Monday, February 27, 2012

A Running Trail Littered With Bodies, Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, And Other Observations From A California Trip

Back from California, with a Hodge-podge of Rants

-Reading on vacation is so much different.  It just is. I am reading A Clash Of Kings and it is an  incredible piece (I call it Game of Thrones, part two). Not so much the prose but the plot and the characters and the vast world George Martin created. Bring on the HBO series.

As much as I love kindles I hate that I can't see what people are reading as I walk through airports and spy readers on airplanes. I always generate backstory in my brain about their lives when I see the title someone is reading, but now all I can tell is they have a kindle. Plus, seeing the title of a book in someones hands is a great conversation starter (slash) annoying excuse to be intrusive.   

The planes of Spirit airlines make noises you don't hear anywhere else, and the seats look like they were torn from a 1979 Ford escort

Out on some runs in California, and it confirmed to me that the best way to see and discover a new area is while you are on a run. Your eyes will see things different, and you'll uncover things  that would have otherwise remained hidden. I stumbled out of my hotel at 4:30 one morning (jet lag) and found a sweet beach area by following a path alongside the highway.  The path was littered with bodies, literally littered with bodies and shopping carts. It was a haven for the homeless, and they all had staked their claim along the side of the path and under bridges while this running dude darted between them. It was early and about 55 degrees, so they were just shadows and huddled in their blankets, still sleeping in the darkness.  Being cautious means I took one headphone bud out of my ear so I could hear any sudden movements.

It was too dark to see, but the smell of the salt in the air as I approached the beach was intoxicating  As I ran out towards the crashing waves I felt like raising my arms in triumph. I had to put one finger in the water to baptise at least the tip of my pointer and prove to my body and blood I had arrived.

Down the beach in the distance was what looked like a huge highway bridge heading from the street out into the darkness, so I ran towards it in a zig-zag, just out of reach of the waves, and as I got closer realized it was not a bridge but a huge pier.  I ran silently as I could down the pier  so as not to disturb anyone up ahead. The deep blue sea around me foamed at the mouth waiting for me to jump in and be eaten. It was as if my finger had just been an appetizer for the rest of my blood which had this strange yearning to just throw myself over the edge and crash into the surf bubbling below. The percentage salt content in our blood is the same as that of the ocean, which always confirms my belief that when we get to the point that earth meets the sea we feel whole again, and our insides yearn to return to their origins.

Yet, I have more life to live, and many miles to run before I sleep, so journeyed on down the pier.

If any fisherman had been up and looking for their morning catch, I would have turned around so as to not disturb their silent sport, but the place was completely empty. The only life aboard was me and a few seagulls, so I ran to the end, went from side to side, filled my lungs with as much of the fresh air as I could, and then back towards the beach. Finally, a few fisherman were at the beginning of the pier, now walking to cast their morning hopes. I gave a little wave but didn't get one back, just some disparaging looks. I was slightly fearful I would never  get back and find the trail in the dark that brought me there, but followed my own footsteps and found my way.  A few miles before home, a bit of the morning light finally brightened the mountain horizons, and men bundled up in big sweaters were summoned from their sleep and carried bags of cans and pushed their belongings in a shopping cart.  I ran gratefully and humbly in between back to my sleeping family who awaited me

That same day, When we got to Sea World at 8:30 AM, thinking it opened at 9 instead of 10, we had some time to kill so I drove back to the same beach in the full light of day with the whole family and danced and ran like silly tourists while true to heart beach bums and surfing rats began their day.

During my runs in California,  Only 1 out of 5 runners I crossed waved back to me. A small sample, but in Michigan I would have easily hit 4 out of 5.

I am going to have to write a novel about zombies or vampires sometime soon, because whenever my brain starts to write, some such monster is always creeping in.

San Diego zoo is all its cracked up to be. The animals just seem happier and are way more interactive. The whole place has a great vibe, and has been engineered with all sorts of twisting levels and pathways for different viewing angles.

That vibe was shattered a bit at Sea World when we paid 14 dollars to park and 40 dollars for four hot dogs, two chips and 2 pops.  Sea world had its moments, and it was great to watch my kids splashed by Shamu, dolphins, and feed some brave sea lions, but was not a must see.

-DisneyLand is like DisneyWorld after it has been smashed in the trash compactor of the Death Star.  Still, we had a great time. We did It's A Small World a total of six times, Pirates of The Caribbean three, tons of other events, parades, moments, and the ride Soaring was incredible.

-My first day back, I had tickets to see Rock Of Ages, a 80's rock musical. Nostalgia looks back with a hue of fondness on everything.  The show treaded this fine line between mocking the same music it was so fond of, and the story of dreams diverted was a bit touching and very comedic, and forced me to look at my days of rocking to Def Leppard with a smirk.  I am glad I went but not on my must-see list.


My novel STRAY has made it to the second round of the Amazon breakthrough Novel Contest! Yipppeeee! 5,000 entries have been narrowed done and 1,000 remain.  The next cut is on March 20th when 750 more will be eliminated. Grand prize is a contract with Penguin and a 15k advance.

Curious about STRAY, check it out here:


Katy S said...

My brother, after he was out of school (late 1970s, early 1980s) took a cross-country trip, which included San Diego and their famous zoo. He got some great pictures :-)

Congrats re: Stray making round 2 on ABNA! Sadly my other book (well, the other book I edited) wasn't so lucky, although it was a terrific book. But you do realize if I get your novel to judge I might have to bow out of the judging of it, right? :-) (As a Vine Voice, and former ABNA judge, I am judging round 2 - wheee!) Good luck, amigo!

Mark Matthews said...

Thanks Katy! Both for the response, and for being the follow up editor to Stray when it needed much cleaning and polishing. (Round of applause, ladies and gentleman, for the reader and editor extraordinaire.)

Since you were the editor, promise if I win the ABNA, I will give you 1% of the advance. Yes, you have it in writing for all the world to see. Of course, with a minimal chance of winning, it's an easy promise to make I realize.
(darn, now you really have to bow out if you get mine, don't you.)

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