Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Wikipedia gets checked by me every week to see if any celebrities died, so I can keep up on pop culture. Their deaths never affect me one way or the other, although I remember being sad for two entire days when Dale Earnhardt was killed in February 2001. I’m a NASCAR fan and Earnhardt was always my favorite driver, and his shocking death hit me hard.
Other than that, I’ve never been sad about another celebrity’s passing until I heard last Saturday morning that actor Peter Falk died.
“Oh, man,” I muttered and was legitimately sad for the day.
Falk became famous on TV in the late 1970s for playing the role of detective Lt. Columbo, but all the episodes aired as reruns throughout the 1990s on the Biography channel, which is how I got hooked on the series. Columbo was a cigar stub-smoking, wrinkled raincoat-wearing, old beat up Peugeot car-driving, irritating murder-solving genius. The show was groundbreaking because in almost all Columbo episodes, the murder occurred early and the TV audience knew who did it, then the plot steadily unwound as Columbo eventually figured things out for himself and nailed the killer.
I mention Peter Falk today because Columbo was kind of an inspiration for my Crazy Lucky Dead book. A murder in CLD takes place somewhat early, then the psychological bizarreness of the main characters is showcased throughout the rest of the novel.
A quick fact about Peter Falk himself – he was blind in one eye due to cancer at age 3. Falk’s daughter, Catherine, offered this anecdote about her father at his eulogy.
“My fond memories of Dad include watching him on Hollywood sets, and taking family trips with him to the California mountains,” she said. “Oh, I also remember many exciting car rides because that man behind the steering wheel had only one eye.”
Look into the AbyssStill no word from any agents. I’ve pretty much given up hope and am starting my next book when I go on vacation in mid July.
“You’ve given up?” wife Jenny remarked when she read the draft of this blog. “Get back on your horse and start mailing and emailing packets again – there are hundreds of agents out there. You’re not giving up so easily on your dream, are you?”
I’m a Seinfeld fan, and that was the exact sentence that Jerry once spoke to Newman when Newman, a mailman, said he had given up hope of ever getting a mail route in the paradise state of Hawaii.
“You’re not giving up so easily on your dream, are you?” Jerry asked.
“I usually do,” Newman answered.
Okay, I won’t yet. There aren’t many things I dislike more than mailing query letters and trolling for literary agents, but just about everything I’ve ever dreaded doing in my life has actually turned out well.
Wait a second. I’m out of stamps. There goes the dream.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gut Check

That Mardi Gras scream is in tribute to the first Cajun meal I’ve ever eaten, which was two days ago. Co-worker Mark and I bought lunch for another co-worker, Marcus, who is leaving the company, and we all decided on Cajun because Marcus and I never had such food, and Mark barely has.
Three bloody Marys (a going-away toast) were followed by six appetizers and two soups, and those eight different menu items allowed us to sample a lot of famed New Orleans dishes all in one sitting. The appetizers were hog-tied shrimp, crawfish etouffee, boudin, red beans and sausage, crab cakes and fire shrimp, along with seafood gumbo and jambalaya soup.
Amazing, amazing meal. One of the best lunches ever. When the waitress first served all the food, our table looked beautiful. It was as eye-pleasing as a Bob Ross painting.
“My favorite dish? The hog-tied shrimp,” Marcus said following the feast.
“I gotta go with the fire shrimp,” Mark said.
“The crawfish etouffee for me,” I chimed in.
We all agreed that all eight selections were incredible. Who dat? We dat. Great Cajun cuisine.
A quick shout out to another co-worker, Jeff, who has a sideline beekeeping and honey production operation. Jeff bottles honey under a Tru Bee brand name, and his honey was just highlighted in the July 2011 issue of Cooking Light magazine. Cooking Light is a national monthly publication with a circulation of 1 million readers.
I bought a bottle of Tru Bee a few weeks ago because my son Andrew has bad allergies, and I’ve heard that natural bee’s honey – specifically produced in the part of the country where you live – is a medicinal wonder. Well, it has certainly helped Andrew, to the point where he hasn’t needed his Friday allergy shots for the past two weeks.
Congratulations, Jeff…and Andrew, too.
I was walking along the street the other day when a lady approached me and angrily pointed at my suede jacket.
“It makes me sick that cows are used for food and clothes,” she yelled. “Y’know, a cow was murdered for your jacket!”
“Ma’am, I didn't know there were any witnesses,” I said. “Now I'll have to kill you, too.” 
Just a joke. Sorry if I offended any cows.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Just Foul

I was walking around the stadium between games of the College World Series in Omaha four years ago and noticed a young boy, maybe 8 years old, approach a player from the University of South Carolina baseball team.
“Could I please have your autograph?” the boy politely asked, even though he probably had no idea who the player was. The little baseball fan just wanted an autograph from a baseball player.
“No, kid. I don’t have time for that. No,” groused the South Carolina player, even though it was between games and he was doing nothing except shooting the breeze with a couple of teammates.
The dejected youngster walked away and the arrogant player spit on the ground, then continued talking about nothing with his chums. Maybe it was an isolated incident and that player was a jerk of a human being, but I’ve never forgotten that scene and will never root for the University of South Carolina in anything.
That’s right. If South Carolina had a ballgame today against Al-Qaeda, I’d probably root for Al-Qaeda. Well, not quite that far but you get my drift.
Decline and Fall
I’ve never considered sports stars to be idols or heroes, and tend to cringe whenever those words are used to describe these celebrities. I once read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and one of the key messages in the book was that the Roman public literally worshipped their athletes.
The common citizens adored their gladiators, and lavished chariot racers and other sports luminaries with huge amounts of money and privilege. Sound familiar?
Ted Williams
Now, let me turn this blog around. I once was in Florida watching spring training baseball and met Ted Williams, who the media historically characterized as a despicable cuss. I found myself only steps from the retired slugging great and not many people were around, so I took a shot at asking him for his autograph. I’m not an autograph seeker by any means, but Ted Williams is Ted Williams.
“Mr. Williams, could I please have your autograph?” I asked with nervous trepidation.
“Yeah, sure. You got somethin’ to write with?” he answered.
I had a small notepad and a blue pen in my pocket, and he signed one of the notepad pages. Ted Williams isn’t my hero or idol, but he proved to me that sports celebrities can at least be role models if they want. All it takes is a little effort.
Shh, Movie’s Starting
I’m movie illiterate – I haven’t seen a movie in eons, because I really don’t enjoy them. Maybe I have a short attention span, but if a movie starts slow or sags at any point, my will to keep watching gets crushed like an ice cream cone under an 18-wheeler.
However, I’m taking a vacation soon and my list of relaxing things to do includes watching the DVDs of Citizen Kane and Napoleon Dynamite, both for the first time in my life. Several people have long told me that I must see these movies, so I’ll make the monumental effort and get it over with.
But before all that, my son Andrew has somehow wheedled me into taking him to see the new Cars 2 movie, which apparently debuts this weekend. I guess he wants some dad time and even though I dread films, I’ll go with a positive attitude because I sure don’t want to disappoint the boy.
Not like that South Carolina ballplayer did.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Many who like sports also enjoy the violent aspect of the games. I do.
The controlled mayhem of football, the brawls of a championship boxing match, the hitting and fury of a playoff hockey game. Sports can appeal to the primal beast in us.
The now-infamous Wednesday night riots in Vancouver following a Stanley Cup playoff hockey game has garnered plenty of negative commentary internationally about the fans of Vancouver. Someone wrote that Canadians love hockey so much that it takes precedence over all facets of their lives, including civilized behavior.
Watching scenes of Vancouver residents rioting that night was like watching war footage from the Middle East. Ten guys beating up one guy, mobs flipping over trucks, fans throwing newspaper stands through store windows, looters wearing goalie masks, rioters throwing tear gas canisters back at police – those are images I’ll remember for a long time.
I’m sure alcohol along with anger over hometown Vancouver losing to the Boston Bruins had much to do with the violence, but even if you’re drunk and mega-outraged that your team lost, shouldn’t you still have enough human sense to keep yourself under the slightest of control? I mean, CNN reported that one innocent guy on the streets was wearing a Boston jersey and got stabbed in the neck, and is still in critical condition today.
I had a violent experience years ago in a Detroit bar when a fight broke out while a packed house watched playoff hockey on TV, and I suddenly and unwillingly found myself in the middle of escalating mob chaos. One maniac rooting for the opposing team pulled out a knife and started slashing wildly at everything, and cut my left forearm badly. I still have the scar today.
I guess my point is that crazed sports fans have a different mentality than people in normal society. I’ve always heard that Vancouver is a beautiful and progressive community, but whenever I think of that city from now on, memories of riot videos posted on YouTube will be what I think of first.
Trivia Pursuit
Speaking of sports, today Vanderbilt opens the 2011 NCAA College World Series vs. North Carolina at 1 p.m. in Omaha. Win or lose, Vandy will always be part of a trivia answer.
Question: Who were the first 2 teams ever to play a College World Series game in the brand new TD Ameritrade Park baseball stadium in Omaha?
Answer: Vanderbilt and North Carolina.
So go, Vanderbilt, go. I sure hope you win. But if you don’t, I won’t storm into my garage and flip-over my truck, then light it on fire.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Soapboxy Today

Why didn’t Google draw a graphic about Flag Day on its search engine home page yesterday?
You’d think these days when patriotism and our military are often on many people’s minds, Google would have observed such an occasion. I guess they only recognize things like Mozart’s 255th birthday. Last week, they even devoted two days to celebrating guitarist Les Paul’s 96th birthday.
Two days for a birthday? His mother must have had a difficult delivery.
Law of Average
I’m watching Judge Judy last evening and there were four commercials for slip-and-fall lawyers during the half-hour I watched. I read a couple days ago that Chinese universities are currently graduating 1,000 engineers for every 100 lawyers, while the United States is graduating 1,000 lawyers for every 100 engineers.
The U.S. falling further behind in math, science and engineering? I rest my case.
Khloe Who?
My wife likes any reality show with the Kardashian sisters in it, but I have trouble watching because they all have such nasal, whiney voices. However, I have seen enough of them to know the only reason why they are such a money machine.
The Kardashians owe their entire empire to one distinct-and-famous body part on Kim. I honestly believe that. I’d bet my ass on it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Wikipedia defines serendipity as when someone finds something they weren't expecting to find. It means a happy accident.
A past blog mentions me motoring along a freeway at 75 mph one morning, and my engine totally died. I was able to maneuver my fast-coasting pickup from the left lane to the right shoulder, then called a tow truck.
A similar incident occurred this past Wednesday evening as I was barreling home in the fast lane, and the engine completely shut off. Traffic wasn’t too heavy so I cautiously switched two lanes to the right and coasted as far as I could, looking for a safe place to pull to the shoulder and bring my vehicle to a halt.
But while I was coasting and continuing to decelerate, I noticed in the far distance that a vehicle had already pulled to the side of the road – maybe 300 yards ahead of me. As I got closer, I recognized what it was.
It was a tow truck. How serendipitous was that?
I finally guided my pickup to a stop right behind the tow truck, then exited my vehicle and walked up to the driver’s side door. The guy was shocked to see me as he rolled down his window.
“Yeah?” he asked in total confusion.
“What are you doin’ here?” I inquired.
“Uh, a cop just pulled me over for speedin’ but only gave me a warning,” the driver answered. “Why? What’s it to you? Who are you?”
“My truck just died – I’m right behind you,” I exclaimed, pointing at my disabled truck as the driver looked in his rear view mirror.
“You’re kiddin’,” he said. “Do ya need a tow?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Let’s go.”
So the guy hooked up my truck, then hauled it and myself 15 miles to my mechanic. The tow still cost me 70 bucks, but the whole experience sure was serendipitous.
‘Dore Prize
I can relate to Chicago Cubs baseball fans because I’m a long-suffering Vanderbilt University sports fans. The Commodores compete in the powerful Southeastern Conference against teams like Florida, Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, Georgia, Auburn and Kentucky, so Vandy teams and their fans must perennially endure the cruel foulness of fate.
But the ‘Dores have a great baseball team this season, and are actually on the verge of qualifying as one of eight universities that will travel to Omaha next week for the 2011 College World Series. Vandy will be Omaha-bound if they can win just one more qualifying game, either tonight or tomorrow night at home against Oregon State.
So, c’mon Vanderbilt. Throw this dog a bone. Don’t tear out my heart again – I don’t know how much heart I have left.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


The ground is being laid for my own madness and torment.
Maybe a bit dramatic but I’m getting a little down about this publishing quest.
“It’s an impossible market right now. Just keep trying,” says my wife, Jenny.
When this whole unknown adventure began March 8, 2011 with my first five mail-outs to prospective agents, I charged into this endeavor with the determination of a riled rattlesnake. But today on June 8, three months into this wild ride that I will officially deem derailed on March 8, 2012, I am feeling lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut. That’s low.
There are a few blips of hope. I sent the first 30 pages of my manuscript to a Hollywood agent who contacted me a few weeks back, then sent 50 pages in early May to a Los Angeles agent. I mailed two packets to New York in April, plus gave my entire manuscript to a girl I know in Nashville who has a friend who knows publishers.
But my optimism currently resides in a ghost town – there’s a tumbleweed feel to it. Then, I get a letter from Richard Curtis, an agent in New York:
I’m not in a position to commit to your project because my current roster of established writers requires enormous investments of my attention, service and resources.
But here’s a tip for you that I don’t normally tell others. Try contacting the Association of Authors’ Representatives, check out their website at, for agents who might help you. I hope you get published.
Richard Curtis
I’ll check out the site this weekend and start mailing-out more packets, which I haven’t done in weeks. Somebody once told me to strive for the top because the bottom is overcrowded. I need to start striving again.
Wii Bowling
The Journal Communications company I work for has organized a Wii bowling tournament, with the bracketed competition beginning this coming Monday in our open conference area that’s equipped with a large plasma screen. The winner will get a paid half-day off.
My Wii bowling average is about 200 so I inked “Kevin Litwin” onto the signup sheet, and expected maybe 6-8 people to join up. But as the tournament nears its start, a whopping 24 employees will be competing.
And my gosh, the trash talk has begun in earnest – mostly from the 16-or-so women participants. Kristy “Kick Butt” Duncan has already declared that the tournament is hers.
Well, anyways, I’ve got to get back to work. No, not putting together manuscript packets to mail to agents. I need to go practice making my spares.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Yes & No

Yes, I like writing.
Yes, I also wish that I enjoyed the other parts of this whole book-publishing process. But no, I don’t like putting together query letters and packets of my book’s first three chapters, then mailing or e-mailing them to prospective agents. I don’t even like corresponding with agents once they contact me.
I’ve actually got a couple of e-mails from agents that I received a few days ago but haven’t checked them yet. I’ll wait until tomorrow when Sunday ushers in a fresh week that I hope will be sweeter than a Pacific Ocean breeze. Strange? Yes, but that’s how I roll.
BTW: My Wednesday blog will update where this whole agent-searching process is right now. I’ll open my e-mails and all other correspondences by then.
What’s in a Name?
Friends Gerald and Karen say I never offer any tidbits about Crazy Lucky Dead, so here’s one. There are about 25 fictitious characters in CLD, and all of their names are connected to people and situations in my life.
For example, one character is William Screen, named after my brother-in-law Bill who owns theaters. A character Andrea Neese is named for my niece, Andrea, and there’s even a police officer named Lt. Andrew Josephson – after Andrew Joseph, my son.
There’s Jenny Booker named for my wife Jenny, who is a librarian/teacher, and one character is Jenna Redd for my daughter, Jenna, who has red hair. There’s even a frightening scene in the novel that takes place on Lorens Street – my boss where I work is Natasha Lorens.
Tim Sousley
A part-time newspaper reporter and friend – Tim Sousley – died last Sunday after falling off the roof of his house. Tim’s full-time job for the past 25 years was teaching technology and second grade, so his death is that much more unfortunate because not many men nowadays are teachers at the elementary school level.
Besides teaching, Tim also worked many weekends for the Columbia (Tenn.) Daily Herald primarily covering sports, and I first met him 10 years ago on the sidelines of a Spring Hill (Tenn.) High School football game. I covered the games for a Spring Hill newspaper and Tim was great with statistics, and he always handed me a sheet of his official game stats once he compiled them after each Friday night game – even though we worked for rival newspapers.
Yes, Tim Sousley – a good reporter and a good guy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


My dad and I once saved a lady from a burning apartment building.
I was reminded of this two days ago as I drove along a busy road and suddenly saw a house on fire in the near distance. Luckily, the fire department had arrived and looked like they had things under control.
My own fire incident occurred one morning years ago when my father was driving me to high school, and we noticed fire billowing out of a small window on the first floor of an apartment building. My dad, with no hesitation, whipped the car into the parking lot and then sprinted toward the fiery unit, with me on his heels.
He immediately kicked in the picture window and yelled to a woman who was inside screaming and crying. She apparently couldn’t find an escape route because of thick black smoke that filled the apartment, so my father kept beckoning her to the window and she followed his voice to the opening.
My dad then grabbed her arm and yelled for me to help hoist her out to safety, which we did. The fire department arrived quickly thereafter and an ambulance rushed the middle-age lady to the hospital, where I assume she recovered.
My father, being a humble man, told me to hurry to the car and we eventually sped away while noticing that TV news trucks were arriving on the scene. Nobody but me ever knew of my father’s heroics.
Pizza, I Do
Most grooms don’t have much say in the planning of their wedding. I remember that I wanted 10 people at our wedding and my wife wanted 200, so we had 200.
That’s why I’m impressed with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo for stepping up and choosing the menu for his Memorial Day wedding to model Candice Crawford. Wedding guests never had a choice of chicken, steak or fish – the couple instead had a full pizza buffet bar.
Talk about taking all the guesswork out of wedding food. There were 600 people in attendance with many of them being humongous football players, and those big lugs were probably happier than vultures eating road kill as they piled their dinner plates high with mounds of toppings-loaded pizza.
If Romo would have chosen cream- and jelly-filled donuts for dessert, it would have been the dream wedding of a lifetime.