One page at a time.

Monday Musings.
June 23, 2014

My name is Mike.  I am a bookaholic.

We went to the Ann Arbor Book Festival on Saturday.  A street blocked for authors, publishers, and booksellers, displaying their wares on a gorgeous summer afternoon.  It also included a pub crawl, or “book crawl” of authors doing readings Thursday and Friday night, and all day Saturday at Ann Arbor book stores and watering holes.  I settled into Aunt Agatha’s Mystery Book Store with Karen Dionne’s launch of The Killing: Uncommon Denominator, based on the television show.

Our day ended with a visit to Nicola’s Books on the way out of town.  That’s where the addiction was recognized.  While browsing the displays I came upon Jonathan Miles’ novel Want Not.  I distinctly remember my last visit to the Ann Arbor book stores, seeing this title at both Nicola’s and Literati Bookstore, and having a huge interest in reading it.  There it was, staring at me again, and the thought that revealed my addiction popped into my mind:

Did I buy this already?

I racked my brain.  What did I purchase last time at Literati and Nicola’s?  It was a mildly agonizing process.  I didn’t have it written down on the index card tucked in my wallet of books on my “to get list.”  Surely I would have added it if I had left it behind.  If I purchase it, then I would have two copies.  I suppose I could return it, but for the hour drive to Ann Arbor to do so.  And if I hadn’t purchased it, it may not be here next visit (there were only two copies on the display).

Not remembering if I already had a copy of a book that had interested me had to be the sign – the lightning bolt of awareness that I have an addiction.  My stack of “to read” books could easily reach the ceiling of my Borders Memorial Library.  I am falling deeply behind on all the books I’ve wanted to read – months, perhaps years behind.

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It was time.  Time to take control of this plethora of pages piling up before me.

I have made a vow.  No more book purchases until 3,000 pages have been read.

It will be a difficult restriction to maintain.  I am not a fast reader, averaging about 20 pages an hour.

There are three exceptions to this vow, though.

1.  I can purchase any of the Borders Classics (soft, hard or leather) that I need to fill my library if I see them.

2.  Author signings.  If I have taken the time to attend an author signing it is only appropriate that I purchase his/her book.

3.  At the end of July, we are going on vacation to New York City.  With all the bookstores there, the restriction will be lifted.  Being in New York specifically for vacation and to see two soccer matches, the purchasing of books will be of low priority, which should be safe from overindulgence.

Saturday night, I’ve identified the books containing the first 3,000 pages that I am to get through, which includes the remaining pages of four books that I currently have bookmarks in.

I’ve got to get this addiction under control…one page at a time.

Monday Musings: June 16, 2014

June Sixteenth.  A day we’ve been waiting for, right America?

The United States vs Ghana.

No, our military industrial complex isn’t gearing up for an invasion of the western African nation.

It’s the US Men’s Team’s first match in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  ESPN begins the show at 5:30 PM.  It is a key game as their group stage competition begins.  A win against Ghana sets them in a decent position before playing Portugal on June 22nd and Germany on June 26.  Germany and Portugal will play earlier in the day.

It’s a match for revenge.

In 2006, the US played Ghana in the final match of the group stage.  A US win would have allowed them to enter the Round of Sixteen.  But Ghana defeated the US 2-1, and advanced out of the group, sending the United States’ team home.

In 2010, the US advanced out of the group stage with a huge 1-0 victory over Algeria.  That placed them in the Round of Sixteen against Ghana.  A goal in the 93rd minute by Asamoah Gyan broke the 1-1 tie, eliminating the US once more from the world stage.

It’s going to be a good one, my fellow American.

WORLD CUP:  So far, eleven matches have been played, and it has been exciting.  The Netherlands revenged the 2010 World Cup final defeat to Spain by hammering them 5-1.  Robin Van Persie’s first goal for the Dutch, which tied the match after Spain scored on a penalty kick, is epic.  Costa Rica upset Uruguay, 3-1.  And Switzerland waited until the very last moment, after Ecuador had a break and opportunity in the Swiss box to put away a winner, to march up field and take a 2-1 victory.   There has been thirty-seven goals scored and no draws thus far, averaging more than three goals per game.  And goal line technology proved superior to the naked eye on France’s second goal against Honduras.  From all camera angles it did not look like the ball crossed the goal line.  The goal line technology clearly showed otherwise.

SPEAKING OF SOCCER:  Detroit City FC had a successful trip to Cleveland on Father’s Day.  By the fifteenth minute, DCFC had a 2-0 lead (looks like we like taking 2-0 leads early in Ohio stadiums).  Final score:  5-1.

The team has a friendly match against the Columbus Crew Super 20’s Wednesday night at Cass Tech.

LOVER OF BOOKS?  The Ann Arbor Book Festival is this week.  There’s a “book crawl” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with authors doing readings at each location.  The book fair takes place Saturday, as well as a writer’s conference.  All the information you need can be found at aabookfestival.org.

Gotta run now.  The car needs its 40,000 mile check up.  Have a wonderful week!

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Can Clint Dempsey (8) and Michael Bradley (4) lead the US over Ghana?

Monday Musings: June 9, 2014

– It’s that time again.  Every four years, the world’s thirty-two best soccer teams meet in a predetermined county – this year it will be Brazil – to compete for The World Cup.  The opening match is Thursday, and the World Cup final will be held on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro.

This is the world’s sport, which captivates citizens across the globe.  Over a billion people – yes, billion with a “b” – viewed the final match of both the 2006 and 2010 World Cup finals.  So, for the next few weeks, I will certainly be musing about the beautiful game’s largest tournament.

Americans aren’t drawn to this massive world event.  According to a recent poll, 86% of Americans know nothing or little about the World Cup, two-thirds won’t be following it, but 7% will be following it closely.   

I’m not going to hypothesize why that is.  I’m sure there are several reasons.  I’m one of the 7% who will be following it closely.  And I’ll likely be musing about it.

If you’re one of the 86%, let me start you out with how this works.  I’ll do this slowly as the tournament proceeds.

The first step is the Group Stage.  The 32 teams that have spent the last couple years qualifying in their regions for a place in the World Cup, are randomly drawn (with some rules to evenly distribute teams by national regions) into eight groups of four teams.  Each team plays every team in their group once.  The winning team gets 3 points, and if the match ends in a draw, both teams get 1 point.  The top two teams in each group advance to the next round.  If there is a tie in the number of points, goal differential (goals for minus goals against) is the first tie-breaker, and if goal differential is tied, then whichever team has the most goals breaks the tie.

The groups for the 2014 World Cup are as follows:

Group A:  Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon.
Group B:  Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia.
Group C:  Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan.
Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy.
Group E:  Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras.
Group F:  Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria.
Group G:  Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA.
Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea.

The United States is in Group G, which you’ll hear referred to as “The Group of Death.”  This is because most groups have one or two dominant teams which should advance, however Group G has four quality teams which means two quality teams will be eliminated after this round.

Thursday the tournament begins with Brazil vs Croatia.  ESPN and ESPN2 will be televising the matches, so check your local listings for times.

– I seem to have a lot of premiere’s on my calendar this week.

On Wednesday evening in Troy, Grey Wolfe Publishing is holding a Summer Launch Party for a number of books in their line.  I will be there to sign copies of my novel, The Y in Life.  For details, go to Grey Wolfe Publishing’s website.

On Thursday evening in Detroit, Lolita Hernandez will be releasing her new collection of short stories, Making Callaloo in Detroit.  Details HERE.

On Friday evening, the Cass Cafe in Detroit will be opening the art exhibit, Marie Mason: Prison Work, which runs through June 21st.  For now I’ll say that Marie Mason graduated from Plymouth Salem High School in 1980 with me, and is currently serving time in Carswell Federal Prison in Fort Worth, Texas.  I’ll write more about her story on Friday.  For now, here’s the info on the opening, and a song by the fabulous folk singer, David Rovics about Marie.

Cass Cafe
4620 Cass Avenue
Detroit, MI
July 13, 2014
7PM- 10PM

Monday Musings: June 2, 2014

– Last week, I finished reading When Darkness was a Virtue by Michael Grant Jaffe.   When it comes to selecting the next novel I want to read usually one of two things happen;  either I know exactly which novel is next in line, or I have an elimination process that helps me make that decision.  In the first case, I know exactly which novel is next because of some very specific reason, such as the author is coming to town soon so reading it will prepare me for meeting the author, or having met an author at an event and his or her book is relevant in some way that lures me into reading it.

But the second case is much more involved.  I pull sixteen novels from my shelves that I consider on my ‘must read’ list.  Then, much like a sports tournament bracket, I pair them up and between the two I decide which is more compelling for me to read right now.  For example, the first two books on the stack were A Walk Among the Tombstones by Lawrence Block and Liza of Lambeth by Somerset Maugham.  The movie based on Block’s novel is due out in September, so I decided I could hold off and eliminated it, and Maugham’s first novel advanced.  Sixteen books soon become eight, then four, then down to the final two.

For some reason, the process this time was extremely difficult because of the quality of books on my ‘must read’ list.  There were instances where two books met head-to-head, and I really wanted to read them both…now!  However, I did settle on a winner, and last night I started in on Rene Denfeld’s The Enchanted.

–  Speaking of books, I went down to my sister’s house in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky.  Detroit City FC was playing Cincinnati’s new National Premiere Soccer League team, the Cincinnati Saints.  She and my two nieces went to the Friday night match.  But before the game, and before dinner, they took me to Half Price Books.  It was my first visit there, and when the nieces asked why we had to go, my sister told them because book stores are a tourist attraction for me.  Indeed.

The visit was short, wise on their part to take me just a couple hours before kick off.  My first impression?  I think I just met my first used book store corporate franchise.  They stock books, CD’s, audio books, comic books, even vinyl records, a vast majority of it purchased from its previous owners.  All of this in a big box storefront.  The Florence, Kentucky store I was taken to is not the only one.  In fact today’s Shelf Awareness email newsletter reported that Half Price Books opened a 10,000 square foot store in  Chesterfield, Missouri.  My initial visit was short, but I took a little time and added to my personal library when I made my second visit Saturday morning before leaving town.

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– Speaking of Cincinnati:  I have a confession to make to my fellow DCFC fans/Northern Guard Supporters.  I like Skyline Chili.

Prior to kickoff at the match, I overheard a conversation amongst the Rouge Rovers – DCFC and Northern Guard Supporters’ traveling support (of which I am now one) – about their dislike for Skyline and Gold Star chili.  I won’t go into great detail about it because it was pretty graphic.  A lifetime Michigander and Detroiter, when my sister and her husband moved to Cincinnati in 1990, I discovered Skyline and fell in love.  When my wife and I spent a wedding anniversary down in Cincy a number of years ago, we took a guided tour of the city.  That’s when I learned why I preferred Skyline over our Coney Islands.  One of the secret ingredients in Skyline Chili is baker’s chocolate.

My name is Mike, and I am a chocoholic.  However, I refuse to recover.  The source of my addiction an ingredient in the chili is my weakness.

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– Speaking of Detroit City FC soccer:  The match was awesome.  On the way to the match, my sister asked my nieces whether they thought they’d see anyone they knew.  I piped in and said I will probably see more people I know than they will.  And it proved true.  I haven’t seen attendance numbers for the match, but were I to guess I’d approximate maybe three hundred people spectated the game, with about 10% of them Rouge Rovers.  We scored, we shouted, then we smoked them out, naturally.  It was a great game, especially for my sister and nieces.  It was their introduction to a professional soccer match – their prior experience being the youth leagues that both nieces play in.  Staying true to their Cincinnati turf, they preferred to sit opposite the crazy Detroiters, even though I taught them a couple of our chants (“We will sing for you City” and “No one likes us”)  Whereas I joined those in rouge and gold.

Detroit had a 2-0 lead after twelve minutes, and was set to be a route in the making.  The score held to halftime, and meeting my family during the break they were critical of our supporters.  My eleven year old niece complained that we said “a lot of bad words”  My fifteen year old niece complained that we were “annoying.”

We went our separate ways for the second half.  Cincinnati got back in the game with two goals, and I waited for the cell phone in my pocket to ring.  But in the end, a last minute goal by Michael Lamb (captured on video – please excuse my enthusiasm after the goal) gave Detroit the win.

I don’t like seeing us give up goals or leads.  But this was a winning night.  After the game, the excitement in all three of their voices due to the Saints’ comeback and domination of the second half, helped win them over.  Detroit City FC won the match, and soccer won three new fans.  They were impressed by the value they got for their $8 ticket, and of course, my fifteen year old niece wants to go back for more.  I think it’s because of the players more so than the soccer, but who cares, right?  Three new soccer fans is a good thing.

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Monday Musings: May 19, 2014

Wow.  What a weekend.  The best way to describe it is in bite-size pieces.

Motor City Comic Con (Novi, MI):  This year was the 25th Anniversary of the Motor City Comic Con – an event held over a three-day weekend in May – which features comic and media celebrities from the past and present.  Over the years, I’ve found the best time to go is Friday when the doors open, and this year was no exception.  There was room to breathe walking the aisles of comic artists, comic book and related vendors, and media celebrities.  I was on a single-minded mission this year.  Prior to the convention I contacted legendary artist Frank Brunner, to commission him for a sketch.  I needed a special element to add to my personal home library, and a sketch of a anthropomorphized duck sitting in a chair, smoking a stogie and reading a book, by the artist of the popular 1970’s Marvel Comics character Howard the Duck was just the ticket.  Meeting Mr. Brunner was an honor, and the sketch was exceptional.  All I need now is a frame to put it up on the wall.  I can’t say much else about the convention.  I spent only a couple hours there as I had an evening event.

Detroit City FC 3, Michigan Stars 0, (Detroit, MI):  Friday evening it was a trip to Harry’s in Detroit for the festivities prior to the Detroit City FC match against the Michigan Stars.  The Michigan Stars are Sparta FC Version 2.0, as described by the Northern Guard Supporters.  They are Canadian-owned, and came into the league to try to draw the same kind of success that DCFC has.  It flopped.  Name change and location change, but the same weak product.   Detroit City FC commanded a 3-0 lead going into the half, and the Stars failed to mount any form of a comeback.  The supporters’ chant, “This Is Awesome!” after DCFC’s Zach Myers and William Mellors-Blair’s goals within a minute of each other, was appropriate to sum up the night.  And it was another record-setting crowd at Cass Tech High School stadium, with 2,614 fans on a cool May evening.

Why do the crowds continue to grow at DCFC matches?  The pre-game fun prior to the march to the stadium may have something to do with it.

Detroit Working Writers (DWW) Conference (Clinton Township, MI):  On Saturday I attended the DWW Conference at the Clinton-Macomb Library.  The timing of this conference was perfect.  I’ve spent the last four-five weeks in transition from an apartment to a three-bedroom home.  It has severely disrupted my writing practice.  The dust is now settling and the conference provided a poke into getting my writing practice back on track.  Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli‘s session on finding an agent provided material that I’ll be able to use once the novel I’m currently working on is ready for submission (which won’t be for a while, that’s for sure).  Lynne Meredith Golodner‘s session on running a successful freelance business was a little off-topic for me, however prodded my mind to remember there is a business end of this writing craft.  The keynote speaker, Karen Dionne, was delightfully inspiring.  Her latest book, “The Killing: Common Denominator” will be out next month, and is an original novel based on the AMC series.   Sylvia Hubbard’s session on social media provided insight on some of the social media I haven’t used effectively.  That should change.  And finally, Dr. Stanley Williams‘ session on irony, goals and sub-plots fed me with some clarity for the novel I’m currently writing.  All in all, it was a beneficial writer’s conference again.

Buddha’s Birthday at Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple (Detroit, MI):  Sunday was the celebration of the Buddha’s birth at Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple.  We were living in St. Clair Shores when we discovered Still Point, and we were regular attendees and members of the temple.  We’re still members, but having moved a little further away six years ago, and now another five miles further from the City, getting down to Detroit for Sunday services has been difficult.  But services like the Buddha’s birthday, the Precept-Taking ceremony, and the evening sitting to honor the Buddha’s enlightenment I intentionally plan to participate.  Sitting is good.  Sitting with a sangha and teacher is so much better.

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Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair (Ann Arbor, MI):  This was the 36th annual antiquarian book fair, which is a benefit for the William L. Clements Library, and a first for me.  About a year ago, I was in a thrift store in downtown Mount Clemens, and stumbled upon a copy of A. Edward Newton’s “A Magnificent Farce and Other Diversions of a Book Collector.”  This man was a famous bibliophile in the early years of the Twentieth Century.  After he passed, his collection took nine days to auction off.  After reading it, I’ve become interested in building my library.  But there seems so much more to book collecting that a show like this was a bit overwhelming to a novice like me.  There are so many directions to go.  Yes, prior to this event, I’ve completed my collection of A. Edward Newton books, including the auction guides of his entire library.  And Somerset Maugham’s “The Razor’s Edge” being my favorite book has led me into collecting Maugham’s books.  I did add a volume to my collection today.  However, I filled out the comment card suggesting that at these events a workshop on book collecting would be helpful.

It was a great weekend, covering many interests in my life – comic books, soccer, writing and reading.  To think that today is the Metro Detroit Book & Author Society luncheon is just more awesomeness.

Life is good.