Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cued Up & Queued Up: Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Short Fiction Release Schedule

Short Fiction: Fortune Cookie
I don’t think anyone would confuse the amount of writing I do with the word, “prolific.” In fact, I wish I could just step into the zone and write 5,000 words a day five or six days a week. Unfortunately, that’s not me and I have to be in just the right place to write, especially when it comes to fiction. So, it goes.

Still, in 2013, I co-wrote with my son a lovely illustrated children’s book, Sometimes, My Dad and I. My collaboration with the talented Kathie Austin, the Seasons of Hope 2015 Calendar featuring breast cancer survivors, will be available for sale very soon.

In spite of not being able to use prolific to describe my creative output, I have during the past few years completed a number of manuscripts, several of which are short stories. I had planned eventually to publish the short stories in a collection entitled Oedipal Arrangements, which still may happen some day. During the next couple of years, however I intend to publish these manuscripts, most of which are literally already completed and in the ebook queue. I will keep my readers apprised of the official release dates. For now, I just want to give a taste of my tentative release schedule:

Fortune Cookie
Short Fiction
The Doorman
Short Fiction
Tiny Footsteps
Short Fiction
Sex, Dating, & Relationships the Second Time Around: The Single Father’s Guide

eBook, Audio Book
Seasons of Hope 2016 Calendar
Wall Calendar
Six Sigma Student Transportation: A Pocket Guide
Paperback, eBook
Sarajevo Rose
Short Fiction
Untitled Children’s Book
Illustrated Children’s Book
Board Book
Seasons of Hope 2017 Calendar
Wall Calendar
Life Dreams
The Wrath of Flowers
Short Fiction

Readers of The Single Father's Guide Blog may be particularly interested in the April 15, 2015 release, Sex, Dating, & Relationships the Second Time Around: The Single Father’s Guide.

If you enjoy one or more of these genres, I’d invite you to get out your devices and mark your electronic calendars, literally, right now with the release dates. That way, in case you miss the announcements here and on the Matthew S. Field –Author Facebook Fan Page, you'll have a reminder to download!



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Movie Review: Tom Cruise's 'Edge of Tomorrow.'

A Shoe-In for a Razzie Award
So, what do you get when you cross Groundhog Day, Transformers, Tom Cruise, a script that could have been written by a second grader, and an Ed Wood-esque directorial quality? Well, tragically, you get the military science fiction bomb, Edge of Tomorrow. summarizes the film, "An officer (Cruise) finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race. His skills increase as he faces the same brutal combat scenarios, and his union with a Special Forces warrior (Blunt) gets him closer and closer to defeating the enemy."

I won't plan to spend too much time on this because the movie was so astoundingly bad, from beginning to end, vertically, horizontally, and in every other way; Tom Cruise was at his Tom Cruisian worst, the script was painfully dull, the special effects seemed to be based on ten year old technology, and not even the perky Emily Blunt, who portrays Cruise's character's Special Forces bad-ass-chick-love-interest, could save it.

Save your time and money. Skip this one again and again and again and again and . . . 

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Favorite Son Saga: "Where's my free baseball?"

My last visit to CitiField was three summers ago when a friend and I took her oldest and my three to see the Metropolitans play my beloved St. Louis Cardinals. (For better or for worse, I'm a St. Louisan). In spite of the 'Birds dropping the game in the tenth on an Angel Pagan walk-off home run, it was a memorable night, but perhaps even more memorable for The Favorite Son that I realized.

The Favorite Son, yes, but at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri
While The Favorite Son and I watched the Cardinals and the Yankees on SNY on Memorial Day, he reminded me of a funny story about that night at CitiField. It's a story anyone can appreciate, but I think it's a story best appreciated by a father and a son who share a passion for baseball.

TFS:  Dad? You remember that night when we went to see the Cardinals and Mets?

Me:  Yes.

TFS: Do you remember when the game went to extra innings and you said, "Well, I guess we're gonna get some free baseball?"

Me: Oh, yeah.

TFS: Do you remember that I was mad because I thought I was going to get a free baseball?

We laughed about it all over again as we watched the end of the ninth inning of the Cardinals and Yankees game tied at three runs a piece, and Yankees announcer Michael Kay asked rhetorically, "Guess what? Free baseball!"

Friday, June 13, 2014

I, Robot: iRobot Roomba

Isaac Asimov
The Three Laws of Robotics (often shortened to The Three Laws or Three Laws) are a set of rules devised by the science fiction author Isaac Asimov. The rules were introduced in his 1942 short story "Runaround", although they had been foreshadowed in a few earlier stories. The Three Laws are:

1.      A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2.      A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3.      A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. (Source: Wikipedia)

* * * * *

I’ll admit I’m a little conflicted about this review. See, if I write a good review and readers click the link to purchase an iRobot Roomba, well, I’ll get about a $25 spiff from the Associate Program for each purchase. If I write a negative review, readers won’t buy and I won’t make money.
A sell-out, I’m not.
Roomba 560 by iRobot

On June 11, 2013, (I know because I checked my purchase history), I bought the iRobot Roomba 560 in an attempt to eliminate the use a traditional vacuum and to simplify my life. Call it a Father's Day gift to myself. See, my then girlfriend has a couple of Roombas. I saw them work and I said, “Hey, I should get one of those.” Although’s retail price for the Roomba 560 is now $399, I’m pretty sure I paid $349 a year ago.
The idea is for this little, disc-shaped, robotic vacuum to pretty much clean without much assistance of a human. We, the humans, program the thing to run out and suck up all the dirt and stuff from the floor, ideally at a time when we’re not home, and then go back to a dock where it charges and awaits for its next programmed order. All we, the humans, supposedly have to do empty the dirt bin after Roomba has finished. Well, Roomba ownership entails a little more than that, like cleaning the brushes occasionally, but that's is allegedly about it.
Well, this human has had a few problems with his Roomba.
After just a few weeks, Roomba would stall in the middle of the floor and it would announce in a didactic female voice, “Error,” and then list some reason.  Typically, the error was the result of  Roomba being stuck on a piece of floor transition wood between rooms. However, when Roomba stopped for no apparent reason, I literally had to disassemble the robot and not just clean the hair and dust from the brushes and the cams, but also to remove the gear boxes and clean the debris there, too. In no time, I became a robot mechanic, which sort of defeated the purpose of saving this human single father time. 
When the Roomba’s maintenance needs exceeded my mechanical skills, I contacted iRobot customer service, which I freely admit was perhaps the most supportive and professional I’ve ever experienced. Ever. The customer service agent, who was polite and empathetic, perhaps even bordering on superfluous, diagnosed the problem with my Roomba 560 as a need for an AeroVac Bin filter upgrade. As accommodating as the customer service agent was, the cost of the upgrade, about $35, was the responsibility of this human.
Roomba worked well with the new component, but after another couple of months, it began simply to stop in the middle of the floor after it had worked only for a few minutes. Roomba noted, “Error. Move Roomba to a new location,” but there was nothing that had impeded Roomba’s movement. By this time, I’d had enough of Roomba and didn’t bother to diagnose the problem. Rather, I re-familiarized myself with my Hoover WindTunnel.

The Single Father’s Roomba 560 Review
Can be programmed to operate at convenient times.
Dirt bin has to be emptied after every use by human.
Customer Service is incredible, perhaps the best in the history of human existence. May be, in fact, supplied by an artificial intelligence.
Brushes and cams have to be cleaned regularly – weekly or more, by human.
Returns to charging base by itself.
AeroVac dust bin has a tendency to fall off requiring  human to play hide and seek to find it.
Side brush does a pretty good job cleaning corners.
Easy for cams, brushes, wheels, and even gear box to become jammed with debris.
Human owner of Roomba must become a proficient robot mechanic.
Frequently, gets hung up on threshold transitions and rugs or get stuck under some furniture.

Recently, I've gone back to Roomba. Time hasn't been a luxury I've enjoyed recently and the thought of spending an hour or two disassembling and cleaning Roomba in exchange for little or no time savings in the future hasn't been a trade I've wanted to make. But, finally, I did take Roomba apart, cleaned the brushes, cams, wheel wells, and used compressed air to blow the dust out of literally everything, and Roomba has worked as promised now for about a week. (Human fingers crossed).
Scene from the Will Smith film, I, Robot, adapted from Asimov's short story collection of the same name
If making me crazy qualifies as harm or injury, well, it appears Roomba has broken the first of Asimov's Three Rules. Since Roomba also doesn’t want to do as it’s instructed, the second rule is also busted, too. Frankly, by its failure to do the things it’s built to do, it has also compromised the third because I’m about to drop it out of my third floor window.
Look, I'm not really a Luddite, but the bottom line is this: I can’t recommend Roomba to single dads or to anyone else.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Hope for Happiness

Cover: Seasons of Hope 2015 Calendar
Regular readers of The Single Father’s Guide Blog and friends who are connected with me through social media have come to expect a degree of personal integrity and sincerity in the things I write. In other words, I try to "walk the talk." To those who’ve paid attention may have already suspected, but it was Lon Tytell’s story in a local paper last week and other write-ups about the Seasons of Hope 2015 Calendar, which the talented photographer and terrific lady, Kathie Austin, and I combined our talents and created. Lon’s article and other stories have referenced our planned October wedding. More than a few people have stopped me and offered their congratulations and I felt obliged.

About two weeks ago, Kathie and I ended our personal relationship.

As I alluded here and in The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, intimate relationships can sometimes be complicated enough without the additional variables of blending a family that would have included one, two, three, four, five, six, seven children whose ages range from seven to seventeen, the remodeling of a 145 year old home, selling another home, the logistics of relocating, our own professional careers, and managing an albeit very civil and constructive relationship and child visitation, but still the additional dimension with Kathie’s ex-husband, Brian Austin who, by the way, is truly a great guy and a sensational single dad. Add the normal stresses and challenges of any personal, romantic relationship and, well, it just turned out to be too much.
Welcome to the Monkey House: The Seven

Considering Kathie and I are both creative, opinionated, and strong-minded personalities, those “normal stresses and challenges” were far from normal. In addition, a relationship with a widower single father (WSF) isn’t a walk in the park. There are entire books, websites, and even Facebook pages dedicated to the subject of dating a widower.

In any case, I love Kathie and she will always occupy a special place in my heart. It was Kathie’s effervescent, spontaneous, and loving aura that enveloped me and guided me to address issues of lingering grief related to the death of my wife almost ten years ago. She made me decide, “If you want to have a meaningful, long term relationship, you have to face your demons.” Face them, I did, and for the first time in a long time, I could imagine myself, committed to another person in a genuine, blissful love. For that, Ms. Austin, thank you.

Kathie & Me at the Warwick Valley Expo in March 2014
I wish Kathie nothing but professional success with her photography businesses, Kathie Austin Photography for portraits and Leap Frog Photography for "fun 'n' fresh" school photography. Kathie remains the most talented visual storyteller I know. I look forward to completing our Seasons of Hope 2015 Calendar to create breast cancer awareness, foster prevention, and provide hope to the women and the families who are fresh to or fresh from the battle with breast cancer. Obviously, these issues are close to my heart considering it was breast cancer that made me a widower. A portion of the proceeds will also benefit a family or families, specifically the children, of women who face a breast cancer diagnosis.

Obviously, I wish Kathie only love, peace, and happiness in her personal life, as well. "As you wish, Buttercup."

Friday, June 6, 2014

Eric Clapton & Friends' The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale

The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale
John Weldon Cale, or to classic rock music lovers, JJ Cale, "was an American singer-songwriter and musician who was one of the originators of the Tulsa Sound, a loose genre drawing on blues, rockabilly, country, and jazz influences. Cale's personal styles has often been described as laid back," according to Wikipedia.

Cale died suddenly last year after a heart attack on July 26, 2013. He was 74 years old.

On July 29, 2014, Eric Clapton & Friends will celebrate Cale's musical career in a tribute featuring Cale's songs performed by Slowhand himself and friends including, among others, John Mayer, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, and Mark Knopfler: The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale.
John Mayer: One of the "Friends"

If my readers have paid any attention at all to my blog or books, they already know the formal single father and current legendary rock 'n' roll guitarist is among my most appreciated musicians. I always look forward to Clapton's new music and this one is particularly special due to the subject matter.

The Man in Black also covered "Call Me The Breeze"
In the early or mid-1990's, I picked up on something. Really great songs like Clapton's "After Midnight" and "Cocaine" were written by someone named JJ Cale. Eventually, I figured out Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Call Me The Breeze" penned by Cale. I decided to check out a JJ Cale greatest hits CD. Great tracks like "Magnolia" and "City Girls" were an unexpected and powerfully mellow. I loved it. Of course, the collaboration of Cale and Clapton on The Road to Escondido was pure ear candy. Typical of the collection, the track, "It's Easy," effortlessly combines a great melody, story-telling, and raw humor.

I've already listened to Clapton's cover of "Call Me The Breeze," which FM radio stations will start to play very soon. I've also pre-ordered my copy of The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale. Do yourself a favor; click the link to order yours, too.