engage in verbal gymnastics as they struggle for self-awareness and self-acceptance.
That’s the kind of thing that happens to you when you break the rules. Later in the storyline, a gangster is shot dead. Why? Why do you think — he broke the rules. Let that be a lesson.
After the show, we walked back behind the businesses to our parking spot, past dozens of empty spaces. The town was emptying out, but in the park, the families who had gathered on blankets and lawn chairs still were watching as an extraterrestrial prepared for a return voyage home.
“Be good,” he said.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Catching Up Again - It Must be Autumn

No Jail Will Hold Me For Long
So I got arrested last Thursday. Sort of. Actually, I turned myself in.
For some reason, the MDA thought I could help them raise money. Boy, were they wrong! If I'd had to stay put until my bail was raised, I'd still be there.

Tony and Simona
One cool thing, though, was running into a former student intern of mine, Simona Ondrejkova, a Mosley grad in 2009 who originally came here from the Czech Republic. She's now a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch, so I think I did a good job of pointing her AWAY from a career in journalism. She didn't take the "intake" photo above, but when I was being processed out, she was taking intake photos for the newly-arrested.

Nick Signing Books
Friday, I took the day off from my job to spend with my lovely wife as we celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. Early in the day, however, I went to Gulf Coast State College for the second session of my 6-week Education Encore course on Creative Writing Techniques (which was supposed to be titled "Writing Short Fiction" but whatever). Nick May came along for a visit, talked about his process and sold a few books.

Working on a Writing Prompt
I've been pretty pleased so far this semester, as the class is filled with hard-working writers who are willing to share their work. My friend Mark Boss will visit the class this week.

Meanwhile, I continue to struggle with my zombie novel that I began last November as part of NANOWRIMO. And when the struggle gets to be too much, I dive back into my dystopian detective tale set in the Year of the Comet. And waste far too much time on tumblr. And watch far too much TV. (Have you been following Fringe? or Doctor Who? or Revolution? or ... well, I have.)


Monday, October 01, 2012

September in Florida is the Bee's Knees

News Herald File Photo

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Standing on the overgrown edge of a parking lot one afternoon this week, I spent a few minutes watching a bee with oversized golden pods on its legs collecting pollen from a patch of dandelions.

“That’s the bee’s knees,” I thought, and decided to Google the origins of the term when I got a chance.

The sun was headed to the west, filtered through pine limbs and hanging vines lining a creek beside the lot, casting everything in gold. A sense of autumn was in the air, crisp and immediate, and I wondered what I was supposed to be learning from that moment.

Put away stores to get you through the cold months? “Winter is coming”?

Take time to stop and consider (if not actually smell) the flowers?

I’ve been pretty good about the latter one recently. No matter the speed at which the world zooms by, and the desperation with which we are pushed to keep up, it is absolutely necessary to your mental and physical health to take a time-out on a regular basis.

That’s why I was standing by the wilderness just beyond the pavement, after all: fresh air, sunlight and a moment’s quiet. Nature and reflection.

It’s September in Florida, and there might not be a finer time to be here.

Walk the dogs and grin at the birds jockeying for a spot at the bird feeders along the tree line, the Monarch butterflies (or their look-alikes) flittering about.

Sit in the gulf shallows — the water is perfect right now — and feel the waves washing over you.

Float in a swimming pool and stare at a cloudless blue sky until it seems like you’re falling upward.

Wade on the shoreline after dark, picking up sea shells, avoiding the tiny crabs that rush to avoid you. There are dozens of butterflies floating on the tide, more as far as you may walk.

Pause to locate constellations, drawing imaginative connections between the stars. Mars flickering close to the horizon doesn’t seem so much angry as simply wearing season-appropriate colors.

(Is it autumn on Mars, I wondered, and yes, the Planetary Society assured me that Saturday is Mars’ autumnal equinox.)

While I’m online, I look up “the bee’s knees.” According to various sources, the origin of the term is muddled. In 18th century England, it was used in reference to something small or insignificant; in 1920s America, that was reversed as it described something or someone who was outstanding in some way, like “the cat’s pajamas” and similar slang. It is also thought to have been a Cockney term for “business.”

I let these thoughts tumble together in my brainpan like bees in flight, like shells on a flattening wave or the first flurry of a Martian dust storm.

All of these things, no matter how small, are important to someone.

This was my most recent "Undercurrents" column for PanamaCity.com and The News Herald.