Sunday, March 25, 2007

Spring is sprung, Mazurka will be published, and Keuka Lake will host a Murder Mystery Tour next weekend.

Spring is well on its way in upstate NY. The crocuses are up (or is it croci?), the lawns are starting to green up a bit, and the daffodils are poking up about four inches in my garden.

Today, one week after our big snowstorm last Saturday, I planted the shell, snow, and sugarsnap peas; golden and red beets, three kinds of lettuce, and the Bright Lights Swiss chard. The ground was still a bit too wet, but we're going to be gone next weekend for the Murder Mystery Tour on Keuka Lake, so I wanted to get them started.

This is the plot I used for the Knight shell peas.

I received some wonderful news this week. Mazurka has been offered a publishing contract by Twilight Times Books, under the Paladin Timeless Books imprint. Mazurka is the third book featuring Gus LeGarde and his family, a European mystery. It takes place in Paris, Germany, Vienna, and the Austrian woods. Gus, Camille, and Siegfried battle neo Nazis and race across the continent while uncovering a link with the potential to change classical music history forever.

Lida Quillen, owner of Twilight Times, will publish Mazurka as an ebook in April, 2008, and the print book will follow. Meanwhile, the print version of Tremolo is due in August of this year. If you would like to purchase it through me, I'd be happy to autograph it for you. Just let me know. Here's my placeholder cover design. Let me know what you think of it?

This weekend should be a lot of fun. Here are the details:

Murder Mystery Tour
Saturday, Mar 31, 2007 through Sunday, Apr 01, 2007
Contact: Keuka Lake Wine Trail
Phone: 800-440-4898

Looking for some April Fool's Day fun? Join the merriment and mayhem at the KLWT's sixth Murder Mystery Tour. A homicide in Hammondsport sends CSI in pursuit through Keuka Lake's wine region for clues to apprehend the culprit. Meet real live mystery writers who will share their findings and thoughts as to "who done it".

Purchase your tickets now by calling 800-440-4898 or visit Tickets are also available at Wegman's. Tickets are $20 per person in advance; $25 at the door.

Hours of Operation: 10AM to 5PM Saturday; Noon to 5PM Sunday

Designated Driver tickets are available at a 25% discount. ***

I'll be selling and signing books at Hunt Country Vineyards on Saturday, and Heron Hills on Sunday. If anyone would like to stop by to say hello or try to solve the crime, I'd love to see you. First prize involves a complimentary stay at the Esperanza - a gorgeous inn overlooking Keuka Lake. If you haven't tried their lobster bisque, you're in for a real treat. ;o)

Take good care, and remember, take pleasure in the little things. Open your eyes. Reel it in. Absorb the beauty around you, whether it's the flash of love in an old woman's eye, or the fragile petal of a new snowdrop (above). Allow yourself to be in that moment, record it in your soul, and when you need it the most, resurrect it for the joy it will bring.

- Aaron

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Hi, folks,

It's been way too long since I've blogged...but I've been living life - a really good thing - and writing. Plus, I've been taking a thousand pictures with my new-to-me Canon Powershot G6. I love this camera! Below is a photo of a "sun pillar." I'd never seen one before, and it captivated me all the way to work.

Daughter Allison moved back home, and we've been having a ball exploring the Genesee Valley Greenway - a system of maintained trails that hosted first the Genesee Valley Canal (1838 to 1878? or around there). We walk on what used to be the mules' towpath. (It was also a railroad for a brief period of time.) Now it's a system of gorgeous, black cinder trails that snakes through the Genesee Valley.

We also had a surprise snowstorm this weekend, and boy, did we play! We had snowball fights, built a fort, and made a tiny snowman. Needless to say, my all-boy grandsons stomped on everything shortly after we made them, laughing hysterically and flopping around in the fluffy snow. It was wonderful!

I'm almost done with my eleventh book, too, called Lady Blues. And I got some really good news about Mazurka which I'll share on the next post.

The photos have really built up, though, so today I'm sharing some of my favorites. Let me know what you think!

- Aaron

Genesee Valley Greenway - walking north from Piffard, NY access road. The sky was so blue, almost cloudless. And the air was crisp and delightful, with temps in the mid thirties. A perfect walking day!

This Pampas Grass was growing in the old prism where the canal used to run. The colony of Pampas and cat-o-nine tails were thriving!

A dried milkweed husk. Everything looked beautiful on this glorious day.

We had two days of 60-70 degree weather, wehre everything melted and flooded! This is usually just woods. Taken between Chili and Scottsville, NY. Four days later, it had receded to "normalcy."

This silver tree bark with the green accents really appealed to me. Smooth as silk.

Julian, Gordie, and I had such fun playing in the snow all weekend. It took many tries to catch this shot - he threw snow in the air and I tried to capture it in flight. ;o)

After two winters in a row without much snow to play in, Julian was REALLY happy!

He wished we had more hills on the property, though!

Gordie and his little snowman, whose life was rather ephemeral.

On our second walk on the Greenway, it was a warm day. We searched for signs of spring while the snow and ice melted around us.

A lonely tree with lots of character - I played with Photoshop here, of course!

This backlit fuzzy stem with the bud shows so much promise. What a great sign of spring!

We actually found green stuff growing, right under the snowpak!

One morning we rose at 5:30 to cross-country ski out our back door. This shot is just across the street as we were finishing up. The sun rose, and the reflection in our tracks was beautiful...

Thanks for stopping by, and don't be shy about leaving comments. I love to hear from visitors. ;o)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Life Lessons: Just Say Yes

Last night, per our usual routine, my two little buddies came upstairs to play with me.

Grandsons are precious. They’re inspirational. Hysterical. Adorable. And they keep me humble.

All day I’d toiled under major stress, frantic about getting data ready for a big presentation. I was beat. Exhausted, really. But I looked forward to my time with the boys, not just because I’m besotted with them and love being their grandfather, but because there’s something sublime in those playful moments when we laugh so hard we cry. It’s rejuvenating. It’s therapeutic. Like a shot of life that helps you bear up against the tough times.

Julian, four, was ready the minute he burst into our bedroom.

“Look, Papa! I have the dinosaurs!”

He brandished the “sharp tooth” and the “three horn” with pride. Gordie, three, followed him by seconds, reaching for the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

“I want that one!” he shrieked.

Julian gave in quickly, tossing the toy to him. But a look of concern soon crossed his face.

“Papa! I don’t have a dinosaur for you.”

It didn’t stump him for long. He rummaged in the toy box, feet kicking in the air, and emerged with a stuffed red lion.

“Here you go, Papa. You can be the lion tonight.”

Satisfied that the problem was solved, both boys hopped onto my bed and began to zoom and crash their dinosaurs into my lion.

“Whoa! Wait a minute!” I laughed. “Why are you attacking me?”

Playing superheroes is a frequent game of ours, with or without toys in hand. There are always bad guys who threaten the planet and need to be dispatched, and lots of flying and tumbling often ensues. But I like to mix it up a bit, and make sure my darling grandsons learn some tolerance, empathy, and altruistic characteristics during our imaginative play.

“I’m the king of the forest!” I sang. They stopped their attacks and looked at me like I was crazy. I kept on, morphing into the Cowardly Lion.

“Don’t pull my tail. Or I’ll cry.”

I’m not sure what got me going on this vein, but soon images and scenes from the movie flashed across my brain and the stuffed toy became the legendary lion from the Wizard of Oz.

I turned him with tail flailing toward each boy. Of course, Julian pulled it, laughing hysterically. I immediately launched into faux tears, weeping and sobbing like a crazed cartoon character.

“You pulled my tail!” I shouted.

And thus the game began. Each boy would incite the action by grabbing and yanking on the tail. Then, when the lion cried, they would comfort him with hugs and kisses.

Our play soon spiraled into bad guys lurking in the corner and coming to get us. After Gordie and Julian leapt into the air with fists flying and feet kicking to “get” the bad guys about a dozen times, I convinced them to hide with me under the red flannel sheet on my bed. What does that say about my manliness? I shudder to think. Anyway…

“It’s a magic tent!” I said to their giggles in the dark. “Nobody can hurt us in here.”

Julian, with his too mature analytical brain, said, “But Papa. This is just cloth. A real sword could cut it.”

“Not in our world, my boy. It’s magic! And now we’re… invisible!”

We got a lot of mileage out of that flannel sheet. Julian especially liked the peephole that was there, courtesy of our puppy trying to bury a bone in my bed the other day. Gordie decided to make the puppy into the bad guy, and then we had someone really fierce to fear. Balto lay on the floor, chewing on yet another toy that wasn’t his, a pretend circular saw that made cool noises like a real one. Each time the toy whirred, we ducked under the magic tent. I told them stories about Dorothy and the witch and the wizard, and couldn’t seem to get the scenes out of my head.

After about an hour of this, I grew weary. I’d been exhausted lately, dealing with the death of my beloved dog (that’s another story) and trying to beat two viruses in a row that slammed me in February. I hadn’t yet regained my usual boundless energy, and knew it was time to say good night.

At least, that’s what I thought.

When I announced “five more minutes,” Gordie ignored me and continued to beat up a stuffed snake. But Julian’s face crumpled and he burst into real tears. Hiccuping, breathless, buckets of tears.

“Papa! I don’t want to go!” he wept.

I held him tight and tried a few tactics, but his little heart was broken and there wasn’t much I could do to fix it. Except to play a little longer.

Hey. I’m the grandfather. I’m allowed to do these things.

So, we played a little longer. Gordie refused to pick up his toys in the end, and sneaked downstairs to his mommy. Julian picked them up with a long face, and as he was leaving, the tears returned.

He wasn’t manipulating me. These were genuine tears of grief. We hadn’t had much time together over the weekend when he’d visited his father, and we both felt a little cheated. I decided to stop, breathe, and just do what felt right.

Pulling him close to me, I whispered in his ear.

“Wanna see a special movie?”

He nodded and swiped the moisture from his cheeks, helping me look for our old copy of the Wizard of Oz. We hadn’t watched it since his mom was a little girl, but of course I’d seen it a gazillion times with my daughters and as a kid. I remembered seeing it the last time we’d cleaned, and after a few minutes, I brandished it with a flourish.

“Here it is!”

I wasn’t sure if four was old enough to handle the scary witch, but I ached to share it with him and decided to take a chance. So we set up it, ignored the hitching and bucking of the screen that came with the crinkled old videotape, and prepared to be mesmerized.

Julian snuggled into my lap. Enchanted, he peppered me with questions. Dorothy began to sing “Over the Rainbow,” and his flurry of chatter stopped for a minute. Halfway through the song, he whispered.

“Papa. The girl is so beautiful. I really like her face.”

I choked up and hugged him tight.

“Me, too, buddy. And isn’t her voice pretty?”

He nodded.

“I bet the witch sings awful,” he said.

A laugh snorted out my nose.

“Well, she doesn’t sing much, but she has a scary voice.”

When Dorothy began to follow the yellow brick road, he started to yawn. And stretch. And yawn some more. So we ended our night, with no more tears, and with a memory I’ll always cherish. Tonight we’ll see more, and hopefully this time Gordie will join us.

The next time your child or grandchild wants more time with you – say yes.

Give in.

Just breathe.

Savor your time together, for the special moments are fleeting and won’t return. No matter what your grownup brain tells you about schedules and rules, reject it. So what if supper is late? Or if you lose twenty minutes of sleep? Or if you miss that movie you were dying to see? That stuff doesn’t matter.

Kids do.

Just say yes. You won’t regret it. I promise. ;o)