Patience

Bit by bit. You’ll get there. Have patience with yourself and with the creatures around you — relatives, friends, enemies, supervisors, coworkers, supervisees, the driver who blasts a horn at you because you delayed at the stoplight for an extra second, even aggressive Chinese geese. Calm the paranoia. People aren’t out to get you. (Well… not many people, perhaps a few — the actual threat is likely to be insignificant.) One day you wake up and the bad things you thought would happen haven’t, and the good things you thought would never happen have arrived.

NEW SHORT STORY

My newest short story has been published by Amazon Kindle.  “H. I. T.” explores our attempts to cope with those internally magnified threats that beset our everyday lives. A short excerpt and a link to the full story:

H. I. T.

“Is there something wrong with that bird? Is it a baby?”

I looked.

An immature mockingbird sitting in the leaves and grass ten feet away.

“It is a baby,” I said. “Must have fallen from the nest. Happens all the time, especially when it’s this windy.”

Just then, the baby’s father landed in front of it and popped a freshly caught bug into the gaping mouth.

“See, Dad’s still feeding it.” The adult mockingbird did a fast one-eighty, glared at us, squawked, and spread its wings menacingly.

Stay away from my kid.

***

I was taken back to a vivid memory from two years before. At the time, I was living alone, endlessly questioning my…

Life? And everything in it?

Struggling with depression. Struggling with anxiety.

Lonely.

Would I ever meet anyone that understood me and — having achieved that — could still stand me enough to live with me forever?

Would I ever grow up?

https://www.amazon.com/Kevin-Polman/e/B01D3HWGQ2/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

BOOK REVIEW

I give a “HIGH recommend” to Walter Kirn’s nonfictional Blood Will Out about “Clark Rockefeller.” My review and a link to the original at Goodreads:

COMPOSITE BEINGS

Composite beings. Psychological mixtures of this and that. Aren’t we all?

BLOOD WILL OUT is a fascinating nonfictional account of author Kirn’s relationship with one psychopathic “Clark Rockefeller.” (Not really a Rockefeller, just an incredible poser and conman.) This well-written book drew me into its gentle suspense. I was attracted by what it had to offer about the sometimes chaotic nature of a professional writer’s life and by its main theme regarding the long-term consumptive effects of manipulation on victims. Such manipulation is unpleasant but it can play the role of writer’s muse to produce powerful work.

“Clark, a composite being of ink and celluloid, utterly transparent to me now, had cloaked himself in the stuff of my own literacy. The instant familiarity I felt with him — this consummate immigrant, this immigrant with a vengeance — was my familiarity with my own culture. Of course he’d fooled me. Of course he’d held me spellbound. He spoke from inside my own American mind.”

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2504222430?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

CLOSING

As always, I’m working on patience, Chinese geese or no. Here’s my free advice for you: If a Chinese goose gets up in your face, spreads his/her wings, gives you one or two of those thunderous honks that compare to an eighteen-wheeler blast… just look him/her in the eye… and chill… and smile.

A  PATTNIE  SLEMI  NAC  LELQU  HET  TOSTEUGH  CESEHIN  SOGOE.  NOKH!

 

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Significant Pickles

Avoiding the interstate, I drove to work each day through town. For nine months I did this, from one end of the city to the other. One hour this way. One hour back. Seemed safer. Maybe not. Seemed quieter. Certainly at times it was. Gave me time to contemplate life (the radio was off!) and plan and pray. And… I discovered the pickle factory.

Living here for over twenty years, I feel that I should have known Fort Worth had its own pickle factory. (But I didn’t.) Best Maid Pickles. I passed it going and coming five days a week for nine months. Early, in the dark, when workers were arriving, when big trucks were backing in to get their big loads of pickles to transport to stores all over Texas. 4:30 every afternoon, often in the baking sun, the place quiet to the outside observer, but inside? Fermentation, osmosis, vacuum packing, the occasional spilled pickle batch, vinegary odors spreading.

I started buying Best Maid over the cheaper brands, over the BIG FANCY name brands. After all it was a Texas pickle, “my pickle.” I’ve even settled on a favorite pickle brew. Jerry, you’ve “never had a really good pickle?” I recommend the Best Maid bread-and-butters packed with jalapenos. I’ve been putting away two jars a week.

Why my preoccupation with this local place of pickle production and packaging? I don’t really know. I do tend to become obsessed about the oddest things. And.. I do like pickles. Perhaps it’s the philosophical parallelism between my travelling each day to school to package processed ideas about biology and chemistry into the minds of high-schoolers while those Texan pickle people packed processed pickles into countless jars painted with that cute little Best Maid logo girl. They were working hard each day, I was working hard each day. We both had something important to do. And we did it day after day, week after week, month after month. People were out there counting on our teaching and our pickles. And we didn’t give up. We delivered.

“The noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands.” Isaiah 32:8

Link to Best Maid website:

http://www.bestmaidproducts.com/about/faq.php

Novel Three

Now that I’m off for two months, work has stepped up. The pile of notes increases. The manuscript of half-truths grows. My vision of completion is less fuzzy.

Book Review

ARROWS, SECRET INK, AND… GRAMMAR?

The Iggulden boys have resurrected the spirit of the old Childcraft books and BSA Cub Scout manuals with their delightful THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS. DANGEROUS has a bit of everything, certainly enough to keep you reading (wonders of the world, famous battles, amazing people) and learning (chess, rugby, crystal making) and building (bows and arrows, go-carts, chemical batteries) for years. Printed as a pleasantly bound, old-style book, TDBFB is a refreshing break from the electronic garbage that has flooded (and is drowning) our minds and souls. Need to brush up on your first aid skills… who doesn’t? The basics are in there. Put away your crApple gizmo and look up at the night sky again; TDBFB has basic star maps for navigation. Never learned knots because you were too busy swiping the bipolar-mind cancer-suicide screen? Basic rope skills are included. How about lowering your IIR (imbecile index rating) by doing a bit of grammar review, reading a little Shakespeare and Robert Frost, and learning common Latin phrases? The Igguldens have provided a freighter-load of intellectualism that can’t fail to impress your friends and enemies. I’m eager to be off for the summer… so that I can build my first bow-and-arrow!

Link to original Goodreads review:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2397493951?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Tough Jobs

Pickling, teaching, training, nursing, farming… no matter what you do, it’s a tough world of backbreaking work… full of rude, rebellious people who often give you the business no matter how hard you try to do the right thing.

Just keep on doing the right thing… because… well… it’s the right thing to do.

(The right thing is not “might,” as many people sadly believe. “Might is right!” they declare, with blood on their hands.)

“I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.” Isaiah 50:6-7.

 

Shelved!

Being put on a shelf is not always a bad thing.

I was looking for a copy of In the Beginning by Chaim Potok at my local Half Price Books and was pleasantly surprised to discover two copies of The Extra Key tucked in with the rest of the “real” writers. I’ve looked for TEK in bookstores before (way before) but I’d given up and had resigned myself to the normal status for most indie writers — a virtual presence (online), but verboten with regard to reality (actual bookshelves in real bookstores). No more. I’ve been shelved. It was nice to see (and I’m still holding on to that feeling) TEK between works of Edgar Allen Poe (I read a ton of his stuff in middle school and once recited “The Raven” to an inspirational English teacher just for fun — see previous blog post) and Charles Portis.

Still not on a public library shelf. (Tiny, free libraries, yes. XXX Public Library, no.) One day. [Sigh.]

BOOK REVIEW: THE MINORITY REPORT AND OTHER STORIES BY PHILIP K. DICK

“SCIENCE FICTION FOR THE THINKER”

From THE MINORITY REPORT:

“Anderton sighed. At that point he wasn’t certain, himself. Perhaps he was trapped in a closed, meaningless time-circle with no motive and no beginning. In fact, he was almost ready to concede that he was the victim of a weary, neurotic fantasy, spawned by growing insecurity. Without a fight, he was willing to give himself up. A vast weight of exhaustion lay upon him. He was struggling against the impossible – and all the cards were stacked against him.”

This small sampling of Philip. K. Dick’s writing exemplifies commonalities in his writing style and themes:

1. Introspective, self-doubting main characters who question themselves, their motives, and at times the authenticity of what seems to be the reality around them. Dick’s tendency is literary, philosophical, and message-driven rather than suspenseful — despite what Hollywood has done with his work.

2. Careful, detailed writing and an obvious love of words. Adverbs and adjectives are not spared.

3. The classic science fiction practice of inventing terms, often by combining words (“time-circle”). This also speaks to Dick’s fascination with words.

It was an unexpected treat that Keir Dullea read this collection of stories to me via DVD. You might remember Mr. Dullea as the actor who played Dave from what is perhaps the greatest science fiction film of all time, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (a favorite from my youth, and still one to this day).

Other tales in the collection that are familiar to the avid sci-fi moviegoer are PAYCHECK and WE CAN REMEMBER IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE (AKA: TOTAL RECALL). In each, Philip K. Dick likes to take his time, poking along, turning over stones — prompting the reader to stop and, like his lead characters, consider significant questions about human existence.

Link to the original Goodreads review:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2319468378?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

SOMETHING and IPPY

Something (my second novel) is currently on the judging block for this year’s IPPY contest. I’ll know how it did by the end of April. I originally chose the IPPY because it rated high among bloggers whose focus is independent publishing and sorting legit-and-scam.

PROGRESS

Novel three has progressed into a new phase. I have a clear beginning and end, a map to get between the two, and… a title. I regularly add passages to a stack dedicated to this book. The current plan is to put together the first draft during the two months I’m off this summer, then spend the next several months in revision and editorial review.

MONOTONY

It’s not as bad as people make it out to be. There can be great comfort in monotony if you just give it a chance. “Day after day, alone on a hill…”

ELZZUP

“reteh i ma, enewetb gadre dan lashcre.”

FEAR

Don’t let fear stop you. There’s much to learn and do in this world; fear can cripple your ability to discover what those things are… and get them done.

“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.”

 

You THINK you’re in control…

Kevin and Jack Ride Again

My second children’s picture book is finally published and available. You Can Rely on Kevin and Jack! is about doing what you’ve said you’ll do for another person and doing it well. A simple ethic, but like so many “simple” ethics it’s one that’s hard to stick to. The idea for the book came from a lesson my dad taught me when I was very young. Do your best. At least, you’ll have respect for yourself. At most, others will respect you and further reward will come from that.

Link to the Amazon page for You Can Rely on Kevin and Jack!

https://www.amazon.com/You-Can-Rely-Kevin-Jack/dp/1981830367/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1514491247&sr=8-2&keywords=kevin+polman

Teaching Update

Since returning to teaching after a two-year sabbatical, I’ve reached my first big milestone. I made it to Christmas break relatively unscathed. Worn to the bone, but psychologically intact. (A tough profession, but somebody’s gotta do it.) Honestly, the whole experience has felt like a string of many miracles that played out for months. Example? I commuted two hours each day, never broke down once, never was late to work, didn’t miss a day or even part of a day. That alone was miraculous and it represents only a small fraction of the challenges I’ve faced in re-entering the teaching workforce full-time as an old(er) fella. I’m blessed!

Book Review: The Martian Chronicles

CRAZY SON

Christmas break for an overworked teacher… I need a good book, a standard that I can rely on. This is my fourth time through THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, but it still has reader’s magic for me. Ray Bradbury’s poetic prose, deep themes, and tongue-in-cheek about the human condition remain a comfort that holds over from my youth.

I’m still creeped out as I rediscover the deception of Captain Black and his crew by the wonderfully crafty Martians. (I won’t reveal how that plays out, in case you’ve never read the book. Believe me, “The Third Expedition” is a classic chapter, a good short story by itself.)

And who can forget Spender, tragically idealistic Earthling, from “–And the Moon Be Still as Bright”? The themes are just as relevant today as when the story was published in 1948.

“Spender quietly laid his pistol at his feet. ‘I’ve seen that what these Martians had was just as good as anything we’ll ever hope to have. They stopped where we should have stopped a hundred years ago.’

‘They have a beautiful city here.’ The captain nodded at one of several places.

‘It’s not that alone. Yes, their cities were good. They knew how to blend art into their living. It’s always been a thing apart for Americans. Art was something you kept in the crazy son’s room upstairs.'”

Link to the original Goodreads review:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2227959967

Video Recommendations

The Village. Literary depth, a touching love story, and Shyamalan’s best writing.

https://www.amazon.com/Village-Joaquin-Phoenix/dp/B00064LJVE/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1514493838&sr=8-3&keywords=the+village+dvd

The X-Files TV series. Start with season one of the original series. Great stories and characters. Good writing and directing.

https://www.amazon.com/X-Files-Season-1-David-Duchovny/dp/B000BOH986/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1514493919&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=x+files+eason+onedvd

The Horizon

Short stories. New novel. Kevin and Jack, part three. Doing my best to help ninth grade students pass the end-of-course biology exam that Texas administers in May.

God, family, and friends help me cope with my deep fear that I will not accomplish what I am supposed to accomplish, that I will not be a man you can rely on.

You THINK you’re in control…

… but you’re not. Life is a series of miracles, different sizes, many of them hard to interpret or even recognize as miracles. We don’t seem to have any control over how and when they arrive. Nonetheless, we hope and pray for them.

Pray for miracles in your life and the lives of people around you. The best thing you can do for others is pray for them every day.

Have a miraculous 2018!

Puzzle

Unscramble the words, unscramble the question, ask yourself the question, answer the question.

Si  ot  hatn  zipaz  dogo  hetre  omre  ifle  nopipeepr  dan  viomes?

 

New Horizons

Today’s blog: the teaching life, writing/publishing progress, review of Nevertheless

TEACHING… AGAIN

Still writing, but the pace has slowed. I’m back to full-time teaching at a high school that specializes in fine arts. It’s good for me to be among people again — they provide great inspiration for stories… and there’s less loneliness.

How do I fit in the writing work? Thirty minutes to an hour, here and there. Right now, I’m starting the first draft of this blog at 4 a.m. on a Thursday. It takes grit to keep at it. I’m proud to say that I’ve got grit. I really believe someone should nominate me for a Gritty.

Well.

I’m excited about a new, BIG project that I’ve proposed at school. A massive fusion of science and visual art! It involves all (or most) of my students (over 100). (They are excited about it as well. Most are excited. Many are excited. Quite a few are excited.) How big is this project? It will take all year to complete AND approval by administration is necessary.

PRODUCTION

Still in progress: Kevin-and-Jack Part Two, a short story, a third novel.

New: another short story has emerged.

I’ve submitted Something for an IPPY award (literary fiction with a southern U.S. focus). After researching contests for independent publishers, the IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Award) seemed to be the most reputable. A win, or at least showing, would increase my exposure to the publishing industry. (That’s my hope.) Results are announced in May, 2018.

BOOK REVIEW: NEVERTHELESS

Alec Baldwin: A man who (like me) loved Seconds.

I still read, even with so little extra time on my hands these days. Since I now have a two-hour commute to work (one hour each way), my latest reading project was done with a book-on-disc. This was fortuitous because the book is Nevertheless, a memoir by Alec Baldwin — hearing him read it aloud in that great voice of his intensifies the best parts.

One of the strongest aspects of Baldwin’s Nevertheless is his brutal honesty. It begins immediately with his admission to us that he wrote the book to make money and that if we are offended by that admission perhaps we should stop reading. The writing and the story are so good that even if you are offended… you continue. (And you soon suspect that there’s more to this than the money.)

Nevertheless has much to say about Baldwin’s perspective of the politics and mechanics and history of the acting industry. I suppose that it would be a good book for aspiring thespians, a source of inside information regarding what to do… and not do, whom to adhere to… and whom to avoid. BUT… what makes it really good, captivating, read-it-to-the-end-worthy? — The stories of his youth, those formative years that made him the sensitive, emotional, and admittedly flawed (admitted by the uncomfortably honest Baldwin himself) man that he is today.

Nevertheless begins with a description of Baldwin’s early family life in New York — grim and insightfully dysfunctional, informative and inspirational at the same time. I was especially fascinated with the details of his father’s career as a frustrated, yet committed, high school teacher. (Father Baldwin sacrificed the “good” life for his “art.”) For me, the story of Alec Baldwin’s family and how his life and his siblings’ lives played out in a sort of middle-class chaos (an existence that many of us are all too familiar with) was the best part of this multifaceted book.

The following is a particularly telling and well-written passage about Alec and his five siblings.

“The six of us were lost souls washed up on the shores …. Six pieces of driftwood, just bobbing through our neighborhood, without a current to carry us in any particular direction .… always mindful of how little we had.

One day, I was walking out of my house, headed to see some friends or ride my bike by myself, and I saw my brother Stephen up the road, bent over something. As I got closer, I could see he had a stick from a tree branch in his hand and was poking at a squirrel that had been crushed by a car .… ‘We have to bury it,’ he said. .… ‘Will you help me bury it?’

And as he looked at me, I thought, ‘He’s that squirrel. So am I. All we have is today and the hope that we don’t get crushed by something. We have nothing. And everything seems so fragile.’”

Link to the Goodreads review:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2133281653?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

PARTING WISDOM

Be good.

“Het  fo  reeth  file  ni  yaw  gritheousessn  si.”

Texas. HOT! (Still Smiling.) Bagels?!

Jack and I are holding up. Amidst scorching Texas heat, a local (insane) squirrel population run amok, and alternating periods of anxiety and depression, we’ve still found at least a few moments to smile. And why not? Overall, life is pretty good.

And what about bagels? Bagels are good. That’s something positive. Right?

Heat and psychotic squirrels and bipolar disorder aren’t keeping me-n-Jack down. We’re still doing our two-a-days at the park, takin’ care of bidness.

Time for bagels…

Something Signing at BOOPA’S

This is the third signing that Holly Pils of Boopa’s Bagel Deli has hosted for me. She’s a kind-hearted lady who does a lot for her community. (I will always be grateful to her for giving me my big break into book signing.) Thankfully, that commitment has rewarded her with years of successful business and a great reputation in Fort Worth.

If you’re coming to the signing, here are some pre-arrival details that might be helpful:

  • Time: 11 – 1:30
  • I’ll be in the back of the shop, sitting next to a box of books. (I’ll have some of my older titles available, in addition to Something.)
  • Plan to eat lunch there. The food is always good! I’ll put a link to the menu below.
  • Payment for books will be directly to me, so bring cash (tens) or check (no plastic).
  • Address: 6513 N. Beach, Fort Worth, 76137
  • Here’s a link to BOOPA’S web site:

http://www.boopasbageldeli.com/

 

BOOK REVIEW: Henry Reed, Inc.

(This review was recently posted at Amazon and Goodreads.)

A FAVORITE CLASSIC FOR YOUNG AND OLD

It was a hot (HOT!) summer day in Corpus Christi, Texas. I was bicycling home from the public library with eleven books stacked precariously on my handlebars. (No basket, just books-on-the-bars, old style. Why eleven? If you have to ask, you’re not a bookworm/bibliophile.) One of the eleven was HENRY REED, INC. by Keith Robertson.

HENRY REED, INC. would soon become one of the favorites of my youth. (The version I enjoyed was illustrated by the masterful Robert McCloskey.) On the cover, bespectacled, slender, sly-faced Henry sits with feet propped on a desk, a tank of laboratory gas standing nearby. (How could a nerdy, bespectacled me NOT be drawn to this book?) Robertson’s skilled writing relates to us the fascinating tale of Henry’s summer adventures in Princeton, New Jersey with Uncle Alfred, Aunt Mabel, Henry’s new friend/source of irritation, Midge, and of course… a dog! (A high-spirited beagle named Agony.)

What does this book offer young readers? An entertaining, tongue-in-cheek introduction to the world of research and development mixed with good, clean, humorous summer fun. Almost thirty years after first reading it, during my initial semester as a middle school teacher, I spied the long-forgotten book on the shelves of our school library. Delighted at discovering this old friend, I checked it out and re-read it — still a good read as an adult. A decade later, I would incorporate passages from a copy I purchased (and still own) into one of my high school physics classes.

HENRY REED, INC. — Good for ALL ages!

(Try to get one of the originals that has McCloskey’s illustrations.)

“I sold another dozen earthworms today and we rigged up a trap to catch the white rabbit. We haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, but I think it will work.”

Here’s the link to the original Goodreads review:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2071919745?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

 

Current Work

I’m finishing up a second Kevin and Jack children’s picture book. This one is about being able to rely on people to stick to their commitments. It’s inspired by a specific lesson I learned when I was a child — When you say you’re going to do something, you do it. And you do it well.

The release date is up in the air right now because I’m also looking for gainful employment. (Such is the life of most writers. Ah, well.)

 

Closing

Feeling low? Heat baking your brains? Squirrels knocking at the door?

Think you’re alone in this hot, crazy, cruel world?

You’re not.

Please hang in there. You’ve got something important to do. If you don’t know what that “something” is just yet… Wait! It will come to you.

It may be the next knock on your door, the next person you meet, the next email you answer, the next phone call or text.

And when IT happens, remember to do well what you’ve been given to do…

And to be thankful.

Babies

Babies all over the place!

Grandbabies, adult babies, dog babies, insane babies (… that last one would be your assessment of me right about now…).

Why did I title this post “Babies”?

I don’t know. Maybe I got it from Jack’s picture; he’s smiling as he sits on the park bridge we’ve crossed nearly every day for several years. He’s ten now, but I remember when he was just a little dog baby. (Sniff.)

Perhaps it’s because I’ve recently entered a phase of my life where I’ve got grandbabies (Ethan Alexander and Olivia Rose) and the 24-7 news-and-activity feed that necessarily accompanies that. (Another video message just popped up on my phone!)

Maybe it’s because right now I’m tired and frustrated (Waughghgh!) and I’m feeling the need to act like a big ole baby. (I’m okay. Really! Just a crazy adult baby acting crazy.)

POST CONTENTS

  • Baby ramblings (You already read that. The philosophical baby-psychobabble above.)
  • What’s happening with Something
  • Current projects
  • A review of Robert Pirsig’s work
  • A new puzzle
  • Parting shot (kapow!)

SOMETHING

The early responses from readers of my second novel have been uplifting, so much so that I am considering entering it into a reputable national competition for indie writers. If you’re not familiar with this book yet — a strange mix of stray-dog chasing by the middle-aged mentally unbalanced AND cross country biking by the young-adult mentally unbalanced — here’s a link that will let you read a bit of it…

https://www.amazon.com/Something-Kevin-Polman/dp/1546667296/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1499035234&sr=8-1&keywords=kevin+polman

Huge and sincere thank-yous to my readers — there aren’t many of you, but it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. (I never was a guy with a lot of friends, but the friends I have are people I can count on. It really is all about the love.)

Signings and direct sales? Who knows… I’ve got something cooking (for Something, ha ha!) in Denton, since that fair city was so good to me for The Extra Key promotion… perhaps mid-to-late July. If you live near Fort Worth and you want to purchase a signed copy directly, don’t hesitate to contact me — I’ll set up a coffee shop meeting wherein I will supply you with the book and we can chitchat for few minutes along literary and philosophical lines. I’ve done this with with other readers who didn’t want to purchase the book online, and it’s been loads of fun. (My contact email: kevinpolman2016@gmail.com)

CURRENT PROJECTS

I’m likely to finish my second Kevin-and-Jack children’s picture book by the end of the summer. It’s nearly complete and working on it will provide a nice change of pace from writing the last novel.

A link to the first Kevin-and-Jack book:

https://www.amazon.com/Kevin-Jack-Go-Park-Polman/dp/1537280635/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1499038867&sr=8-4&keywords=kevin+polman

Notes and passages continue to pile up for my third novel. I’ve amassed different versions of beginnings and endings, titles, book cover designs, characters, main plot and subplots, etc. In the fall, I’ll start writing full chapters.

REVIEW OF ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE

(This was posted at Goodreads and Amazon.)

A QUALITY READ ABOUT… QUALITY!

Robert Pirsig’s ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE is valued by many learned readers as a book to be read and re-read… and re-read, not so much for entertainment — although it is an enjoyable read — as for a reminder about what it means to value a life of quality.

“Quality” is a concept explored in fascinating detail by Pirsig in this book of modern-day philosophy that weaves relevant discussion about everyday existence in our highly technological world with the account of a summer motorcycle road trip taken by a man and his son.

Over the course of thirty years, I’ve read ZEN three times. It has been a subtly exciting study in each instance. The ideas presented regarding living one’s life (and attempting to solve the small and large problems that come with that) in a carefully examined manner were life-changing to me. It is not an exaggeration to write that Pirsig-and-ZEN is an example of writer-and-book that truly had the power to change the way I regarded my day-to-day life. Practical proof that I’m not just pontificating to beef up a book review? — I’ve regularly recommended this book over the years to my more scholarly-minded students, occasionally even presenting copies as graduation gifts.

This was Robert Pirsig’s only major work, but well-read bibliophiles and scholars know it as a classic. Most authors would sacrifice a body part to have just one book like ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE to their credit.

“The difference between a good mechanic and a bad one, like the difference between a good mathematician and a bad one, is precisely this ability to select the good facts from the bad ones on the basis of quality. He has to care! This is an ability about which formal traditional scientific method has nothing to say. It’s long past time to take a closer look…”

Pirsig taught me, or perhaps reminded me, to ask my students (after they’d asked me if the class was going to be a good one, if they were going to learn anything of significance), “Do you care?” That’s the critical question. DO you? Do YOU? If you really want the best solution to a problem, if you really care about learning something significant… then you will.

Because you care.

This is the link to the original Goodreads review:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2045412411?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

TODAY’S PUZZLE

Q1 (scrambled letters and words):  a  si  woburdzz  hawt  sipirgs  nez  ni  jomar?

A1 (in code):  H-12-1-F-6-11-13

Q2: The main title of the sequel book?

A2: Please answer in code. Look for solutions on the ABOUT  KEVIN page in a week or two.

A PARTING SHOT FROM CRAZY BABY WRITER

I’ve got a job interview tomorrow for a part-time teaching position, and I am worrying about it way too much. (That is the Way of Kevin, to overthink things to the point of miserable misery in such a way that it threatens to make nearby loved ones miserably miserable as well.) The following is my advice for myself (and for you, if like me you are one of the anti-chill elite) tonight and tomorrow, a lesson taught to me by Chill-Master Jack (the dog’s got a black belt in chill):

Do your best. Chill the rest.

 

MAY!

I. NOVEL TWO

So… BIG news… My second novel is out! It’s called Something, but I suppose it could have been titled Fear and Uncertainty Experienced as Jimbo Grows Up in a Strange Family, Rides a Long Bike Tour, and Chases an Ornery Runaway Dog. I decided to stick with Something. Here’s an excerpt…

Prologue: Thieves of Peace

I’m nine. It’s the summer of 1969.

I hear a knock at the front door of our little suburban starter shack in Corpus Christi, Texas. Since my dad is still at work — it’s midafternoon in our simmering city by the Gulf — and little sister and Mom are taking a nap, I’m the only one in the house awake.

I open the main door… a thick, sturdy, wooden slab… and look through the unlocked screen door. A man looks in at me.

“Son, are your folks home?”

He’s a beefy fellow — taller than my dad, who’s six-one — but seems respectable enough, in my nine-year-old opinion.

Got a white shirt and tie on, doesn’t he? A little sloppy, and his shirt’s coming out in places at the waist. But his hair’s short… and he’s wearing black horn rims, just like you.

Doesn’t look like any long-haired, LSD-injecting criminal you’ve ever seen on a TV show…

How bad can he be?

“Just my mom. She’s asleep. Dad’s at work.” I look up at his unsmiling, but clean-shaven face. He reminds me of those bland character actors who guest star every now and then on Hawaii Five-O — one of my favorite shows.

Book ‘em, Danno!

Wait… Those bland-looking guys always end up being psychotic!

I look closely at Mr. Sloppy Necktie.

Nah, looks harmless.

“Young man, could you go get your mother for me?”

“Okay.”

I leave him at the door and go back to my parent’s bedroom.

*****

“Hey, Mom.” I shook her shoulder. She had a pretty good snooze going, face completely relaxed, snoring lightly. I suppose she was tired most of the time, with all the housework and taking care of the two of us kids.

“Mom. There’s a man at the front door.”

Her eyes snapped open at that, then rotated toward me and narrowed, her face forming a frown.

Guess the nap’s over…

“What did you say?”

“I said there’s a guy at the door. He said he wants to talk to you.”

She jumped up and headed quickly to the front of the house. I followed. My sister was still asleep on the other side of my parents’ bed.

Before my mom got to the front room, she put her face near mine and said in an urgent and ominously quiet voice, “Stay here.” So I did.

Interested in more? Here’s the Amazon link:

https://www.amazon.com/Something-Kevin-Polman/dp/1546667296/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496094210&sr=8-1&keywords=kevin+polman

II. BOOKS I’M READING

I’m currently reading Chaim Potok’s In the Beginning, Ty Tashiro’s Awkward, and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. As soon as the dust settles from an intense May (see below), you can expect reviews from one or more of the aforementioned books. Spoiler alert: I like all three of them.

III. THE MERRILY INTENSE MONTH OF MAY

Tons of exciting things are happening in my piece of the universe, and all during a compressed, less-than-a-month period…

  • The publication of Something
  • My 35th wedding anniversary!
  • The birth of my second grandchild, Olivia Rose!!
  • Exciting new job prospects (No. They aren’t going to keep me from continuing to write.)

It’s all good, but it’s worn me out. In fact, I feel like taking a nap right now.

IV. MOVIE RECOMMENDATION

(I didn’t take a nap.)

If you’re a poet and/or love reading poetry and/or love a good love story, you should watch Paterson, starring Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani, written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. The romantic type? You’ll love it. A cynical, old fart? Force yourself to watch Paterson (…you can secretly enjoy it and no one will be the wiser). Here’s a link for more info:

https://www.amazon.com/Paterson-Adam-Driver/dp/B01N35F7L3/ref=sr_1_1_twi_dvd_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496094618&sr=8-1&keywords=paterson+dvd

V. REVIEWS OF THE EXTRA KEY BY KIRKUS AND AMY’S LIBRARY RAMBLES

Both of these review sites had nice things to say about my first novel, The Extra Key.  Here are the links:

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kevin-polman/extra-key/

https://amyslibraryrambles.wordpress.com/tag/kevin-polman/

VI. IN CLOSING

Stuj  a  ytin  lepzuz  hist  thomn.  Mi  teba!

 

Lookin’ Out for You People!

I know what you’re thinking when you see that picture. Boondawg Saints, right? Nope. Just me and Jack. Roamin’ the streets at night. Keepin’ your ‘hood safe so’s you can sit indoors, peaceful and sound, eatin’ Skittles, drinkin’ diet Dr. Pepper, and watchin’ Gilmore Girls videos. (That’s what Jack and I do when we’re not fighting crime; we’re assuming you have similar top-drawer values.)

No thanks are necessary. It’s just our JOB: Lookin’ out for you people!

List of Psychofermentation Products in Today’s Blog:

One – an anniversary

Two – progress of novel two

Three – upcoming summer activities

Four – review of a Rendell book

Five – movie/book recommendation

Six – puzzle

An Anniversary

One year ago (April, 2016) my first novel, The Extra Key, debuted. (The world will never be the same.) Responses, reviews, public readings, and sales have ranged from good to super-wonderful. (A HUGE “Thank you!” to readers and reviewers. I’d buy each of you an orange-and-turquoise Ford LTD, if I could afford it.) Currently, Kirkus Reviews is rating the novel’s literary worth; any week now, I’ll hear the results. I’m hoping for at least an above-average review from them.

Progress of Novel Two

All three editorial reviews of the new manuscript have been received; all three were highly favorable. I am well into the rewrite AND the design of the cover (super cool!). I anticipate a late May release. (Early June? Could be… my second grandbaby is due in May, so…)

Upcoming Summer Activities

In addition to being baked to a crisp by the cruel Texas sun, I’ll be marketing the new book (unusual readings and signings are planned – don’t miss them), starting Novel Three (I’ve already started, actually, with regard to outline and notes and… experimentation!), finishing another Kevin and Jack picture book, baking cakes (a new hobby I’ve picked up – part of my research for the third novel; I’m making Cake Four this Friday), and… messing around with grandkids.

Review of Ruth Rendell’s The Crocodile Bird

Eve and Liza: Lost Souls?

The late Ruth Rendell’s literary-quality psychological thriller, The Crocodile Bird, is a treat for discerning and disciplined readers who love well-written suspense.

About two decades ago, I was at a local Fort Worth library looking for a book-fix when I saw a copy of Rendell’s Road Rage in the mystery/thriller section. Inspecting the first few pages I could tell the author wrote well, so I checked it out and read the entire book. I was not disappointed. Road Rage possessed what I would come to know as signature characteristics of Rendellian books: skilled writing style, deep character exploration, and complex plots.

My next Rendell was The Crocodile Bird. After reading it, I was hooked. Ruth became my favorite writer for the next twenty years. As far as I can tell, I’ve read all of her published fiction, at least twenty novels and several short stories. For many years, the first thing I checked when arriving at the library was the “New Books” section for the latest Rendell (or Barbara Vine, the pseudonym she used for several of her books). When I scored, it was a fantastic day in the stacks! (Sadly, all that has ended with Rendell’s recent death and her last book, Dark Corners.) Despite reading so much from this author, and thus becoming a Rendell expert, The Crocodile Bird remains my favorite of her works; I’ve read it three times, and often recommend it to high-minded literary acquaintances.

The Crocodile Bird is the story of Eve and her daughter Liza, living isolated in a remote area of England – Eve, by choice; Liza, by parentally imposed requirement. Rendell’s delicately written prose explores the psychology that motivates seclusion at all costs… and the wonder that accompanies escape from such seclusion. In some ways, the themes of this novel reminded me of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, a story that is also about vain attempts to protect oneself and loved ones from the evils of society by social insulation.

Here are samples of Rendell’s prose from The Crocodile Bird:

“‘The difficulty is,’ Mother said, ‘that Mr. Tobias is a restless man and wants to see the world, while I intend to remain here for the whole of my life and never go away.’ She said that last bit quite fiercely, looking into Liza’s eyes. ‘Because there is nowhere in the world like this place. This place is the nearest thing to heaven there is. If you have found heaven, why should you want to see anywhere else?’”

. . .

“It might be that she would never see it again, any of it. She would never return, so she stopped and looked back like the woman in the picture at Shrove had done, the tall sad woman in white draperies who Eve told her was Lot’s wife and her forsaken home the Cities of the Plain. But instead of those desolate and wicked places, she saw between the trees that rose out of the misty water meadows, the alders and the balsams and the lombardy poplars, the gracious outlines of Shrove House.”

One thing I’ve learned in my fifty-six years (maybe you, too): Never say never.

Link to the review at Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1963707656?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Movie/Book Recommendation

The 1966 science fiction movie, Seconds, is hands down (in my opinion) Rock Hudson’s best movie. (You’ve never seen him in a role like this.) It’s a classic sleeper film directed by John Frankenheimer. I’ve watched it several times; it’s worth the rewatch. After the first time, I tracked down the obscure novel (same name) it was based on by David Ely, and I loved it, too. (How obscure? Very hard to find this fascinating book in a library. Sad.)

Link to the movie:

https://www.amazon.com/Seconds-Criterion-Collection-Rock-Hudson/dp/B00CUKTHES/ref=sr_1_1_twi_dvd_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492630407&sr=8-1&keywords=seconds+dvd

Link to the book:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6504517-seconds

Six – Puzzle

Q1 (scrambled letters and words): gintest  het  how  refe  saber  torwe?

A1 (in code): 15-iv-16-11  iii-8-5-iii-11-17

Q2: His newest novel?

A2 (in code, please): [A2 will be revealed in “About Kevin” after a week-ish.]

In Closing…

Have a joyous, protected, and godly life. Good fortune to you and yours from those crazily faulted superheroes, Kevin and Jack!

 

Sight… or Vision?

Archaic Dutch Proverb

Some see the trees, but can’t envision the forest.

Some envision the forest, but can’t see the trees.

Progress on Novel Two

All is well. The first draft was completed two weeks ago. I’ve already begun proofing and editing for the second draft. May 2017 still looks good for publication.

Review of Phaedra Patrick’s Novel, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

PHAEDRA PATRICK “CHARMS” US

What does Phaedra Patrick’s first novel, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, offer to readers? I’ve come up with eight answers — one for each charm.

(1) When I’m screening the many literary choices available to modern day readers for a book that I might read from cover to cover, the first go-no-go decider is the quality of writing. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper passed this test with well-designed and skillfully executed prose. Patrick’s writing is professional quality.

(2) From the outset, main character Arthur Pepper is portrayed as likable. Later, we see his imperfections, but overall, the author presents a family man, workingman, and gentleman that we are motivated to care about.

(3) Gradually we are introduced to a wide variety of interesting minor characters. By “interesting,” I do not mean outrageous (with the exception, of course, of the couple whose tiger roams the grounds of their estate). They are interesting because we identify with their ideals… and their flaws.

(4) The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper has a complex and mysterious plot; it embodies the concept of an imaginative tale. The litmus test of this? You can’t predict how it will end.

(5) The novel’s prose is not vulgar, as so many new literary offerings seem to be. This is not to say that the book steers completely away from unpleasant people, situations, and language — it’s just not saturated with those elements.

(6) The plot includes the sort of unexpected twists that are indicative of real life. It’s not just in books and movies that even the mildest of people occasionally make illogical and seemingly unlikely choices that put them at risk. (The stories I could tell. The stories YOU could tell…)

(7) The ending, like many other parts of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, causes us to wonder about our own life choices, those that we are required to make each day, and the attitudes that we bring to those decisions.

(8) Perhaps most importantly, Phaedra Patrick’s novel reminds us that people can change no matter how old they are — if they are open-minded and adventurous to the end.

“He didn’t want to feel like this, be treated like this. An urge swelled in his chest. He needed to say something so she wouldn’t think him helpless, hopeless and useless, like Mrs. Monton, who hadn’t left her house in five years and who smoked twenty Woodbines a day, or Mr. Flowers, who thought there was a unicorn living in his greenhouse. Arthur had some pride left. He used to have meaning as a father and husband. He used to have thoughts and dreams and plans.”

Here’s a link to the review at Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1927487699?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Puzzle Three

Question 1 (words and letters of words scrambled):

amadiccle  fo  numart  stom  teacop  krow  het?

Answer 1 (in code): 9-14  3-15-12-4  2-12-15-15-4

Question 2: The city of his birth?

Answer 2: Should be expressed in same code as Answer 1. Answer 2 will appear in “About Kevin” after a week or two.

DVD Recommendations

Irrational Man with Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone. One of Woody Allen’s best. Dark, suspenseful, thought provoking.

https://www.amazon.com/Irrational-Man-Jamie-Blackley/dp/B017RR4ZIQ/ref=sr_1_3_twi_dvd_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488466260&sr=8-3&keywords=irrational+man

True Grit with John Wayne, Kim Darby, and Glen Campbell. I rarely rewatch old westerns. Most are just not good enough to see again. (And new westerns? I don’t rewatch any of those — if they get my attention in the first place.) I have my own copy of True Grit (on VHS, of course), and every time I see this best adaptation of the Charles Portis novel, I am impressed and amused by the unique dialogue and acting styles.

https://www.amazon.com/True-Grit-Various/dp/B00AEBBA0E/ref=sr_1_4_twi_dvd_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1488466327&sr=1-4&keywords=true+grit

America’s Test Kitchen. The BEST cooking show. Any season, any episode is good. One of my favorites is “Best Blueberry Pie” from the Season 9 DVD.

https://www.amazon.com/Americas-Test-Kitchen-Season-9/dp/B0029Z8KK6/ref=sr_1_1_twi_dvd_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1488466396&sr=1-1&keywords=america%27s+test+kitchen+season+9

Parting Thought

Do your best to have both sight AND vision… if you’re lacking. Life is so much richer for you (and those around you) when these are fully developed.