Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Zillion Miles For A Dirty Shirt

I just completed an 1126 mile book tour/college send-off. My equilibrium has me thinking I'm still in motion. It is a weird sensation. I saw a ton of sites, old and new. At the moment I'm too tired to write about any of it, but thought I'd give a flavor for what the experience brought. I'll expand on more of it after my next zillion mile adventure. I have much to tell and realize I probably should have taken notes. Alas, I was living the moment and, anyway, why start now?

My course of travel, with several stops and a few U-turns along the way.

That right there's called a Dad on the Dash.

Mickey's Diner - A St. Paul Landmark with great burgers. Ben's new favorite.

Mom's apartment primed and ready for her move-out.

Caramel Rolls and bakery.

Duluth by bluff. Foggy, misty and beautiful. Ben said it looked like a "model set".

Fitgers Books. My books were sold out. I asked them to order more!

Two Harbors Library - Donated a copy of Dirty Shirt.

Ely Library. (A new location being constructed.) Donated a copy of Dirty Shirt.

Family surprise at the signing. Notice the clean Dirty Shirt shirts. Got me one!

The family took a 3 hour cruise on the party pontoon on Shagawa Lake.

Family, immediate and extended. Love surrounds me.
The establishment is gone, but the shirt lives on.

The recently reconstructed swinging bridge in Jay Cooke State Park. (Flooded in 2012)

Ben crossing the St. Louis River

Panorama of Jay Cooke

Too much Beauty.

Hiking the river's edge.


Lightning show within a single cloud.

Minnesota State Fair favorite food.


A great day at a great fair.

St. Paul Public Library - Hayden Branch. Donated a copy of Dirty Shirt

Paid a visit here. Met a possible relative.

Moving day at the U of M

Crossed this Mississippi River bridge hundreds of times many years ago. 

Mom's apartment door for the last time. On to a new chapter.
Blogging off...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Great State Fair

I will be attending the Minnesota State Fair this coming Monday. As much as I like the Wisconsin State Fair, the Minnesota Fair is second to none in my book. For starters it's spread over a much larger area than the Wisconsin one which means things usually aren't as crowded. I say usually because the last time I went, a few years ago, it was a day of record attendance, and it was jammed. I think going on a Monday this year will be better as far as crowds go. We will see.

I've come up with a list of 10 things I remember about the Minnesota State Fair from my youth.

  1. I remember taking the bus to the fair with my older brother. He showed me the ropes on all the free and cheap attractions, including all the milk you could drink for a dime. Now it's a dollar.
  2. If the races were running, I remember the sounds of the Race Track roaring no matter where you were on the grounds. When we lived on Hubbard, I think I remember hearing them at my house as well. 
  3. Tom Thumb Mini Donuts. Nothing like them. Get the original, all the rest are fakes and will disappoint.
  4. I saw a couple of concerts at the fair. First was Kansas, which was a great show for the money. They started out with tuning in a cacophony which led to the Bassoonist's instrument shooting like a bazooka. Um, yeah, it scaret me real good. Second was Rod Stewart, who put on a great show as well. Kicking soccer balls into the audience.
  5. Irvy the Whale exhibit. "If he isn't real, we'll give you the truck!" The truck noise was piped over a speaker loudly, all day long. Super annoying.
  6. The good foods. Not to be missed - cheese curds, foot long hot dogs, Pronto Pups (Corn dogs but better), Milk Shakes at the Dairy Building, and Root Beer at the Root Beer Barrel stand.
  7. The Space Needle Ride. Rode it a couple times in my life. Not crazy about heights, but it was pretty cool. 
  8. I remember Tom playing the cranes in the Midway trying desperately to win a Zippo lighter. Think he might have gotten one or two.
  9. The Ye Olde Mill ride. Everyone I ever rode it with insisted on putting their hands on the side and stopping it until the boat behind you bumped. They mostly did that because it was a rule that you shouldn't. So we did. 
  10. Seeing Popeye at the Midway. After listening to the hawker try and get people to buy tickets for a half hour, Popeye the "freak" popped his eyes way farther out his head than was healthy. I think I skipped getting a ticket after that.
It will be good to see the old and new a the Minnesota State Fair. I plan to eat myself to the stuff point, because, well that's what you do at the fair.

Blogging off...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Great Northern

My eighteen year old daughter, Sarah, has always loved to fish. From the time she was a four year-old holding her snoopy pole out on the end of the dock to the present day, she had enjoyed the excitement that fishing brings to life. I don’t know what I did right to instill her love of angling, but she has fished virtually every year of her life since that first outing in 1999. She has fished in five different states and has caught walleye, perch, crappie, blue gill, trout, bass, northern pike, and even the mighty muskie.

As the summer has slipped away, Sarah kept lamenting about how she would like to go fishing. She is scheduled to start school at the University of Minnesota in September, so time was running out. Much of her summer was spent working twenty hours a week at the grocery store near us trying to save money for college. I was busy myself, working full time as well as promoting my book. Because I rely on my fishing buddy Steve to get us out on the water with his boat we struggled to find a weekend that would work for all three of us. Eventually it worked out that we could all fish this past Saturday, August 16th so we chose Browns Lake near Burlington, as our spot and hoped for good weather.
I woke Sarah up at 5:30 and we were on the road by 5:45. She is not one to argue with getting up early if it means fishing. Most teens would choose sleeping in any day versus sitting in a boat with two adult males bantering amongst themselves. This was her chance though and she didn't want to miss it. 
In the car during the drive she mentioned that she really wanted to catch a northern pike. She has caught her share of pan fish over the years and the allure of the bigger, more aggressive fish has been her latest pursuit. This includes the elusive muskie which she managed to catch a couple of years ago. (In fact, that was another thing she mentioned to me in the car; she needed to get a muskie rod. That's her father's daughter, right there.)
We got onto the lake about 6:30 and because Steve's first choice for fishing spots was taken, he motored us to another known hot spot. After about four casts with my green and yellow spinner bait, I managed to pull in a small northern. It's always good for the fishing party morale to get that first fish in the boat. It is a good start to the day and takes the edge off of the pressure to not get skunked. 
While it was nice that I got a fish, I really wanted Sarah to catch one and, eventually, many more. After a few more casts, knowing that this lure was successful, I switched rods with her. Wouldn't you know she'd catch a nice northern on her first cast with the lucky lure? It was epic. The fish was no great shakes, but I'll be darned if it wasn't exactly what she wanted, a northern pike. 

Sarah's Northern Pike 8/16
As it turns out the rest of her day was pretty slow going. She got a few blue gill on a worm and a bobber in desperation after trying several different lures for the next few hours. Never one to complain though, she was just happy to be there. She enjoyed Steve and my bantering about my fish count and estimated sizes and weights. Evidently, fish that don't get in the boat, don't count toward one's total. Who knew? Nor is it proper to speculate or estimate on the size of those missed fish. Again, I plead the fifth. (I managed to miss two northerns that were allegedly several inches larger through my sunglasses than through the eyes of Steve and Sarah. Gotta get those things checked.)
Depending on who caught the fish, there was also some discussion as to whether measurements were taken using the Metric system, or English units. All of this is the sign of a healthy fishing relationship, mind you. Neither of us would have it any other way. We only do this because the comfort level is so high, that we know none of it is to be taken personally. We've spent a lot of time in the same boat in the past 8 years or so, and it's built a pretty good base for catching fish and having fun

Over the course of the morning, Steve managed to catch his fair share of fish too, including a really nice largemouth bass. When the sun got too warm, the bite dropped off and we decided to head in.

When it was over, I looked back on what will be a memorable day for me. It was, essentially, Sarah's first time fishing as an 18 year old adult, and her last time fishing before the new chapter of college. She mentioned that she hoped her uncles and cousins will take her fishing in Minnesota while she's up there and I don't think she'll have any problem with that. It was also special for Steve, who has known Sarah her whole life. He loves to help people catch fish. He was there when both her and I caught our first muskies. What he might not realize was he helped her satisfy her fishing bug for the summer and created a great memory for her and her dad as well. He's a good friend and a heck of an uncle.

Blogging off...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Here and There

Just time for a few short thoughts before I head out to see my friend Nick Konkle play an acoustic set down at Bernies Tap Room in downtown Waukesha. Nick is a talented, rising musician whose live sets get better Flowers" is out and available for download at Band Camp. Check it out. I have had occasional ear worms to some of his songs which usually means their addictively good.
every time I see him. He has a couple of CD's out and is building a decent song list of original material. I like to refer to him as like Neil Young without the road eyes and the feedback (of Rust Never Sleeps.)

A quick rundown on what's new with Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir:

  • I came across the fact that it is now available at the Milwaukee Public Library. All that was required to get it in there was to ask via an email. This is pretty cool because I consider Milwaukee my second home, even though most of my time in Wisconsin has been spent in Waukesha. I love the city and I consider it a privilege to have it in their system. This makes three libraries that I know of that are carrying it. One of the others is the New York upstate library system, which I consider a third home, as that is where my wife grew up.

  • The book has hit its twelfth review on Amazon. Hoping that this number continues to climb as people feel inspired. I also appreciate them on Barnes and Noble online and Good Reads. Thanks to everyone who has reviewed so far.
  • I am still awaiting a professional review from a newspaper or magazine. These reviews are important, and in some cases required, to get the book into some libraries and bookstores. 
  • I've done some research and there are companies out there who will do a review for a price. I've seen "reading prices" in the range anywhere from $50 to $450. Now, I'm no tightwad, but I have a bit of a problem with this whole concept. If my publisher was paying for them, hey, I'd be all in. But for me to have to fork out money, at the risk of them not finding it worthy of a review, well, I'm not all in on that, lemme tell ya. So I wait. There are three or four newspapers I'm waiting on, and it's just a matter of time, I'm sure.
  • I had an interesting interaction with a woman at the New Berlin branch of the Waukesha Library System. I went in just to see if they'd consider my book and the woman said "I've read your book, actually. I loved it! I plowed through it in about four hours."  This is the first person I've run into that I didn't know who has read the book. She is trying to book me a signing in the Fall and assured me that they would put my book in their library. Crazy cool. 
  • The book is on Book Vibe. Not sure how it got there, but it's a good thing.
  • It's also on iTunes, for all of yo
    u iFolks. 
  • Got a picture sent to me of the book in the Piragis bookstore for my signing in a week.
  • My step-sister took it to Paris and showed it off. Sent some fun pictures. Not sure where she's going next, but my guess is she'll have a Dirty Shirt.
  • I can't wait to go up to Ely, Minnesota next week and sign books at Piragis Bookstore. I'm going to donate a copy to the Ely Library too!
So, that's about it for now. Lots of crazy fun stuff. Every day brings something or someone new into my life as an author. The best part has been all of your great, heartfelt comments. They energize and humble me at the same time. People are beautiful and this book has given me a new perspective on that. So, thank you.

Blogging off...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fishing With An Ear Worm

I went fishing yesterday at Oconomowoc Lake in my kayak. Like many of my tendencies in life, I tend to fall into the trap of routine. Fishing is no exception. I developed a routine of fishing Beaver Lake near us because it is "carry in" only, so is kayak-friendly in that respect. It is a pretty good lake, and I always come away with 10-15 Bass, though most are pretty small. So to shake things up, I thought I'd try a new lake. In my hours of solitude, I came up with fifteen fishing facts, some well known, some specific to me and my situation.

In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Due to the laws of physics, when freeing your lure from a hanging branch, jerking it turns it into a sharp, pointy missile guided in the direction of its jerk, in this case your boat, or sometimes you. (Of course, I've personally never done this.)
  2. Other peoples' million dollar mansions can be a good point of reference when negotiating a new lake.
  3. Large urban geese can render a floating raft or diving vessel untouchable. Ick.
  4. Why is it when we catch a fish, we remember the spot and then dwell on the spot for ten minutes after that thinking if there's one, there must be two, or two hundred? There usually isn't. They all swam way because of the ruckus the one you caught made during its fight.
  5. Fish always bite when you least expect it. This is because you only expect it during the first three casts, when they never bite anyways. After three casts you fall into the "inattentive zone" for the rest of the day and are jolted out of it only when you get a strike. At least I am. Though I try not to look it.
  6. You are also jolted out of the inattentive zone when conducting the exercise outlined in point #1 above. 
  7. If you catch five fish on the shoreline you are on, DO NOT covet the shoreline "across the way" where all the boats seem to be clustered, especially if no one seems to be catching anything.
  8. After spending hours looking at a weedy lake bottom through polarized sunglasses, everything begins to look like a possible fish. Most are not, especially that really big one I saw yesterday. It's probably a weed. Move on.
  9. Holding a large fish and taking what amounts to a selfie with a slightly slimy hand is not as easy as it sounds. 
  10. When a guy in  a vehicle sees you hossing your 60 lb kayak up the launch and asks you if you need a hand, do not take it as an insult. It might just be that your grey goatee adds ten years to your face. Either that, or the oxygen sucking sounds you are making are a cry for help. Just say, "Nah, I got this," and act like mean it. Fake it if you must.
  11. If Lure #1 has caught three fish, and Lure #2 has caught zero fish, stop going back to Lure #2 to "change things up" when Lure #1 seems to be having a dry spell. Lure #1 is what they want today, as fish number four and five are proof to. 
  12. It's quite possible that Jet Skis are Satan's way of torturing anything with ears. Seriously, man, it's like taking a leaf blower out for a spin. 
  13. When fishing alone or with friends, you WILL experience an ear worm. There will be a song that replays itself 137 times throughout the course of your day. Hopefully it's a good one. 
  14. If you have a million dollar mansion on the lake, you must also have an obscenely large pontoon, and a speedboat that cost as much as the guy in the kayak's house. You must. Oh, and a jet ski. 
  15. With a kayak, you envy every boat that is bigger than yours, until it is time to launch or take out. Then you are the envy of all of them.
So, there you have it. Fishing wisdom gained during a beautiful Saturday on Oconomowoc Lake. And when I get that million dollar mansion, you're all invited on my pontoon.

Blogging off...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Longest Days

Okay, I have a confession to make. Things are just moving a little too fast around here these days. I am the father of an 18 year old and a soon to be 16 year old (Sat.), and I need to ask God, or mom, or someone how I got here all of the sudden?

Because just last week, I was taking one through Freshman orientation and the other to sixth grade football practice.

The week before that I was helping one with a science project and listening to the other one do a screechy, somewhat off-key violin solo in grade school.

The week before that I was getting one off to kindergarten and watching the other admire his reflection in the stove window in the kitchen.

And a month ago, I was watching Ben crawl under Sarah's self-made human rainbow as they danced to Trisha Yearwood's Under the Rainbow on the stereo.

This is not what I signed up for.

I never signed up for getting one ready for college - saying goodbye to her for weeks and months at a time - and prepping the other for getting his license.

Gah! How did this happen? I need dependency, here!

I kind of liked it better when we could put them in the portable crib that we called "baby jail". I liked it better when they ate what we gave them and they depended on us to make it for them. Now they eat when they want and sometimes choose fasting over what mom has chosen for our dinner.

There is no little girl voice stuttering over her words because her mouth could not keep up with her brain. No little girl voice yelling up the stairs "Da! Hey, Da! Its mornin' time!"

And no more little boy belches. Now it's all man sized belching. Thanks for that. Please, not at the dinner table.

No more baby formula, late night feedings, nap times, tantrums, spilled milk, stories at bedtime (I might miss this the most), Candyland and Trouble games, Disney movies, Cartoon Network, Spongebob, Snoopy fishing poles, family nights at the grades school, McDonald Chicken Nuggets (grateful for this, and eternally sorry I ever subjected you to them in the first place), car seats, baby nuks, diapers, ear infections cured by magic pink stuff, Sunday school, preschool, T-Ball, soccer, football games, volleyball games, science projects or stroller visits to the zoo.

Nope. No more of that. Those days are gone.

Like John Mellencamp said "All I got is this rear view mirror. Reflections of where I've been." - (from Longest Days.)

I suppose I will get over this feeling sometime. It will be replaced by other strange realizations, like pending weddings, grandchildren, old fricken age and imminent death, but hey let's not get depressing here.

So I'll continue to deal with it like it's the way life is supposed to happen and try not to live in the past or paint it any better than it was, and forge ahead convinced that the best days are in front of me.

But that doesn't answer the question of where the years went.

Blogging off...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

All Kinds of Dirty Things

I thought I'd give another writing/Dirty Shirt update because the life of a newly published author is about as fun as it gets, at least so far. I'll touch on some of what has transpired in my endless pursuit of making it to the New York Times Bestseller's list. (Enough from the peanut gallery, there!)

Some of the cooler things I've found came when I googled my name and Dirty Shirt as a few keywords. Everyone should try this at some point to see what's out there about you, whether you know it or not. It was in doing this that I found my book was being offered through Omni Lit.

Now, I have no idea how they got a hold of it, but near as I can tell, they harvest the data from Amazon and then sell the book. Hopefully I get a cut from it somewhere along the lines, but who knows? I trust they're in cahoots with Amazon and the authors do get some stipend, like a couple dimes.

I also came across a mention of the book in the Duluth News Tribune. They gave it a short blurb, in their electronic version anyway, and I'm hoping it hit the paper form too. I may never know. I am very grateful to the editors at that newspaper for the mention. I love that city and it has the perfect audience for the book.

One of the distributors for the book was supposed to be iTunes. A while back I talked to the publisher about it not being there yet and they reassured me that it sometimes can take up to six weeks from the release date. Well on August first it finally hit iTunes. I'm not sure how many sales will come from iTunes, but I'm guessing anyone that was waiting for it to come out for an iPad or iPad mini, would now take advantage of that. As I see it any outlet that sells it is a good outlet.

I also got a really decent mention in MidWest Outdoors magazine, mostly because I've written a number of articles for them in the past. They are good people and didn't charge me a cent. They will continue to have me as a loyal customer of their great mag. They have treated me well over the years.

I did get shutdown by the Madison bookstore I was trying to get into. They weren't interested in a reading because my book came from a small press and I was on the "edge of the local author region." The bookstore market in general has been a complete letdown. It is my impression that they are struggling to compete with the likes of Amazon and other distributors, so they can be more choosy. I will continue to be persistent in the hopes of getting one in the Twin Cities however.

I had a decent week of ad-hoc sales from home too. I think I sold about six books to friends or friends of friends. Word of mouth is starting to catch on, and that is sometimes the best way to sell. I've also told people I will personalize copies and mail them from here if they are okay with paying the four dollars to cover shipping. That offer still stands. Tell your friends.

In my quest to get lodging for the upcoming Piragis Bookstore signing on August 23rd, I was running into all kinds of dead ends. Either no hotel space or rooms on the order of $150+/night.  Luckily at the last minute I was able to reserve a campsite at the Fenske Lake Campground 20 miles north of Ely. I thought it was a perfect fit for a book tour pitching a book about camping. At the same time, my illusions of grandeur of limo rides to meet Oprah and jet rides (or at least float plane rides) to interviews where I'd be wined and dined have been dashed. My limo is a 2004 Hyundai and my bodyguard is my son, Ben.

And you know what? I think I like it better this way. It will be some good road time and a great chance to bond with him on the edge of the BWCA, even if only for night.

And finally, in my quest to continue to have fun with the book's release my step sister who is a flight attendant for Delta Airlines international bought a book from me with the promise that she would take it around the world with her, kind of promoting it along the way. Her first stop last week was Japan and Bangkok, Thailand. True to her word, she got pictures along the way. She is turning my book into the "Flat Stanley" of  the literary world. She's such a sweetheart. I love her for making my book release even more fun than it already was. Here's so shots from Tokyo and Bangkok.

Blogging off...