The Joy of Sittin’ In – A Black Friday Announcement

There’s a thing that happens sometimes when you go to a bar on open mic night. In general, the guys in the band standing behind that open mic are not super excited. It’s a gig, and it pays, but there’s a very good chance that they’re going to spend the entire night backing up people who shouldn’t even do karaoke, let alone be singing with a live band.

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Steve Hurley is the blonde guy. When I knew him his hair was spikey and he was as likely to be carrying a skateboard as he was a bass.

Every now and then, though, someone gets up there and something special happens, which brings me to a story that happening in Canton, NY in the early 1980’s. The Canton-Potsdam area, at least back then, was kind of a local-band hotbed, and there were some great ones. I suppose it can be partly explained by the fact that the Crane School of Music, part of SUNY Potsdam, is filled with talented musicians, but some of the best bands were made up of “townies” as we locals called ourselves.  The band The Gigolo Aunts started there, for example, led by Phil and Steve Hurley, a couple o’ punks who I grew to love and one of my best friends and co-worker at Maxfield’s Restaurant back in those days, drummer Paul Brouwer. Phil and Paul left the group eventually, but they played first in the bars of Potsdam.

Well, on the night I’m referring to there was a concert played by a band called the Ravens, headed up by a guy who went by the dubious name of Radio Bob and featuring one of my dearest friends on guitar, a guy named John Harrison. It wasn’t officially an open mic show, but they allowed a few people to sit in. My buddy Mark Sherry tore the night apart on harp, and yours truly drank enough beer to get up and sing “Twist and Shout.”

Now here’s the deal. These guys, (not even Johnny), had ever heard me sing before. What’s more, T&S was one of Bob’s favorite songs to sing. So they were taking a chance.

I was scared. I hadn’t sung in public in five years or so, but it was one of my favorite songs of all time, so I stepped on stage. The band started playing, and after the brief intro, I started singing. It felt good, I remembered guest vocalist etiquette and handed off to Bob for a verse, and, even more importantly, I remembered the words.

Afterwards, I was talking to Johnny and he said, “You had your back turned so you couldn’t see, but when you came in exactly on cue and exactly in tune, and then started rippin’ it, the whole band’s faces just lit up. It was magical.”

But this email is not really about music.

It’s about writing books with Craig Hart.

Back in October Craig and I started collaborating on the SpyCo adventure series. He had already written the first volume and gave me the task of writing another. He said, basically, “There are the characters that exist so far, here’s a little background on them. You can use them or not. Create your own if you like.” From those cryptic instructions, (carved onto a wall in a mountain cave in Nepal, so filled with Yeti dung that I could only read a sentence at a time before I had to run back out for fresh air), Assignment: Paris was born, featuring a new character named Perry Hall. I sent the manuscript to Craig, and in his underground bunker in Iowa, he read it, and the whole band’s face lit up.

00sydneySince that time we’ve written two more, Assignment: Istanbul, and the newly released Assignment: Sydney. These two are a little different than Paris, in that we actively collaborate now, through the voodoo magic, (Craig tells me the word “technology” is actually the correct term), of Google Docs, We take turns writing, though to say we take turns writing chapters is not really accurate, as we sometimes pick up where the other left off in mid-chapter, occasionally in mid-sentence.  (True story.)

It’s a little crazy. A little spooky. We have frequently had the same idea about something we might want to try, and our document’s margin is filled with comments like this: “I was just going to say that.” “That’s exactly what I thought s/he would say.” “Yes! Of course, that’s what s/he would do!”

I reader commented on a thread on Craig’s VIP Reader’s page, saying “Sometimes, I can picture the two of you laughing at something Perry said,” to which Craig replied, “We do exactly that.”  (He added an emoji at the end of the comment which decency does not allow me to reproduce here… also “technology” seems to prevent that as well).

The fact is we do laugh a lot while working on these stories. I have actually lost track of the number of times I’ve read something he’s added and laugh so hard that I have to regain control and message him saying, “You have my permission to cut every word I’ve written from this book as long as you promise to leave [insert any one of a hundred hilarious lines here] in!”

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Although I cannot confirm that this is a picture of Craig actually laughing about something one of our characters said, I do know that when he stopped laughing he said,  “Click the link!”

We also laugh (and sometimes shiver a little) when talking about things we’d like to do in future volumes. In one conversation the other night we actually (without realizing it until afterward) worked out rough plot sketches of not one but three future SpyCo adventures. There are times he’ll send a two-sentence message with an idea, and when I read it, the whole band’s faces light up.

So, having told you all of that, I encourage you to click on the link below and be magically [technologically] whisked to Amazon.com where you can purchase Assignment: Sydney for the Black Friday price of $0.99.

 

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Assignment: Istanbul – Official Release

November 15 marked the official release of the third SpyCo thriller, Assignment: Istanbul, by Craig A. Hart and yours truly. This one tells the story of agent Perry Hall and his quest to track down his wife’s killer. The trail has led him to Istanbul, where intel has told him that Flick, who killed Perry’s wife, as well as a fellow agent in Paris, and very nearly Perry himself, has landed after a failed plot to destroy Paris.

00istanbulEarly reviews have been positive, and the introductory price of $0.99 is in effect until the nefarious Mr. Hart sees fit to jack it up to a cool million or so.

Here are some excerpts from the reviews:

“This particular series is fast-paced with great characters. Quite reminiscent of Fleming’s original “Bond books”. Great tongue-in-cheek prose with the requisite beautiful femme fatale all add to a fun read. No spoilers here. Read it for yourself to find out whether or not Perry gets revenge on his wife’s killer. I received an ARC from the author for my honest opinion which is you should really read all the assignments for yourself.”
“Bullets are flying but who is the target? Revenge for the murder of a beloved wife dominates the Spyco agents with assassinations in the forefront. Action sizzles and you can’t tell who if anyone or even Spyco will survive. If you like rapidly moving plots with a new twist around every corner you will love Assignment Istanbul.”
“Another brilliant book from Craig and Scott. Love the Assignments they’re full of action suspense there’s twists and turns galore everything that makes a good book great.”
Can all these people be wrong? I doubt it, though it’s possible.
At any rate, you should grab your copy today, by clicking right here!

Other News

00adventureAs if that weren’t exciting enough, a print edition of the first three SpyCo books is forthcoming. I don’t know about you, but as much as I love ebooks, there’s just something about holding a book in your hand, ya know?
Be sure to check back to find out the release date so that you can grab your copy before your snobby neighbor who gets hers and walks around the neighborhood reading it in public so that everyone knows that she has awesome taste. If you don’t have yours already you’ll look like a poser.

An Open Letter to Tina Fey

Dear Ms. Fey,

I’m writing to you today as a wild-eyed, obsessed fan perfectly normal person who is in no way a threat to one day shoot you  interested in annoying you.

I feel I’m off to a bad start.

 

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Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Let me try being honest. I am slightly obsessed, but that’s your fault. I am powerless in the presence (either actual or virtual) of funny people, and, frankly, I believe there are few people currently roaming the planet who are funnier than you.

 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that I did not watch a lot of SNL when you were involved, and I didn’t see a single episode of 30 Rock until it started showing up on certain streaming services after the end of its original seven-year run. I remember thinking more than once, “When season eight starts, I’m there! 100% commitment.” But alas.

I did, however, catch a handful of episodes on said streaming services, mainly at the suggestion of my daughter, who is much younger than me, and perhaps relatedly, much hipper. She kept telling me, “This show is hilarious. You’ve got to watch it.”

So I did. I found it painful. Literally physically painful. At various points during the episode, which featured Tracy Jordan’s painful childhood memories, “I once saw a baby give another baby a tattoo! They were very drunk!” my laughter was so totally consuming that I feared for my survival. If I had been able to take my eyes off the television screen, I might have seen the look of horror on my wife’s face, and her finger hovering over the “1” on her phone, having already punched in the “9-1.”

Again, the responsibility for all of this rests squarely on your shoulders.

Due to various and sundry circumstances involving the cost of retaining use of various and sundry streaming services and other financial obligations which “society” deems as “more important” than “entertainment,” such as “food” and “shelter,” (big sale on quotation marks at Barnes & Nobel), I was unable to watch the series in its entirety, but I was already hooked, and knew that one day, ONE DAY!, I would watch every episode. Breathing and regular heartbeat be damned!

A couple of weeks ago I was darkening the corridors of my local public library, (through the use of black construction paper and duct tape) and was preparing to climb on the shelves housing the DVD collection when a certain title caught my eye. It was “My Friend Flicka,” starring a young Roddy McDowell, and it literally caught my eye as I fell directly on it. But as I began to stem the flow of blood, I noticed that my library possessed all seven seasons of 30 Rock. And listen to this: they were willing to let me borrow them! Apparently, this is how libraries work. Who knew?

So I selected season one and was almost out the door before they explained to me the whole deal with library cards, and their need to know that they would eventually get their products back from me. Again, who knew?

Eventually, we cut through all the red tape, which was the color of the duct tape I’d used to darken the corridors, (un-darkening was another condition they put upon my borrowing from them), and I brought home that first boxed set.

By the second disc my wife had the paramedics on standby and by disc three they were at my home, actively monitoring my vitals. More than once through the hazy state in which my oxygen-deprived brain spent those several hours, I heard my wife actively curse your name, so sure was she that you, and you alone, were going to take from her the man she so loved.

Over the next weeks, I brought home season after season. My health started to deteriorate measurably, but I pressed on.

 

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Tina Fey Deadheads [Feyheads?]

Around season four or so, I remembered that my daughter had purchased a copy of Bossy Pants. In case you’ve forgotten, that is the title of a book which you wrote. If I’d had no other exposure to your genius, I would have been willing to become a Tina Fey version of a Deadhead and just follow you around the world, based on your response to an internet post from someone who put forth the theory that you didn’t have a funny bone in your body to which you replied, and I quote:

 

“You know who does have a funny bone in their body? Your mom. Every night. For a dollar.”

I’m not dead yet so I cannot say with certainty that this is the funniest thing I will ever read, but I can say without fear of contradiction that is sure as hell is the funniest thing I’ve read so far.

By this point in our journey together my obsession had grown to the point where I had begun to fantasize.

Soft lights. A little romantic music. Some wine. A couple of laptops. The two of us laughing so hard that IV’s needed to be inserted. Then I remember, we are both married people, and through some odd twist, not even to each other. Then I also remember that I’m ten years older than you and that when you were just joining Second City, I was listening to my wife call me a series of bad names as she pushed our second child through her vagina. So I scaled back the fantasy to us just working together. Oddly enough the details, (lighting, music, alcohol), did not change.

But I digress, perhaps uncomfortably so. In fact, I’ll elongate the digression at this point by attempting to prove my status as a helpful individual. Knowing that the phrase “restraining order,” may have randomly popped into your head by now, I’d like to lend a hand by providing links to a couple of places on the internet where you can get them dirt-cheap and quickly. There are hundreds, so I’ve narrowed it down to the few that seem most legit. They are:

I think the third one is a not-for-profit group so you might want to support them. Up to you.

At any rate, I have about 50 pages left to read in your book and am on disc 3 of season six. Both of these situations are worrisome for me because both represent a state of coming to the end. I personally want Bossy Pants to be a little longer than Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past at a meaty 1.5 million words and 30 Rock to have lasted longer than Meet The Press, which is in it’s 70th season this year.

But I am not a monster, (proof: I do not show up once on http://www.thisguyisamonster.com). I realize that life is composed of seasons of its own, and that they don’t correspond to NBC’s broadcast season which has grown increasingly confusing over the past several years with the advent of breaks in the middle of the season, and five or six premieres per show during an eight-month broadcast period, followed somehow by nine or ten season finales for the exact same title. New math, I’m told. Common core, apparently.

So I recognize you’d want to move to new vistas, fresh horizons, and a handful of other beginning-related clichés that I don’t have the time to research right now. And that’s fine.

All I’m asking is that you Donald Glover me. Stumble upon my work. Laugh so hard that they have to dust off one of those sweet old iron lung machines for you that must be laying around in a warehouse somewhere, Portland I’m guessing. Then send me an email and say, “I’ve softened the lights. All I could find was an Air Supply cd. Will that work for you? You bring the wine. And your own laptop. I’m not running a charity here.”

I really don’t think that’s an unreasonable request. But if you do, I’ll deal with my crushed life, thanks to the techniques I’ve learned at http://www.sotinafeycrushedyourlife.com. Don’t give it a second thought.