Possibly The Worst Book Tagline Ever?


Let me just note for the record, the tagline on the cover for Kevin O’Brien’s “Unspeakable reads “Words can’t describe what he does to his victims.”

Um …

Given that this book is nothing but words, that does mean the book can’t describe what happens in it?

“I wish I could tell you what happened next, but I can’t, so we’ll just have to skip ahead now.”

“And then, the killer did something. Let me just tell you, it was really bad. I can’t describe how bad, but, like, seriously, really bad.”

Who advertises that they’ve chosen to tell a story in a medium in which they’re incapable of telling it? Maybe next can we get an audiobook of mime?

OK, I’m done. Carry on.

Currently In Progress


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It’s been a little while since I’ve participated in the Rocket City Bloggers Year-Long Blogging challenge, but I thought the current prompt would be a good little overview in general. (And possibly a good exercise for me personally.)

“This week we want to know a little bit about you. What goals are you currently pursuing?”

Well, professionally, I’m trying to support a rocket getting built. For those that don’t know, I work in the strategic communications office for NASA’s Space Launch System, supporting program executives who are working to get us ready for launch in 2017 (and to enable missions beyond). It’s possibly the most fun I’ve had at a job, and as goals to pursue go, extending humanity’s presence through the solar system ain’t a half-bad thing to be paid to do.

As director of Comic Science Improv, I’m pursuing the goal of entertaining more people. We started the process of forming the troupe almost a year ago, and we’ve come a long way since then. We’ve had some great shows with awesome audiences, developed several new games,  and added some amazing new players. Now we’re just trying to get the word out on what we’re doing so we can share it with more folks. If you haven’t been to a show (or haven’t been lately), come see us on July 5 at Acting Up! Academy on Whitesburg Drive in Huntsville. If you have, tell people about us! And still come anyway!

As a Huntsville storyteller, I’m pursuing the goal of becoming more active in that role. My work as a tour guide at the Huntsville Historic Depot sort of got me started down that path, and I was incredibly privileged to get to take part in the Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll last year, portraying Alabama’s second governor Thomas Bibb. Last week, I led the Historic Huntsville Trolley Tour for the first time, and I’ll be doing it again on a few Saturdays through the rest of the summer, starting next week. I’m also working hard to get ready to start leading Huntsville Ghost Walk tours. For an avocation that basically evolved accidentally, it’s an incredibly good fit, and I’m loving it. I’ve always been proud of my hometown, and I’m greatly enjoying learning more of its history and getting to share it.

As an author, I’m mostly passively pursuing the goal of publishing my next book next year. At the moment, “Bold They Rise,” a history of the early shuttle program, is with the editors, so from here out it’s mostly a waiting game that will be interrupted occasionally by sporadic brief periods of frantic activity. I’m not looking forward to those, but I’m looking forward to getting those done. Beyond that, I have an idea for my next next book I want to write eventually, but I’ll most likely wait until this one is one the shelves before picking that one back up.

As a writer, I guess I’m pursuing the goal of blogging regularly, but obviously I’m not taking it terribly seriously. I’m also somewhat working on developing my online brand a little more, but that’s just so not my strong suit. A lot of my writerly focus is on my work for Mud & Magnolias magazine, which lets me relive my Mississippi journalist glory days in a way that’s way more fun and way less stressful than actually newspapering was.

As a Pampered Chef salesperson, realistically, I think I’m pursuing the goal of winding down my business, so if you have anything you want to order or are interested in hosting a party, let me know soon!

As just some guy, ya know, I’m pursuing the goal of trying to get some things in order in my life, including, in particular, my house. And I’m trying pathetically to lose weight again.

Beyond that, I’m mainly just pursuing the goal of trying to simplify my life, not overcommit, and get back some free time. To be honest, it’s not necessarily going that well.

Review: “Unglued Devotional” by Lysa TerKeurst


I read this book somewhat by accident. I was looking at the books that were available for review on Booksneeze, and of the options they had, this one stood out the most, sounding like an interesting devotional on keeping cool through the stresses of life. What I didn’t pick up from the description was that it’s written from the perspective of a mom and wife, and very much for an audience of people like her. Which I’m kind of not.

Accidental as it may have been, I was glad I chose the book and read it. Moment of transparency: I’m reading the earlier devotionals about dealing with stress and still staying calm and about treating others better and the like, and I thought to myself, “I know exactly who needs to read this book, someone who desperately needs to learn all these lessons.” And then I read a bit further to the devotionals about empathy and not judging others, and I realize that the person who really needed to be reading the book was me. With that bit of humility firmly emplaced, I started getting a lot more out of it.

Song Challenge Week 24 — A Song You Want Played At Your Funeral


The latest entry in my 30 Day Song Challenge weekly project.


Song Challenge Week 24 — A Song You Want Played At Your Funeral

Just this once, can I pick two?

First off, I want “I’ll Fly Away.” But, like, a really rollicking version of the song. I want people singing along and clapping their hands, and moving their feet. I want it to be the celebration it should be. I couldn’t find a version that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, so instead here’s this.

And by and large, that’s the tone I would want for my funeral, upbeat and celebratory. But, if I could be indulged one somber moment, I also want the Scotty’s Magic Bagpipes version of Amazing Grace. ‘Cause that would just be awesome.

Pages From The Past


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I came across an old-ish newspaper in a pile of papers recently.

Old-ish being relative. I have stacks of newspapers that date back decades; this one was only from August.

It took me a second to realize why I’d kept it; none of the big stories meant anything. Was it just one I forgot to read? (Or, perhaps, forgot to throw away?)

And then I saw it, a small bit about a German exchange student coming back to visit Indianola. The piece was in the “Pages From The Past” section — it was a story originally published in The Enterprise-Tocsin ten years earlier.

It was a story I had written. Saskia Kriester had come to Indianola as an exchange student a few years earlier, and had been placed with a family that stole from her. So that she wouldn’t have to be sent back, the city court clerk and her husband took her in for the rest of the year. A few years later, she came back to the U.S. on a visit and spent some time with her hosts. I covered the entire saga for The Enterprise-Tocsin, all those years ago.

I saved the issue with the 10-year recap because it was the last time I would appear there for a very long time. The story about the return visit was one of the last things I wrote for The E-T before leaving newspapers to come work at Marshall.

My career with The Enterprise-Tocsin spanned six years. When I left, it was only four years before my first stories started appearing in Pages From The Past. They popped up intermittently over the next six years, and disappeared again in August. Theoretically, I’ll start showing up again in nine more years, when my first stories start appearing in the 25-years-ago section. If they still publish Pages From The Past then. If, to be honest, they still publish then.

It’s strange to me that part of my life is now more than a decade ago. It seemed like such a long time, like such a defining thing when I was there. Now it’s a footnote. It shows up on my resumé and LinkedIn, and every once and a while I have to write a bio for something long enough to include “a former newspaper editor.” But it seems like a different life now.

There are a few remnants. I still use reporter’s pads as my notebooks. I love getting to put on my Mississippi journalist hat for “Mud & Magnolias” magazine.

But it’s been a long time since I left a newsprint stain on something I’ve touched. And, as silly as it is, on some days, I find that fact a little sad.

Review: “Humble Orthodoxy” by Joshua Harris


So what exactly does the title of  Joshua Harris’ “Humble Orthodoxy” mean? Well, in a sentence: “Speak truth in love.”

In fact, that sentence also provides a pretty good summary of what the book’s about. There’s a lot to unpack in those four words, and Harris does so in a way that’s accessible, engaging and, largely, lives up to the very “truth-in-love” challenge the book delivers.

Traditionally, Christians are often known for being much better at the first half of that sentence than the latter. We’re excellent at telling people what we believe and why you should believe the same. And at our Bible-thumping best, we have a unique talent for pointing out others’ alleged shortcomings and letting them know how they fail to measure up — to God’s standard, and, implicitly or explicitly, to those who have chosen to live by it. There may be some truth there, but there’s often not a whole lot of love. (Even if we manage to justify those critiques as being delivered for the recipient’s good.)

Harris challenges — or, perhaps better, encourages — readers to focus more on the latter half of the sentence, the love part. What are the things that really matter, and what are the things that are purely divisive? When things need to be said, what is the best way of saying them? Is the result of our words to tear others down, or to build them up? To push them away, or to draw them nearer?

Of course, the book also reveals the challenge in actually living this approach. Harris stresses that speaking truth in love doesn’t mean ignoring or withholding truth. But truth in Harris’ book is truth as Harris sees it. The things he stresses we must stand for our things that not all Christians would necessarily agree with. It’s important to speak truth, but it’s more important to first know truth. And simply calling something truth doesn’t make it so.

But just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing, and Harris’ book provides a good foundation for beginning that difficult journey.

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)

A Light Shining Through The Spam


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So the e-mail account I’ve been using has become almost unusable. First, I’ve been fighting a losing battle against a growing tide of spam. Then, making matters worse, someone has started using my address as the reply-to address for spam they’re sending out. They didn’t actually hack me — they’re not actually sending from my account — so I can’t just change my password, so there’s not really much I can do about it. (About the only thing I can do is start using a different address, which I’m doing. I’m keeping the old one, but I’ll check it less frequently than the new one. If you want the new one, send an e-mail to the old one and I’ll send you the new.)

In the meantime, though, my inbox is being constantly cluttered with auto-responses to e-mail I didn’t send in the first place, and it’s more than a little annoying.

And then, I got two responses that brought smiles in the midst of the frustration. The e-mails being sent with my address are all of the “Have you seen this?” type with a link to working from home or diet secrets or Viagra or whatever.

Yesterday, I got this response to one of them:

“I wasn’t able to access the message : Alessa
Not interested in work from home. I’m 87 and feel like 107.
Stella”

And, my favorite, from two days ago:

“NO, I DON’T. BUT I DO LIKE MY FAT LITTLE TUMMY. I EARNED IT.
BEV”

Stella and Bev, I don’t know who or where you are, but I love you both. Thanks for brightening my day!