Friday, December 18, 2009

I'll Be Seriously, Wicked Famous. Soon. Very Soon...

Though I will be sitting humbly in the shadow of the great and powerful BECKY RULE, the television show I taped with her in September as part of the NH Author Series is finally going to be aired. You should clear off your calendar, warm up your favorite TV seat, and start popping popcorn now. As far as I know, there is no other place in the world that you will be able to hear Beck Rule say "Boogah" with her lilting, melodious Yankee accent. In fact, if memory serves me, we spent a lot of time discussing boogahs. I'm not sure why, but that seems to happen frequently when I talk to people. It is also, as far as you know, the only time I have ever worn make up.

This once in a lifetime event will be broadcast twice on NHPTV, because, frankly, once in a lifetime simply isn't enough.

You will be able to witness this glorious spectacle on December 27th at 9 pm and  again on December 28th at 8pm. After that, it will be streaming online, dribbling across the internet for all eternity.

Of course, I'm going to recommend that you tape the show and then watch it every day thereafter, as well.  Commit it to memory, then you will be able to reenact it for everyone you meet in case they didn't see it. If they did see it, you can ask them to join you in reenacting it. It will be a delightful performance for you to share with your friends, relatives, and random strangers you meet in the street.

My suspicion is that the show will be the most watched television event in the history of the universe. Fifty years from now, you don't want to find yourself  being asked by your great grandchild, "Did you see The Event?"

And you'll have to say, "No... Um... I was... well... actually, I was watching a rerun of Spongebob Squarepants."

Then you will have to face the heartbroken disappointment welling up in the eyes of your precious grandchild as his soul is shattered into a million pieces and he loses all respect for you.

Seriously. Don't risk it.

And, by the way, as I don't actually have TV, could somebody tape it for me?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holiday Cheer With Steve

I have mentioned in the past, the thrilling musical shows that I do with my buddy, Steve Blunt. I have also spoken warmly of Steve's whimsical habit of varying the set list mid performance. Typically, he will casually sidle up to me between songs and whisper, "I have a great idea for a song to do here. You don't know it, but just follow along. You'll get it. No problem."

This habit of his keeps my toes curled with excitement.

And by excitement, I mean soul blistering panic.

We were hired to do a show of holiday songs at the public library in Fremont, NH last night. Steve decided to eclipse all our previous efforts at glittery musical extravagance. We scheduled a rehearsal for Wednesday at Steve's house, but the 14 inches of snow we got that day made unnecessary travel something to be avoided.

Personally, I did not find traveling for rehearsal unnecessary, but Steve is a big-time, hot-shot musician who laughs in the face of musical challenge. The musical challenge in this case, is me.

So yesterday morning, mere hours before our grand holiday gala, Steve emailed me a set list comprised exclusively of songs I have never played before.
Reading the list filled me with with a warm glow of gut-wrenching holiday horror.  When dressing for the performance, I selected stain fighting clothes specifically for the inevitable barrage of tomatoes that the audience would no doubt be armed with.

We arrived at the library early and took our time setting up so that we were left with 20 minutes for a leisurely rehearsal through 60 minutes of music I had never played, including one song on a musical instrument called "BoomWhackers". They are loads of fun and produce a delightful musical tone when you strike Steve over the head with them. The problem with the BoomWhacker song was that it required Steve and me to play actual notes together, as part of the same composition. He also decided it would add to the excitement to invite a kid from the audience to play part of the song, too.

I thought that was a brilliant idea, because when I messed up, I could blame it on the kid. Sadly, as it turned out, the kid he picked was great and left me no opportunity for blaming my mistakes on her.

We practiced as diligently as we could for 20 minutes, then opened the floodgates and let in the crowd. As they settled into their seats, we regaled them with stirring renditions of "Deck the Halls" and "Chorus of the Bells" played on jaw-harps. Really, nothing says "Merry Christmas" like two guys drooling through their jaw harps.

We then went right into Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, with me wailing away on my harmonica.
Occasionally, things go wrong in performances. I think that is actually why so many people enjoy live music. There is always the very real possibility that something will go dreadfully wrong.

Being a drummer, I am woefully ignorant about music in general.  "Me hit things." about sums up my musical aptitude. By the time we were a few measures into Rudolph, even my drum-damaged, musically impared ear could tell that something was very, very wrong.

Steve stopped playing and laughed a merry "Ho Ho Ho!" He looked over at me and I crouched to make a smaller target for the inevitable barrage of tomatoes. "I'm in the wrong key!" Steve laughed.
"Ha Ha Ha!" I laughed, wondering what the heck a key is.

I know, in theory, that songs come in different keys. I also know that when the instruments are not in the same key, they sound awful. Even worse than Hannah Montana or The Jonas Brothers.


So Steve made the adjustments he needed to make and we carried on. The audience was wonderfully enthusiastic and we wound up having a great time. I think the audience did, too, as I didn't get hit with a single tomato.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Holiday Decorating Tips from the Pros

Basically, the tip is:
Don't do what I do.

My attempt at showing holiday cheer, emulating Rudolph by sticking tree lights up my nose, was met with less enthusiasm from my family than I had anticipated.

To make it even worse, Kerri wouldn't touch the lights afterward and I had to finish stringing them on the tree all by myself.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

No. I'm not on Facebook.

I'm not on Facebook and somehow I still manage to wake up and face each day, carry through, and do what needs to be done. I know. I know. It seems impossible, but it can be done.
Somehow, in the face of my extreme deprivation of not having a Facebook page, I am alive. I will go further and suggest that I am actually thriving.
Friends are constantly imploring me to get a Facebook page so we can stay in touch.
"We are talking right now," I will point out helpfully.
"But other people you know could find you easily," the friend will argue, making a swift tactical shift in his efforts to crumble my Facebook defenses.
"If you do a quick Google search for my name, I am the first choice. I have a web site and a blog, both of which tell people how to contact me. Easily. Plus, I'm in the phone book." I counter brilliantly.
I will then try to shift the conversation in another direction, often employing some shock and awe method designed to confuse the friend and get him thinking in some other direction.
"Hey," I will say to the friend, "Want to go visit my duck?"
"You have a duck?" the friend will say.
"Yeah. Its name is Duck. It's a brilliant name because it's descriptive, simple, and easy to remember."
"You could show people a picture of your duck on a Facebook page," the friend will say.
"Or we could just step outside and see the actual, real-life duck," I will say.
"And then you could tell people about it on your Facebook page," the friend will suggest.
This leads me to my biggest problem with Facebook: The idea that people now seem to think everything they do is worthy of announcing to the world.

No, the irony of me posting this point on a blog is not lost on me, but this is MY blog, smarty-pants.

My wife is on Facebook. So are all my friends.
So is my mother.

I've seen the updates people make:
"I'm washing the dishes!"
"It's cold out. I'm putting on a sweater."
"Mummie wuvs her wittew puppies, yesss she does..."
"I'm bored."

Frankly–and I'm sorry here, my friends–I just don't care.
I love you all, but I don't feel the need to get a written notice every time you clip your toenails or eat a cookie or break wind.

And the little things my wife gets like this:

"Some random person who went to the same elementary school as you challenges you to a squirt gun fight."


Or the slightly more disturbing:

"Someone you took a class with in college once, but don't really remember, sent you a hug."

Keep your creepy cyber-hugs. Send me a dollar or a cookie or a gift certificate for my favorite pizza place.

Compounding the desperate situation in which I find myself–being the last human on the face of the planet not on Facebook–I further ostracize myself from members of my species by:
1. Not owning a cell phone.
2. Not watching television.
3. Never, NEVER, NEVER shopping at Wal-Mart

"But... HOW do you survive?"  my friends ask as they check the messages on their cell phone one more time, just in case someone more interesting has tried to contact them in the 8 seconds since they last checked.

I do other things. I write. I paint. I read. I draw. I bike and hike and talk.

So, if you want to be my friend, don't bother trying to add me on Facebook or sending me a cyber gift or a cyber hug or a stupid smiling kitten picture. Send me an email or a letter. Draw me a picture. Take me out for a pizza. Come visit my duck.
Just turn your cell phone off first.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Not so creepy anymore!

Here is the completed watercolor painting of my son, Alex. This is the end result of the eyes that I showed a few posts ago. I love doing these portraits. I think that sometimes people are surprised (shocked, astounded, aghast?) at how much I charge for these.
I'd like to take a moment to point out that this took me weeks to do. And, in fact, my prices are actually lower than many portrait artists I've seen out there.
I'd love to do more of these portraits in the future and I know you'd love a picture like this hanging on your wall. Or perhaps laminated and used as a placemat?
How cool would that be? There's more information on my website. Go check it out. You know you want to...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Or even some really scary kids.

Part of my job as a really, really famous author is to go visit schools and talk about being a really, really famous author. My brother has helpfully pointed out to me that I make more money talking about what I do than doing what I do. To extrapolate on that theme yields the result that talking about what I do is doing what I do. I don't know where that would leave the writing and the artwork, so I prefer not to wander down that dark mental alley.

Visiting schools is always a lot of fun for me. I get a chance to show people how I write my books and how I create the artwork that goes into them. Sometimes I do writing workshops with students and teachers. I love those because I get to share my passion for writing and I don't have to correct any papers after.
I also get a chance to answer questions.
That's when things get really thrilling. Especially when I visit a kindergarten class.
I usually don't have kindergarten come to my presentations, but occasionally, I will go to their classes and read a couple of books to them.
Then I ask if they have any questions.
They always do. Here are a few of my recent favorite kindergarten questions:

"I go to bed at 7,  but sometimes I eat Pop-Tarts for dinner."

"My father works in Boston."

"I love you. What's your name?"

"When is snack?"

And, my all time favorite question asked by a kindergartener:

"Do all wrestlers drive trucks?"

"You bet they do," I told him, "Big red ones. With thumping stereos and giant tires."


He was happy. And I presume I'll see him in the ring some day, sweating and grunting and throwing his opponent around before he drives home in his shiny, red truck.

My first job out of college, with a teaching degree clutched tightly in my hand, was as a kindergarten teacher. It was a summer program and I was able to last for almost a whole month before I teetered dangerously close to the cliff of insanity. I was obviously not built for kindergarten in large doses. I love visiting their classes now, though. Because I know that, no matter how scary those kindergarteners might be, I can visit with them, make them laugh, and then escape!

Typically, I find that things go very well with the older kids, too. Even the ones who start out being too cool to listen to a lame-o picture book writer usually have a very good time in my presentations. Possibly because I remind them frequently that they are out of class and not currently taking a math test.  That makes me look cool to them.
Either that or my shiny red truck.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Or A Horse. A really, really scary horse.

You passionate, devoted followers of my blog (I'm sure there are millions of you) know that I did a portrait of my neighbor's daughter in exchange for a really cool go-kart for my son. Actually, as a funny side note, I get lots of people coming to my blog because of the label "really cool go-kart". Imagine how disappointed those poor people must be.
"Hey!" They cry, their eyes welling with unshed tears, "This blog isn't about really cool go karts! It's not about go karts at all! I've been lied to!"

Just to keep it interesting, I think I will label this post with the  go-kart tag. It will be fun to see if they come back.

"Ah Ha!" they will say, licking their lips in anticipation of finding out about really cool go-karts, "Now we're talking... What?!? Again!?! AAAAAARRRRRRRHHHHHHGGGGGGG!"

But then they will look more closely and they will see that there is more to life than really cool go-karts. There is more to life than even lame go-karts.

There are horses!

Personally–and please don't get all up in my face about this– personally, I'm not a big horse fan. Honestly, they frighten me. Horses are big and powerful and could, should the mood strike them, stomple me to a pudding and eat me.

I have been assured by many people that horses will not eat me (nobody, I note, has assured me that horses won't stomple me into a sort of lumpy Marty-jelly). And I reply that just because it hasn't happened before in the entire history of human experience, does not mean that it won't happen now. New, unprecedented things are happening all the time. And when the first horse decides to eat its first person, I do not intend to be among those present.

Which leads me to my daughter, who loves horses and is among those at the forefront of the movement to convince me that horses are peaceful, Gandhi-like creatures who would never, even for a moment, consider eating me.

Possibly because I'm too gristly.

My daughter takes horse riding lessons from my neighbor at Toad Hill Farm and is entirely, clinically loony about horses. Something, I'm afraid we will never see eye to eye about. And speaking of eyes, have you ever seen a horse's eye? They are huge and frightening and always seem to be looking at me with an aim toward deciding just how I might taste. Perhaps with some barbecue sauce.

I have also had my parenting skills called into question about this. "So," my sharp-tongued friends will say, "You think horses are these terrifying, death-dealing monsters, yet you allow your fragile, sweet eight-year-old daughter to ride them?"

"Sure." I reply.

And why not? I'm the one that's terrified of them. Not her. If she wants to risk her life riding one of those slavering man-eating monsters of the pasture, then good for her.

To that end, the same neighbor who traded the terribly dangerous go-kart for a portrait of her daughter has also agreed to allow my daughter to pet, care for, and ride the dangerous horses that swarm over her entire farm like... like... evil swarming horses.

So that's why I had to do another portrait. At the top of the post is my most recent portrait, created in exchange for a chance for my daughter will be allowed to continue risking life and limb with these terrifying land sharks of doom.

Yee Haw!, Tori.  Have fun.

I'll be waiting at home.

Under the bed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Hope you didn't already get that tattoo...
I'll be speaking at The Keene State Children's Literature Festival on OCTOBER 30th next year.
Not November 30th.

I seem to be calendar disabled lately.

If you already got my name and the wrong date tattooed on your forehead, I'll consider still giving you the free books I promised in that previous post.

We'll see.

I'll also be posting some ideas for the Marty Kelley tattoo contest very soon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Just a quick posting. This is a watercolor portrait I'm starting of my son. I tried painting just the eyes first. I don't normally work that way, but it seemed like it might be fun to try. It looks really creepy with only eyes finished.

So. Yeah. That's it. Just wanted to share.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Wanna hear something really cool?
Seriously super cool?
You do, don't you?
You might want to sit down for this.
If you are sitting down, stand up and sit down again.
Really. Do it.
It's that cool.

It's official. I'm going to be a presenter at the Keene State Children's Literature Festival next year.
How cool is that?
(Answer: Super Rockin' Cool!)

Every year David White puts together an incredible festival with presentations from some of the best known authors and illustrators in the world: Caldecott winners; Newbery Award winners; and other various hotshots who have won big awards. So why was I chosen to be a presenter, you ask?

I have no idea.

But that's not the point. The point is, I was!


Other presenters next year will be : Susan Cooper, Paul B. Janeczko, Chris Raschka, and Jeanette Winter.

At the risk of sounding like a pathetic sycophant, I have dreamed of presenting at this festival ever since I attended my first one a dozen years ago. Now I have that chance!

Mark your calendar for October 30th next year. In fact, go out and get a tattoo on your forehead with that date on it. While you're at it, get my name and a picture of me tattooed there, too.

And because I'm so excited about this, I'll make a special offer. Anyone who shows up at the Literature Festival next year with a genuine, real-life Marty Kelley tattoo (no, scrawling my name across your ankle in magic marker does not count, smart guy; I'm talking about a real tattoo) will get a free autographed set of my books and a free copy of each of my future books. If your tattoo is cool enough, I'll put you in one of my books.

Come on. You know you want to.

So go. Now. Get a rockin' Marty Kelley tattoo and then go register for the festival.

I'll be looking for you.

Ahhh, and, in case you were wondering, the owl painting up top was donated to the Keene State Literature Festival's owl collection. It's hanging as part of a permanent collection of owls donated by some of the greatest illustrators in the world. Like me!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Now they are Famous

Hooray, Hooray, Hooray!
As announced in a much awaited previous post, the winners of the "Gee Your Hair Looks Terrific, Marty Kelley Contest" were Oliver and Olivia.
That was a very odd coincidence, I must say.
They have both fulfilled their sacred duties and sent pictures of themselves with the books they won.
Oliver already had a copy of The Messiest Desk, so chose to donate his copy to his school library. See how happy that librarian is?
Olivia got to keep her copy and now she is famous AND has a free copy of my book.
What could be better?
Keep your eyes peeled for a new contest whenever I can think of one.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fail 2.0

Yesterday was a thrilling day filled with music, laughter, tasty food, and unimaginable personal humiliation.

Steve and I were busy with two performances. Our first gig was at St. Joseph's Hospital in Nashua. The hospital has occasional community outreach programs to let people know that you don't need to wait until you are desperately ill and coughing up internal organs to come to the hospital. You can come for some family fun, too.

After the hospital show, Steve had to grab some milk at the store. True fact: Even Rock & Roll superstars like Steve Blunt like a tall glass of milk now and then. As we were exiting the grocery store, we passed a beautiful young lady entering the store. She saw me and her eyes lit up and she stopped and gave me an effusive greeting. "Hey! How are you?" she asked. Steve was very impressed that I was being greeted by such a lovely young lady.

I totally panicked. I didn't recognize her and I mentally scrambled for a few desperate seconds trying to place her and not wind up looking completely foolish. I failed.

I feel that I must offer some feeble excuses and explanations for what happened next.

Excuse #1 - I was with Steve, at an unfamiliar grocery store in Nashua. I was out of my element.

Excuse #2 - When I'm with Steve, we tend to talk a lot about visits and performances we have done. From that mindset, I assumed that she was a teacher at one of the many schools I have visited. It happens on rare occasions that people will come up to me in public places and say hi, explaining that I had visited their school. It's always flattering, but I visit a lot of school. Try as I might, I can't remember everyone.

Excuse #3 - I am a dork.

She continued to chat amiably and comfortably for a few more gut wrenching seconds. When it finally became clear to me that I was not going to be able to figure out who she was in time to save any shred of self-respect, I broke down and said, "I'm so sorry. You're going to have to help me out. Where do I know you from?"

She stared at me, aghast. She cocked a hip to one side and gave me an incredulous look. "You've got to be kidding," she said, "I'm related to you."

Excuse #4 - It has been quite some time since I've seen my cousin, Christine.

So, the beautiful young lady was my cousin. I got it then, and I feel the need to emphasize the excuses I put forth before. I had not seen her in some time. I have been old and ugly for a long time, but these kids grow up and change and, doggonit, it's hard to recognize them sometimes.
She was not in her usual habitat (so, really, as she was not in a place where I expected to see her, she should have worn a name tag that said "Hello, I'm Marty's cousin, Christine.")

So, properly humiliated, I introduced her to Steve - who, I might mention, thought this amazing social gaffe on my part was one of the funniest things he's ever seen - and we chatted for a few more minutes and went our separate ways.

Steve and I drove off to his house where we ate sandwiches and contemplated what a total bozo I am and whether Christine might ever be able to forgive me. The sandwiches were tasty, but the forgiveness is still somewhat up in the air.

Our next big show for the day was at WERS, the radio station at Emerson College in Boston. with the taste of sandwich and humiliation still in my mouth, we drove down to the studios and started setting up.

Last year, Steve invited me to perform on the same radio show and it was a lot of fun. We were to be on the air for about 15 minutes, during which we would play a few songs and shamelessly promote our music, books, and upcoming events. While we were setting up and doing sound checks, one of the students who run the station came up to me with a paper and a pen. "You've got to read this and sign it, please," he said.

It was a sort of contract, assuring the station that I would not use any foul language while on the air. Considering that we were on a family show called "The Playground", and cutting loose with a barrage of obscenity would be a sure invitation to commercial and professional suicide, the contract seemed somewhat superfluous.

My favorite part of the contract was that fact that it not only warned against foul language, it provided dozens and dozens of specific examples of unacceptable vocabulary. The scope and specificity of the list was breathtaking. As a result, the contract I was was signing to prevent me from using obscenities, was full of more foul language than any printed document I have ever seen in my life. It had words, phrases, and combinations of words and phrases so exotic that they seemed to be a foreign language at times. It was really a good read and I should have asked for a copy, but I didn't think of it in time.

After we had assured the lawyers that we had no intention of filling the airwaves with naughty words, the host of the show, Andy, came into the studio and we went on the air. We chatted for a few minutes then went into our first song. Steve, I have mentioned in previous posts, likes to keep me on my toes by adding new songs to our sets mid-show and changing songs during performances. Things were rolling smoothly during our first song, Steve was strumming and singing, and I was banging on the djembe drum. As we neared the end of the song, Steve evidently decided that things were too easy for me and I was having too much fun. He made the executive decision to change the ending of the song. As a result, he suddenly stopped playing while my drumming continued for a measure or two until I realized that the song had ended.
"Hey, nice ending, there, Marty." Steve pointed out.

I was sad that I had signed the language contract then, because it had given me much verbal ammunition that I could have fired at Steve at that point. "Ha. Ha." I laughed, "I was having so much fun, I didn't want it to end."

After the show, we scorched our digestive tracts with some delicious Indian food and made our way homeward. Our next gig together is also in Boston. We'll be at the Read and Romp on November 14th. If you see us, come up and say hello.

If you are related to me or are someone I should know, please wear a nametag.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Listen TONIGHT!!

My buddy Steve Blunt invited me down to Boston tonight. We're going to play a few songs on WERS (88.9 fm) at 6:00.
You should listen because there is always the thrilling possibility that I'll goof up a song live on the radio.

Stay tuned!

Friday, October 23, 2009

And the winners are...

Yeah. So the teeming millions I was hoping might swarm the bookstores to compliment my hair did not materialize. In fact, of all the people who did come, only one knew the secret phrase. One other lucky contestant sent in an absentee compliment so effusive that I couldn't resist.
Seriously. That's a lot of work.
So I've decided that there will be two winners.

Oddly, they are Oliver and Olivia. What are the chances?

Thanks for playing. Your books are on the way.

Remember - now you need to send pictures of the winners gloating and reveling in their glory.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

And now a word from our sponsor: ME.

You know that extra cash you have lying around in great heaping piles all over your house? It's a pain.
I know that.
And I want to help.
If you have always wondered what you or a loved one would look like as a famous piece of art, here's your chance to find out. I'll be happy to do one of these drawings in exchange for some of that messy, ugly cash that's cluttering up your house. These can be hung neatly on the wall, so you won't even trip over them. They can also be used as gifts for loved ones or very fancy place mats.
I do pencil and watercolor portraits. There are lots of examples on my website. You can contact me for more information or to get in line for one of these.

This drawing is my pal Soup. She hasn't even seen the real drawing, but just knowing that the drawing exists makes her a much happier person.*

*I have no idea if this is true. I'll check with Soupy and let you know.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


It finally happened.

I failed. Big time.

Look closely at the post just before this one. You will notice that it says I will be at Gibson's Books in Concord for a book signing at 3:00 pm. On my calendar in my studio, it says I will be there at 3:00 pm. On our calendar in the kitchen, it says I will be there at 3:00 pm.

The thing is, the book signing was at 10:00 this morning, while I was busy watching my son's soccer team lose.

I got home to a slightly urgent sounding message from Deb, the event coordinator at Gibson's saying that she hoped I was on my way.

Only, I wasn't.

Of course, the only option available to me was to panic. I did that brilliantly.

I called Deb and explained that I was a bonehead. She did not argue the point, but was so polite and gracious that it made me feel even worse. She said that there were books that people had bought, eagerly anticipating that I would sign them, thus making them worthy of hawking on EBay. She asked if I had some time next week to stop by and sign the books.

45 minutes later, I was at Gibson's signing books and apologizing excessively and effusively. Deb was still unfailingly polite. I'd like to tell myself that it was only a thin veneer of politeness and the fact that she was at work that kept her from twisting my head off, but I don't believe that. She is just a genuinely nice person, and I am a dope.

I brought along a framed original painting from Winter Woes for the store as a small gift of apology, but I still feel like a chump.

To make the whole thing worse, this was slated to be an event with myself and another author and another illustrator. When we originally set the date, we agreed on a date and time after a flurry of emails. Deb contacted me a few days later and said that she was looking at my website and it appeared that I was already booked someplace else on the date and time we had agreed to.

Um. Yeah. Bonehead.

So we all had to scramble and reschedule, because I goofed.

And then, after all that, I didn't even show up.

So. You know... I have another book signing at the Toadstool in Milford on October 17th at 4:00. Or is it 10:00?

(Note to self - it is 4:00)

I'll try to be there.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Win Some of My Stuff

I'm trying something new.
Something devious.
Something nefarious and underhanded and duplicitous.

Perhaps my thesaurus got the better of me there. I am going to try something new, however.

I have a couple book signings looming in the immediate future. I will be at Gibson's Books in Concord, NH on Saturday Oct. 10th at 3:00 pm and at the Toadstool Bookstore in Milford, NH on Saturday Oct. 17th at 4:00 pm.
I would dearly love for them to be incredibly well attended and to that end I am offering up an opportunity to win some of my personal stuff.

Not personal like underpants. That's nasty and, most likely, illegal.

What I had in mind was a chance to win one of my books. I'm going to make this really easy, but it's only available to you, lucky readers of my blog. I suppose you need to reap some sort of benefit from slogging through all these words I splash about up here.

So here's the deal: My Contest. My Rules.

To win a copy of one of my books or a CD (your choice) you must:

1. Come to one of the booksignings mentioned above.
2. See me at the book signing and announce, in a clear and ringing voice, "Gee, your hair looks terrific, Marty Kelley."
3. Give me your name and address (so I can mail you the book or CD if you win).
4. Promise to send me a picture of you, with your prize, that I can post here so that everyone will be really jealous of you and you can make your friends think you're famous or something.

That's it.

Good luck.

Now I Must Be Wicked Famous

This is a very short one. Just wanted to place the biggest link ever made to a great article that Sarah Earle wrote about me in last Sunday's Concord Monitor.
Thanks Sarah!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Come Give Me Your Money

I can't think of a better way for you to spend your Saturday than by swinging by The Toadstool Bookshop in Keene to visit me tomorrow afternoon.

I'll be signing copies of my books and you can buy dozens of copies and re-sell them on E Bay and make a fortune. I ask only that if you do, in fact, make a fortune, you remember me and buy me some cookies or a new car something.

I'll be there at 2:00. You'll recognize me because I will be the only guy not getting in trouble for writing in books.

Come on down. And don't forget those cookies...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Am I Wicked Famous Yet?

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend my 12th wedding anniversary with another woman.

But not just any woman - I spent it with Becky Rule: The Moose of Humor and a live TV audience who came to see me be interviewed by Becky for The NH Author's Series at UNH. Becky is a wonderfully funny and entertaining host and she made the whole experience much less frightening than it could have been. She and her daughter even recommended a great restaurant that I could take my wife to after the taping. It was called Dante's or Diablo's or Chez Satan or some vaguely threatening sounding place. It sounded good, but we wound up getting chinese take-out at home. (I'm a romantic fool like that.)

While the day was thrilling and exciting in spite of the fact that I had to wear make-up, I can't say the whole process went flawlessly.

A post I put up the other day mentioned Tracey Lauder, the ASSISTANT DEAN FOR LIBRARY ADMINISTRATION AT UNH.

Yes, a title like that deserves all capitals. She should get to wear a cape, too.

What you are not aware of is the fact that in my original post, in a brilliant display of typing and editing prowess, I spelled her name wrong. She called me and very delicately let me know about the mistake and I corrected it.

A follow up email from her just moments later thanked me for the correction and pointed out that I had also spelled the name of the library wrong (it is "Dimond", not "Diamond" and I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I spelled it correctly and the entire University of New Hampshire spells it incorrectly - please fix that) and that a link I included in the posting might not be the best one.

I was delighted to have been able to make such a wonderful first impression.

I fixed those mistakes and asked Tracey to make sure that there would be no on-air spelling test administered during the interview. While she never actually agreed to that request, imagine my shock and horror when, mid-interview, out of the blue, Becky asked me how to spell "booger". There had been much talk of boogers during the interview (I'm not sure why I tend to have that effect on conversations) but I had clearly been lead to believe that no spelling tests were to be involved.

It is fortunate that I am a professional at spelling "booger", and did so without hesitation. I was even able to supply Becky with the alternate yankee spelling "b-o-o-g-a-h".

Of course, I will be contacting my lawyer about this grievous personal affront I have suffered. As soon as I find a lawyer, that is. I'll bet one of those guys who advertise on daytime TV would be all over this.

Adding to the trials and tribulations of the whole affair was the complete absence of cheese and crackers. Becky assured me in an email that cheese and crackers were always served at these events. I emailed several friends and relations about the interview, and with the promise of free cheese and crackers, was able to lure many of them to Durham to attend the taping.

I had to face a hostile crowd of former friends and angry relatives when they found out that only cider and coffee and tea and delicious cookies were available for their grazing pleasure.

"Where are the cheese and crackers you promised?" screamed the angry mob as they ran me out of town, chasing after me with torches and pitchforks that I strongly suspect were supplied by that caterers in an attempt to divert attention from themselves.

Oh yes. They'll be hearing from my lawyer about this. I've seen these lawyers on TV and they have impressive rows of books behind them and a flashing toll-free number scrolling across the screen. That's a sure sign of brilliant legal council. I'll probably own UNH by this time next month.

Despite the spelling test and the substitution of cookies for cheese and crackers, the whole event was a lot of fun. I was delighted and honored to have been asked to attend.

I won't tell my lawyer that, of course.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Steve Tried to Kill Me!

I have written several times in previous posts about my buddy Steve Blunt.

Today he invited me to his house for a "nice little bike ride".
Those were his words.


I arrived at about 11 this morning and by 1 was eagerly awaiting death's sting. His "nice little bike ride" was a 25+ mile endurance test of pain, suffering, and more pain. Followed by a bit more suffering and punctuated by a little more pain. I do a lot of biking and typically 25 miles would be a long, but very manageable ride. What kills me about riding with Steve is the grueling pace he sets. He seems to operate under the misapprehension that I am some sort of biking hot-shot whose only desire is to leave other bikers in his dust. This is not true. I only do that when I'm biking with little kids, because it makes me feel like a tough guy.

Steve paces his rides to match how he imagines I ride, and I suffer for it. I spend the first 15 minutes chugging along and chatting and having a delightful time dodging the traffic through Nashua. As most of the rides I take are through the rolling, verdant pasture lined roads of rural New Boston, I find the multiple lanes of speeding traffic coursing through Nashua an energizing thrill.

There was a time, many years ago, when I was attending art school in Boston, that a favorite pastime of mine was to venture out on my bike into 5:00 rush hour traffic on Boston's main thoroughfares. That was years ago, and though I find that I don't bounce back as quickly as I used to from catastrophic collisions, there is still a tingle of a thrill when a driver roars past me, leaving a half a centimeter between me and his right front bumper.

By the time we had gone about 10 miles, I noticed that it was hard to talk to Steve, both because I was using all my available oxygen for other purposes (namely, remaining alive) and because Steve was several hundred yards ahead of me.

We slowed up a bit when we entered Beaver Brook (a delightful conservation area suspiciously devoid of beavers or brooks) and I was able to prepare for the ride back to Steve's house, which was brutal. I would not admit this at the time, but Steve threw his chain twice and I was delighted at the opportunity to stop and take a quick break while I watched him work.
I am proud to say that I made it all the way back to Steve's house without throwing up a single vital organ.

I don't consider my spleen vital.

Steve made all amends with a delicious Sangria and some tasty lunch comestibles. After lunch, Steve showed me his new didgeridoo (which he can actually play - he is amazing) and a tiny clay djembe drum that he was given as a gift. Naturally, we broke into song and his suburban Nashua neighborhood was ringing with the tribal beats of our drumming.

His daughter came home from school and said she could hear the drums from several streets away. My secret hope is that the neighbors were in fear of a takeover by some hostile native tribe. I figure that would distract them from the comical sight of me panting and heaving like an overheated buffalo in Steve's driveway.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I'm going to be WICKED famous!

It all started with a phone call from Tracey Lauder, the Assistant Dean For Library Administration at UNH.
What struck me first is how much I really wish I had an excellent title like Tracey has. She sounds very impressive rattling off that post-script to her name.
I can say, "Hi. I'm Marty Kelley, the guy who writes stuff and paints pictures", but it seems kind of weak.

When Tracey introduces herself to people, I'll bet they give her some respect and attention. When I introduce myself to people, they give me their pity and, if I'm lucky, their spare pocket change.

I'm working on a new and impressive title for my position, but it's not easy. I need something that will fill people with awe and, possibly, fear. Marty Kelley, Creator of Alternate Realities for the Mind and the Eye would probably do the trick, but seems to be a bit too grandiose and possibly overstating the case a bit. I'll keep at it and let you know how it goes.

I need to have a good title because Tracey asked me to be on television and I want to be able to impress people. She asked me to be part of The New Hampshire Authors Series. The trouble, you see, is that everyone they have ever had on the show is an author. I need to stand out from the crowd and the only way I can see to do that is to have an awe-inspiring title. Or some amazing super power, but that isn't working out too well for me, either.

Tracey explained that the author originally scheduled to be on the show was my friend Mary Lyn Ray, but she was unfortunately unable to make it. I wondered if Mary Lyn knew something I didn't. Perhaps she, like me, had been on television before and suffered greatly at the punishing hands of the media gods.

My one previous attempt at television stardom came when I was asked to be on a local cable access children's show that featured me looking like a moron and, more often than not, looking into the wrong camera, as well.

I was supposed to go on the show with a handful of my books, read them, explain a bit about my work, be witty and photogenic, and not look like a total doofus. It was the last of these at which I failed most miserably. My jokes, which tend to work adequately enough when I actually have an audience, were shown to be somewhat lacking by the deadpan camera crew who stared blankly at me and talked to the control room on headphones. Since I couldn't hear the control room, I assumed the camera people were talking to me and at several points in the show, I appear to be talking aloud to the voices in my head.

Unstable lunatic is not the impression one most wants to give on a children's television show.

I was also not enough of a seasoned television professional to be completely unmoved when, in the middle of the taping, one of the camera operators suddenly staggered from the room and began vomiting. The director signaled for me to continue, but I'm fairly certain that the look of shocked horror on my face betrayed my lack of experience with such situations.

I'm only fairly certain because I haven't yet been able to get through more than the first thirty seconds of the DVD of the show. It starts off with me looking earnestly into the wrong camera and doesn't show any immediate signs of improving.

Tracey assured me that I will have fun on her show because it has a live audience (who, presumably, will not vomit en masse) and because I will be interviewed by Rebecca Rule, The Moose of Humor. Another person, I feel compelled to point out, who has a cooler title than I do. Becky's title is well deserved as she is a very funny lady (though suspiciously unmoose-like in appearance and demeanor) and she has the most wonderful New Hampshire accent you will ever hear. I could listen to her say "over there" all day long. I've seen her speak on several occasions and have always thoroughly enjoyed it, so having my own personal chat with her in front of a live audience ought to be a special thrill.

An email from Becky highlighted that fact that there will be free crackers and cheese served to the audience to keep them happy. I am not so scrupulous as to be above this sort of bribery, but I personally would opt for free wine or a keg or even personal Prozac packs so we can eclipse happiness and head directly to blissful euphoria. I'm sure the crackers and cheese will be a big help, though. Unless it makes the audience vomit like the camera guy.

The taping will be at 2:00 on September 27th (my wedding anniversary, if you care to know) at The Dimond Library at UNH in Durham.

Admission is free, as are the crackers and cheese. You need to register, though, so they will know how much cheese to have on hand, I suppose. You can register here.

Hope to see you ov-ah they-ah, as Becky would say.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The End of an Era

Last week marked a passing. Not like a passing of gas, but another sort of passing–one that is far less satisfying.
I performed my last two library shows with Steve Blunt. It has been a lot of fun doing these shows with Steve and I'm sure we'll be doing more together in the future. Steve is a dedicated performer and, I am compelled to add, a really decent guy. I have learned many things during the course of the summer and I've compiled a short list so I may share my knowledge with the masses.
  1. When asked to clap along with a song, children cannot keep a beat.
  2. Neither can adults.
Actually, I guess that's about all I really learned. It just sort of fascinates me, as an alleged drummer, to watch seas of people attempting to clap along with a song. I suppose that anyone passing by thinks the audience is applauding wildly, so it makes Steve and me look better.

We decided that, in true rock & roll fashion, we should end our summer tour with a bang.

Or at least a soggy squish.

On Wednesday we had a gig in Meredith, a lovely town nestled snugly along the crowded shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, a lake whose name, I'd like to mention, is almost impossible to spell.
Steve thought it might be fun to make a day of it by renting kayaks and paddling around and generally frolicking in the water before the show. Two grown men frolicking about like goons tends to raise suspicions about their mental competence, so I brought my kids along for cover.

The whole day went surprisingly well considering Steve was the only one among us that had ever been in a kayak before. We managed to remain in an upright position and we were not taken out by any of the millions of motorboats that go roaring across the lake every few seconds. We even commandeered a tiny island and used it as a private swimming spot.

After a quick lunch at a nearby park, we raced to our gig and arrived only a half hour later than we had planned on. My extremely poor choice of clothing (a t-shirt with the comical, but incredibly inappropriate "Life Is Crap" logo) lead to my having to wrap a towel around myself and change clothes in the library parking lot. My fear was that a freak gust of wind would snatch my towel away and a I would be the cause of a certain amount of negative press for Steve and myself.

I changed without calamity and we did what was probably our best show of the summer. Sometimes, they just feel good. This show was relaxed and a lot of fun. I can't say we've had any bad shows, but some of them just seem to really go perfectly. After the show, they served ice cream to the kids outside which reminds me of something I need to add to the previous list:

3. To clear a room FAST, offer free ice cream somewhere else.

I'm going to try this at school visits when the crowds are milling about and another group is waiting to come in. I will announce, "Your teacher has ice cream waiting for you in your classroom." With any luck, I will be able to escape before the teachers can arm themselves.

On Thursday, we had our last show in Hooksett, which is much easier to spell than Winnepisaukee. My drive to Hooksett has the dubious distinction of being the drive where I have taken the most wrong turns. I do a LOT of driving. I drive all over the place to go to presentations and I'm generally pretty good with a map, but Hooksett go the best of me. What really bugs me is that I knew where the library was (sort of) I just tried some different directions and got profoundly mixed-up.

I eventually found my way there and we had a good show. There was a big crowd and the librarian was obviously familiar with my third rule of shows because there was free ice cream offered and Steve and I were able to pack up crowd-free. I actually do enjoy meeting and talking to people after the shows.
One of my favorite meetings occurred earlier this summer after a very crowded, hot show. After the crowd had thinned to nothing and we were almost done packing up, we heard footsteps tromping up the 3 flights of stairs that led to the room we were in. A young girl bounced through the doors and held up her tightly clutched hands.
"I brought something for you guys!" she announced.
In each hand she had 3 sweaty, crushed french fries. Steve looked at me and smiled. Steve is evil. He eagerly took the fries from her and ate them. Then he turned to me. "Those were good, Marty. Are you going to eat yours?"
In Steve's own words, I am somewhat "freaky about my food". The translation is that I try to eat organic food when possible, I prefer not to eat processed foods, and I would sooner gargle toenails than eat those 3 sweaty, mangled french fries.

I took the fries from the girl and thanked her politely. Then I pointed to my bongos at the far end of the room and asked her if she could possibly get them for me. She happily bopped across the room and I threw the fries out the window.

Which leads me to the final thing I learned this summer:

4. If a kid gives you a french fry and you throw it out the window, make sure the kid's dad isn't standing directly below the window.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

High Heat in the High Hills

Last Tuesday, as the temperature soared to a brain bubbling 90-something degrees and the humidity made it feel as though you were living in somebody's old, but recently used gym sock, Julie and I hiked another mountain.

Is there a better way to beat the heat than by strapping on a heavy backpack full of water and granola and hauling your sorry, sweaty self up rocky trails? Frankly, yes. A cool, refreshing beverage (preferably with a little pink umbrella and several tinkling ice cubes) served poolside sounds about right. But Julie is stark-raving insane and I'm her friend, so off into the hazy gray yonder we went.

We climbed Mount Pierce, a 4,000 footer in the Presidential Range and named, obviously, after former president Jimmy Carter. What struck me first about this hike was the fact that the parking lot was full. This is a rare occurrence.

When Julie and I go hiking, there are typically very few cars in the trail-head parking lots. Most of the cars that are there are the vehicles of people from Massachusetts who have mistakenly wandered into The White Mountains to "Do a little hiking and get back to nature." We often see them stumbling past us on the trails, their high heeled shoes broken and flapping off their ankles and their make-up running down their cheeks, headed for their cars and grumbling about the fact that there are so few places to get a Dunkin Donuts Mocoolattachino on the trails.

Most people have more sense than to willingly hike mountains in the first place. I figured that surely, as Tuesday was so hot that furry woodland creatures were exploding in fiery balls of fur, we would at least have the luxury of sweating ourselves into strips of human jerky in relative privacy. It turns out that the trail we were hiking is like some sort of superhighway for freaks who actually find joy in hiking when it's so hot you can hear yourself sweating.

Our trip up the mountain was punctuated by a brief stop at Mitzpah Hut, an Appalachian Mountain Club outpost where, for the small price of about a hundred dollars a night, you get a bunk in a room filled with several sweaty, snoring strangers who share your passion for being sweaty in the woods.

We took what might generously be referred to as 'the scenic route' when we left Mitzpah Hut, heading off down the wrong trail toward another, and far distant mountain. It was the steep decline of the path that made us think we may have made a slight navigational error.

"My, my, Julie," I observed. "This is the easiest summit ascent we have ever made. This gently rolling, mossy path headed downward certainly makes the hiking a breeze."
"Hiking is never easy," Julie answered, "We must be doing something wrong."

And what do you know? We were.

After locating the proper path (easily identified because it was steep and treacherous and towering high into the hazy sky above us), we began to test the limits of human perspiration. We reached the summit and were greeted by hungry swarms of black flies, thirsting for human blood. We had sweated so much that I imagine our blood had thickened to the consistency of milkshakes, giving the black flies a delightful treat and causing them to tell all their friends to give us a try. Which they did. As a brief side note, if you look closely at the picture of me (I am the hairier, ugly one) you will see a strange, blurry form in the sky above my head. That is actually a single black fly about 3 miles away. It had feasted lustily on my blood just a few moments before and had swollen to the size of a 1965 Buick.

On this particular hike, Julie and I decided to try something different. Given the proof of her powers over the animals on previous hikes, we decided that we didn't need to bother packing lunches today. Instead, Julie packed trail-mix and we used it to lure gray jays into our hungry clutches.

After our refreshing lunch of gray jay, we began our descent, pausing briefly at the summit marker so Julie could touch it and have her picture taken at it. She operates under the odd misapprehension that if she doesn't actually touch the summit marker, the hike does not count and she will have to do it over again.

As we approached the bottom of the hill, after passing many pungently aromatic hikers headed for Mitzpah Hut to revel in their mind-altering stinkiness with other similarly olafactorally enhanced hilers, we spotted a small mountain stream with a delightful carved out spot just right for taking a cool, refreshing dip.

Mountain streams have the amazing property of always being frigid. A brief plunge in the water was enough to cramp our toes and cleanse us of all desire to ever swim again. I would have posted a picture, but our fingers were too cold to push the button on the camera.

We slogged back to the car and headed back home, stopping only for the mandatory ice cream cone in Lincoln which melted into sticky puddles almost before we could gulp them down.


We're planning our next hike for sometime in the early fall. I'm packing BBQ sauce for that one.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Not Unless you Have A Really Cool Go-Kart

No. Really. I probably won't do this for you. I mean, not for a Go-Kart. Not unless yours is REALLY cool. Like with turbo boosters and a full 4 wheel independent suspension. Possibly a roof mounted potato cannon and definitely a chocolate milk cooler/dispenser.

I painted this picture for my son, really. It's not him, of course, and he's not going to keep it. Instead, he's going to keep my neighbor's go-kart.

For many months Alex and I had been collecting parts to build our very own go-kart. The goal was to build it completely out of scraps that we could collect for free. I lucked out early and found a guy giving away two broken down riding lawn mowers that we spent many happy hours disassembling with hammers, wrenches, cutting torches and other many implements of deconstruction.

It was fun.

It was not, however actually getting us any closer to actually having a running go-kart.

After many days of sweating and banging and grunting, I decided that we needed to get a closer look at a real, live go-kart. My neighbor, Lin, a local equestrian educator, had a go-kart at her stables. She used it to bribe a local teen to work for her. As far as I can tell, the deal went something like this: You shovel mountains of poop and you can then drive up and down our driveway in a go-kart.

This sort of arrangement, as you might imagine, soon lost its appeal and the go-kart was languishing, unloved, when Alex saw it and was immediately and hopelessly smitten.

He needed a go-kart.

So when our plans were seeming to go nowhere, I called Lin to see if we could borrow hers to take measurements and see how it was all put together. She agreed and then went on to ruin my life by adding, "For $50, it's yours."

Alex and I had been having a lot of fun planning and working together, but I knew that ignorant bliss would carry us only so far. Soon,the cold, hard reality of mechanics would drive us down the highway of disappointment.

(that was a beautiful metaphor)

I wrestled with the idea for a few minutes and then made Lin a counter-offer. "Okay", I said, "How would you like to barter for the go-kart?"
Ever a sport, she asked, "Whaddaya got?"
"Well, I just came back from this week long intensive portrait workshop with the world renowned painter, Paul McCormack. [see older posts for full, exciting details] Would you exchange the go-kart for a watercolor portrait of your kids?"
"My kids? I look at them all the time. I know what they look like. Would you paint one of my horses?" she asked.
"No. I can't paint horses, and don't you know what your horses look like, too?"
She admitted that my powers of persuasion were too great for her and she said that she would trade the go-kart for a portrait of her younger daughter.

While she was looking for a picture, she asked me what I charge for a portrait.

"They usually start at about $500." I answered casually.

I thought she was going to have a stroke.

"$500?!?! I can't make up the extra $450!" she said, clutching at her heart.

(I never asked her to make up the difference–I made the offer and I was happy with it.)

Sad to report that this reaction is all too common. People say they like my portraits and might want to have one done. Then they find out how much I charge and they soil themselves.

The portraits take a LOOONNNG time. I work on most of them for several weeks. If I actually broke it down to what I earned per hour, I'd probably soil MYself. I've spent years and years studying art, drawing, and painting and I take pride in what I do. The paintings will last for generations if treated carefully and in light of all that, I think they are well worth the meager sum of $500.

Or at least a REALLY cool go-kart.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Is This Wedding Actually Legal? Marty Performs a Wedding.

A long time ago, back when I was in Florida getting all educated up so I could be a teacher, I spent almost all of my free time working as a columnist, illustrator, editor, and art director for a college newspaper. It was, I must stress, A college newspaper. Not THE college newspaper. The newspaper I worked for had its humble beginnings at the official school newspaper. It seems that several of the staff members of the official school newspaper were fired, en masse, for some offense so foul and egregious that I never found out what it was. I have my suspicions, but they are based solely on the machinations of my overactive imagination and have no basis in reality whatsoever. If they were even remotely true, the parties involved would most likely have been deported to another country–possibly another planet–rather than having been simply fired.

So these oppressed workers took matters into their own hands and founded their own paper. A paper devoted to the principal that anybody can make a newspaper.

It was shortly after this schism occurred that I became a staff member on the paper, penning my weekly question and answer column, Mad-Dog:Master of the Universe. the simple premise of my column was that people would write to me with some deep, profound question, like, say...

If Ivory Soap is 99 44/100% pure, what is the other 56/100%?

Or, Are there any foods I can eat or drinks I can drink that will allow me to have total control of the color of my urine?

I tackled these questions week after week with the diligence one would expect of someone who was working for free.

During one of our weekly newspaper meetings, which were held whenever Taco Bell had its Deal of the Week, Randy, one of the staff, let us know that he had recently been ordained as a reverend and offered his services to our blackened souls and those of our readers. We, of course, laughed until cheap Taco Bell burritos sprayed across the apartment (and still remain smeared across the wall to this day, I'm sure).

Upon further reflection, we decided that it may prove an invaluable service to our readers if we could absolve them of their sins. This being one of the myriad powers that Randy claimed to possess since his free, instant on-line ordination in the Universal Life Church. Other powers included officiating at weddings, providing funereal services, and condemning people's souls to eternal damnation. We actually never checked on the last one, but it seemed wisest not to push Randy too far. Thus was born Reverend Randy's Corner of Absolution.

I'm sad to report that the good Reverend never had a single sin submitted to him, the entire campus evidently too mired in goodness and purity to be in any need of his services.

My point in telling you all of this is that I was so awed by Randy's many powers that I, too heard the calling and by simply entering my name in the appropriate fields, became one of the millions of official, real-life reverends ordained by The Universal Life Church.

I had not used my powers for evil or for good until recently when my good friends Tim and Katie asked me to perform their wedding ceremony. I laughed until cheap Taco Bell burritos sprayed across the living room. Actually, not true. It was expensive homemade organic guacamole. My ordination might be connected to Mexican food in some cosmic way.

Once they convinced me that they were serious, I did my best to make them see the foolishness of their request. When that did not work, I actually agreed, hoping they would forget about it and come to their senses in time.

They did not.

They continued to assure me that their desire to have me do this was real and not some delusional fantasy brought on by too much spicy Mexican food or its liquid antidote.

With my options for escape nearly exhausted, I called the NH Secretary of State's office and asked if my online ordination was enough to make their wedding legal. The short answer was, "Yup." The long answer was, "Yup. It sure is. Just make sure you sign the license."

I was going to perform their wedding.

The reason this all worked out is that Tim and Katie are wonderful, laid-back people with, evidently, very low standards and dubious taste. I should qualify that. Very low standards and dubious taste regarding who performs their wedding ceremony. In all other matters, they seem very sane and stable. They did have the good sense to provide me with a script, thus eliminating the very real possibility that I would pepper my oratory with words like 'booger' and 'fart'.

The ceremony went beautifully. The reception was great fun. Now, as long as the Secretary of State doesn't call them on their honeymoon to discuss some "irregularities", they'll be all set.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Rock and Roll Life with Steve

Last Monday my buddy Steve Blunt sent me an email that asked if I wanted to go for a hike or a bike ride after our show in Franklin on Wednesday.
My first thought, naturally, was, "We have a show on Wednesday?"
I consulted my calendar and found it blank. I consulted my wife and she was similarly blank. As I geared up to write Steve a bitingly sarcastic, witty, hard-hitting response about his apparent inability to use something so simple as a calendar, I checked the letters I had sent out to libraries.
August 5, Franklin Public Library. 12:00.

My somewhat revised, somewhat less acerbic, somewhat more humble email went something like this:
"Sounds good. I'll bring my bike. See you there."

We arrived at the library–a delightful old building that simply dripped with character–and began loading in our stuff. I've been visiting schools and libraries for almost 12 years now and Steve has probably been doing shows for as long. What I am always struck by during our combined shows is how much stuff Steve has. Drums, microphones, horns, guitar, ukulele, CD's, and all the other paraphernalia that make the world of rock-n-roll the glittery spectacle that it is.

I, on the other hand, have some books, some paper, a laptop, and a projector. I need more stuff, I guess. Steve, on the other hand, needs roadies. Instead of which, he has me. For the meantime, and until I get my pyrotechnics all set to go, I will have to live the rock-n-roll lifestyle somewhat vicariously, absorbing and reveling in as much of Steve's reflected glory as I can.

My favorite part of performing these shows with Steve, and he will hardly believe this, is his almost obsessive dedication to getting the set list just right. The songs we play, the stories we will tell, and the order in which they will happen are, to Steve's credit, something I suspect he considers for about 22 hours a day. He loves what he does and wants each show to be perfect.

I love what I do, as well. However, I need to sleep sometimes. Before each of our shows (usually about 2 minutes before the show) Steve will pull out one of the dozens of note pads he has secreted in his belongings and he will show me the set list he has worked up for the day's show. To my untrained and ignorant eye, it will look strikingly similar to the last set list and the one before that and the one before that... But Steve will have made a few tweaks and changes. He will have reasons for the changes and they will always sound reasonable to me, so I blithely agree.

Then the show begins and Steve will have an inspiration. Between songs he will casually walk over to me and quietly tell me that he has just thought of a great addition to the set list. "I'm going to play this new song that I made up last night," he'll say, "I know you've never heard it, and I haven't quite figured out all the lyrics, but I think it will go really well here. Just play along."

Then he will casually walk back over to his microphone and begin playing a song he wrote the night before and I have never heard. He'll smile at me and silently urge me to jump in and start playing.

In spite of the fact that I am a drummer and thus, musically handicapped in the most profound way, I can usually sit there and pound on a drum in a reasonable simulacrum of competence. When the song is over he will then introduce another song, not from our set list and ask the audience to sing along.

These shows, I must admit, are thrilling to me every time. When I do my own presentations at schools or libraries, I use an electronic slide show to illustrate what I am talking about. I love giving the presentations, but they really don't vary all that much from one presentation to the next. I know what I'm going to talk about in advance and what order I will talk about it in.

A show with Steve is like doing stunt performing. In the words of the immortal (yet still somehow dead) Frank Zappa: Anything, Anytime, Anyplace, For No Reason At All.
And it's a lot of fun.

Sometime, I'll tell you about that bike ride, too.

(I just read this post to my son and he walked away saying, "Okay. Lots of big words you used there." I'll include a glossary next time, Alex.)

Monday, August 3, 2009

White Water Madness - sort of...

If you are not from NH, you must know that this summer we have been under some evil voodoo hex. It has caused so much rain that my socks mildewed. Actually, that may be a function of poor hygiene, but the fact remains that this has not been the sunny, bright summer that one likes to reminisce about in one's dotage. More like the gloomy, gray, moist funk wafting out of a high school locker room.

Noisome, intimate bodily functions aside, we did have at least one bright sunny beautiful day just a few short days ago. I jumped on my bike and zipped around town, delighting in the breeze through my hair, the sun on my face, and the swarms of insects peppering me like birdshot. On my approach home, I have a delightful 4 mile stretch along the Piscataqua River where I can ride in relative peace, soaking in the natural beauty and having only to remain vigilant about the hundreds of cars zipping by–every driver desperate to either get to Goffstown or leave Goffstown.
As I reveled in the beauty of the river and enjoyed the tickly sensation of the thousands of bugs wriggling along my lips and mouth, I saw a kayaker stopped at the bank of the river listening to the music from an annual blues festival that comes to town, um... annually.
Of course, this made me think, "I should bring my fragile children on a life-threatening ride down the churning, rain-swollen rapids of this river in a large, hard to control, inflatable raft!" Perhaps it was simply the giddiness of all the Vitamin D surging through my sun deprived system, but this was indisputably the best idea I had ever had. Of course, the kids agreed whole-heartedly. They're good like that.
We unearthed the raft from beneath the porch, scoured it, inflated it and strapped it to the roof of the car. We dropped my truck off at the proposed end-point for the ride and Kerri drove us all to a spot several miles upstream so we could 'put in', as the pros say. For us, it might be more accurate to say that we dropped the raft into the water and flailed and dived for it as it was whisked away in the current. After scrambling aboard we settled in for what proved to be a delightful sojourn down the river. There were a few bumpy parts that were a lot of fun (save for the crippling pain of bouncing off a rock with my knee) but the rest of the ride was smooth and fun. In the interest of absolute honesty, I feel that I need to post an uncropped copy of the exciting looking picture at the beginning of this post.

The glamor and high excitement is somewhat lessened, I know. The river loses some of its potential as a raging force of nature when you see how calm most of it is. In the background you can see the bridge leading into the fairgrounds where the blues show was being held. You can also see the man who warned us, "There's whitewater up ahead there." then sat back and ghoulishly watched to see if the guy with the two kids careening down the river might wind up on the news that night. "Hey," he could tell his wife, over dinner, "I warned them..."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

First one in the country!!!

Woo Hoo! This is Caleb and Kate. Yesterday, while I was visiting the Conway Public Library, they became the first people in the country (and, I suppose, the entire world) to buy a copy of The Messiest Desk. You will notice how happy they look. That feeling of elation will no doubt last for several decades.*

•You can't get it in stores yet...
•You can't get it online yet...
•You can't even get it by rubbing a magic lamp and demanding it of the genie who appears.**

So how can you be as happy as Kate and Caleb? Actually, right now, you'll just have to be patient until the book gets to book stores. There are going to be giant release parties all over the country, just like there are for Harry Potter books.*** If you want to dress up like Benjamin Putt, all you have to do is stick a plunger to your head. I'd recommend a new one.

*This claim has not yet been tested.
**Neither has this one.
*** Lies, lies, all lies - But please feel free to organize your own release party! I'll bring the cookies.

Friday, July 24, 2009

New Website

3 posts in one day! Do I rock?

Really, do I?

Eh, maybe a little.

So, my website has been totally redesigned and remade. New layout, new images, all that jazz. I'd love any feedback - good or bad - I can take it. Let me know what you think.


Newest Book Now Available!

Waahoo! The Messiest Desk is officially here. I just got a shipment of books from the publisher. Yippie-Ding! It looks pretty good (if I do say so, myself) so I'm going to recommend that you all go right out and order a few dozen copies.
Thank you in advance.

Niagara Falls

We just returned from a fun-filled family trip to Niagara Falls (unofficial motto: "Bring Lots of Money and Leave it Here").
We had a great time and I was relieved not to have to carry around all that heavy money in my pocket for long. Perhaps you remember the scene in The Blues Brothers where Mr. Fabulous is explaining to Jake and Elwood that they don't belong in a particular restaurant because the soup is $#%@&^* $10?
That's nothing. I had to take out a second mortgage to get a refill on my coffee one morning.
Anyhow, it was a great trip. Our hotel overlooked the falls and the floor to ceiling windows afforded dizzying and wonderful views. We did all the tourist things like walking around waiting in line. We actually had to wait in line to leave our hotel on the last morning. (true!) That's how crowded it is up there.
I've decided (though everyone around me has known for years) that I have some sort of anxiety disorder when I'm crammed into a heaving throng of humanity. I really don't like crowds and noise. That's why I live out here in the middle of nowhere and love it.
It was fun seeing the falls again. I made a quick trip out there when I was going to school in Canada, but we didn't have much time then. This time we were able to really appreciate how beautiful the falls are. And crowded. And expensive. Did I mention that?
Seriously. Don't even get me started on the special $85 Breakfast of Despair that we suffered through on one morning.
Too much crabbing here, I think. It was a very fun trip. We all had a great time and the kids were surprisingly unaffected by spending 9 hours in the car each way. We had a lot of fun and I'd recommend the trip to anyone.
Just, don't forget your wallet...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Home and out again...

Since I've been home from New York, one of my children commented on the fact that I actually haven't been home much. Slightly depressing, but all too true.
Home on Sunday night and then a show with Steve Blunt Monday morning. We had fun, but I can't say it was a career defining show for us. We had both been away for several days and still hadn't quite gotten our groove back. The show was for a library, but was held at a day-camp where the eager young campers crammed into a loud room that might be generously described as "acoustically challenging". The kids were very excited and the music was very loud, so from that perspective, the show was a success. Some indoor pyrotechnics would have completed the event to a nicety, but the ceiling was very low and the threat of self immolation was all too real. Though thrilling in the short term, it would require tedious rescheduling of future shows.
More shows, both with and without Steve followed, and yesterday I once again accompanied my intrepid friend Julie up the treacherous slopes of a NH 4,000 footer. The destination was Mt. Jefferson, the third highest peak in NH and, quite possibly, the rockiest place on the face of the planet. After a gentle, though ceaseless, climb along a gently forested trail, we were given a few fleeting glances at the spectacular scenery that surrounded us as the trees thinned out and we were suddenly (and yes, it does happen suddenly) above tree line.

I'm sure that, had the weather been better and had all those pesky mountains not been in the way, we would have had clear views of the North Pole and Melbourne, Australia. The expanse of land, trees, mountains, and tourists on distant roads was breathtaking.
We plodded upward across treacherous winding paths, fending off mountain goats, indigenous mountain people, and evil trolls lurking under craggy rock outcroppings until finally, many weeks later we arrived at a sign that told us the summit was only 0.1 miles away. You can see this sign in the picture of Julie. We were happy then. Happy and hopeful. After another 150,000 miles, we finally reached the summit, our tender spirits crushed; our tender feet blistered.
As we sat to eat our lunches. We relaxed, stretched our legs, and laid back across the rocks to soak up some sun and get a clear, unobstructed view of the roiling thunderheads that were speeding in our direction.
We gagged down the rest of our lunches and considered our options. They were:

1. Get off the summit.
2. Die a hideous death on the summit.

After some deliberation we opted for the first choice and began the slow, tortuous descent down the hill. At the point in our descent where the rocks were at their most treacherous, the rain started to add the additional thrill of "slipperiness".

This is the point where I told Julie that I am terrified of heights. She did not find this information helpful or reassuring, as I had hoped.

After we slid down many sheer rock faces, clenching our respective buttocks to maintain a tenacious grip on the rocks (a technique I do not, in retrospect, recommend) we managed to get safely below tree line.

Then the sun came out.


We made our sodden way down the mountain and headed to Lincoln for our mandatory post-climb ice cream. I tried Dinosaur Crunch. This particular confection seems to have been designed exclusively for the under 5 crowd. From the deceptive name–it contains no actual dinosaur; crunchy or otherwise–to the alarmingly blue hue. A color found nowhere in nature and reminding me more of a race car than of anything a human should ingest. To add a distinct visual counterpoint to the blue, there were near-black globs of a fudge-like substance swirled throughout it. Adding to its textural diversity were a universe of cake crumbs (no doubt swept up from the floor of some second rate high volume snack treat factory).

So while I am glad to be home today, I may not actually be able to spend as much time with my children as I would like. I'll probably spend the day in the bathroom brushing the residual dinosaur flavor out of my mouth. Maybe I'll see the kids next week...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Day 5 - Home Again

Class is finished and I have returned home, if only briefly. I am off to Northfield, NH today to do a show with my buddy Steve Blunt.
You may notice that I did not post a picture today. That is because after several hours of additional work, my painting is not perceptably different. Certainly not in a way that would show up on a low-res online posting. I still have not really had a chance to sit and assimilate all that I have learned from my week in McCormack Bootcamp, but I am prepared to share the secret of Paul's work with any who might like to know.
It has been said that there is a fine line between genius and madness. The secret to Paul's amazing artwork is that he is stark-raving, bark-at-the-moon crazy. Not in a dangerous lunatic, dose him with Thorazine sort of way, though. In fact, I will say again that Paul and Karen are delightful, funny people who are both very pleasant to be around.
When he begins working, though, the true extent of Paul's insanity becomes instantly evident. He sees things. Details so small and nuanced that the average person would need an electron microscope strapped to his face (not comfortable, I should imagine) to have any hope of noticing it. He sees patterns of light, color, and temperature. And he spends countless hours transforming what he sees into art by using the tiniest brush strokes. Strokes nearly imperceptible to the human eye.
Paul is obviously not human.
In spite of his creepy powers of observation (or, perhaps, because of them) and his maniacal, obsessive attention to detail, he is a terrific teacher. If you are all sensitive and can't stand criticism, then I would suggest that you avoid his classes at all costs. If you have problems in your work, he will tell you. He'll help you fix them and see why they were problems. If, however, you are looking to truly grow and develop as an artist, you could ask for no better teacher.*

*Paul, I'll be sending you a bill for this commercial in my blog.

It was a great experience and I hope that it will send all my artwork–even the goofiest stuff–in a new (and with luck, better) direction.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Day 4

So now I'm caught up in my postings, but I have to hurry because there is a show opening for one of Paul's former students tonight. He told us if we didn't go, he's not going to teach us anything else.
I'm kidding. He actually said that if we didn't show up he's going to lock us out of his studio and sell all our supplies on EBay.
Also kidding, people. He wouldn't do that. He'd keep the supplies for himself. He's no dummy.

So today I officially gave up on completing my painting. Don't cry. It's okay. I am going to focus on the area around the right eye - the focal point of the painting. I'm going to try to bring that to a beautiful finished state so the painting will look like an amorphous blob with an eyeball on the middle.

Paul's rendering techniques are unimaginably time-consuming. The results (when he does it) are stunning. I figure I'll do better to try to complete a part with his help rather than scramble to finish the entire thing.

I'll probably do what I said in an earlier post and try to incorporate a few of his techniques in my own work. I'm excited to get back to the painting I started before I left for NY.

I've really learned a lot and I'm eager to see what's in store for tomorrow. That is, if he hasn't sold all my supplies.

Day 3

I know. I know. I'm a day late posting here. I'd like to make it perfectly clear that it is not my fault. It is Paul's fault. We were chatting before class yesterday and I mentioned some sort of fair or something that was being set up in the middle of the town. He told me that it was the annual Roof-A-Thon (?).
What the heck a Roof-A-Thon is, is frankly, entirely beside the point.
The important point here is that Paul told me that Dee Snyder is heavily involved in these yearly events. Dee Snyder, I'm sure you will remember, was the gregarious, make-up clad lead singer for Twisted Sister. If you do not know what Twisted Sister was, I suggest you go back under whatever rock you recently emerged from and quietly contemplate eternity.
So I raced here to the hotel, gagged down some dinner, and raced back to the Roof-A-Thon (not a roof in sight, I may add) where I spent the entire evening gawking at everybody, looking for Dee Snyder.
The happy ending is not coming, I'm afraid. there was no Dee, but I had a delightful evening listening to the bands and admiring all the various biker gangs who were in attendance. It was biker night! It was a feast for the eyes and as an added bonus, I took years off my life inhaling their second hand smoke and exhaust.
So, in conclusion, my failure to post yesterday was entirely Paul's fault and I think he owes me Dee Snyder's autograph or a cup of Dee's sweat or some other memento.
Oh yeah. I did some painting, too.