Covers And Connections

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January 7th, 2022

Sorry for the delay in getting this update out, but things have been fairly frantic, or even frenetic, on the book front as of late. The manuscript is done and ready to go. We still needed a cover, as you know, and we were waiting on a new template to fit the artwork in there precisely.

Judge this book by its cover? If you must…

I got that template a few days back and immediately forwarded it to Todd Myers. He and I had mutually decided to make January 15 our firm deadline for having the cover done and “print ready” but Todd went for it early and got it finished. This photo can’t be enlarged, so I’m also posting it on Facebook so that everyone can click on it and get a real look at what it’s going to be.

Todd came up with a couple of great improvements since I was at his house a few weeks ago. The cover had been stark white, but he thought a very light blue would look better as the base background. He was absolutely right.

He also slightly arched the words “HOW FAR?” at the top to look more like a name on the back of a jersey. The font itself is actually called “Jersey” because it looks like the sort of lettering you’d see on an athlete’s apparel. Again, Todd hit a home run. (See what I did there?)

So, we were both congratulating each other and thanking each other, knowing we’d knocked it out of the park and it was done. As soon as the publisher’s production team could take a look and OK it for publication, our new baby would be added to the queue for actual printing and release. Seemed like a great moment.

I had been told it would be 7 to 10 days before we got that “print ready” approval, but just 24 hours later my rep at Outskirts Press emailed me with a sincere apology. Todd had more work to do…

They had sent us the wrong template. Not terribly wrong. Not outrageously wrong. But wrong nonetheless. The template is wrong in terms of the width of the spine of the book. I don’t know if the original template was too narrow or too wide, and it didn’t matter. It just needed to be right for the cover to fit the book.

So there was that. And then I learned that they’d also sent us the wrong barcode for the back cover. That should not be a big deal. It can stay right where it is and the correct one will just be inserted into that spot. What I don’t know yet is how much trouble the spine is going to be. Todd is busy as all hell these days, so hopefully it won’t be a massive amount of work.

When I emailed him about the problem, and forwarded him the new template, his reply was, “Well, @&*$.”  I’ll let you figure out what four-letter word he used. My reply back was “That was the most succinct two-word message ever.”

So we’re there, but we’re not there. Hopefully we’re back in the hands of the publisher within a few days. Fingers and toes crossed.

Check out my Facebook page if you want a close-up look at this great and creative design. I drafted the right player to do it. He’s a star.

When I have a good idea of when we will “hit the streets” (meaning “hit Amazon”) with “How Far?” I’ll let you know. Track me on Facebook and Twitter just to be in the loop.

Speaking of fingers and toes (which I did two paragraphs ago) I have a couple of Minnesota weather tales to tell. The first happened last Saturday.

Bundled up for outdoor hockey

We had tickets for the NHL Winter Classic hockey game between the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues. That’s good. We knew when we bought them that the game itself might be a challenge. Why? Because the Winter Classic is always played outdoors, and this game would be at the Twins’ stadium, Target Field.

The Classic is also always on January 1, when the Twin Cities’ temp could possibly be as high as the 20s or 30s. Even the teens would be easy. It could also be well below zero.

Barbara had been suffering from a head cold and sinus infection and wasn’t feeling all that great in the week leading up to the game. Also, this new wave of COVID has been tearing through the country and Minnesota like a viral tsunami, so there was that to worry about. And we were supposed to have our annual bash with our wonderful friends from the old neighborhood on New Year’s Eve.

Actually, one by one all the couples who always attend our New Year’s Eve bash (and anniversary celebration) began to have serious second thoughts, and they began to drop out. We did as well, and finally the party was cancelled. That was the right choice. I’d rather have healthy friends I can see later rather than sick ones who we saw that night.

Barbara and I were very much on the fence regarding the hockey game, as the forecast kept getting colder and colder. We even went so far as to list our tickets for resale, just to see if we could unload them. It wasn’t exactly a seller’s market once the forecast hit temps as low as 11-below zero just a day before the game. So, with help from our friends Joe and Mary Beth, who know how to survive cold sports events thanks to their Green Bay Packers season tickets, we gathered enough cold-weather gear and decided we had to go

We just had to. It’s not like the Winter Classic is going to be back at Target Field anytime soon. Probably not in our lifetimes. It was a box we had to check. It was an event we had to experience.

Barb had bought all sorts of high-tech stuff to get us through it. Heated socks, heated pants, heated insoles, all battery operated. Joe and Mary Beth loaned us all kinds of clothing they use when Lambeau Field is subzero, so we had plenty of armor on.

A phenomenal spectacle

First of all, we were glad we went. It wasn’t so much about watching a hockey game as it was about just being there for the full spectacle of it. Actually, we could barely see the hockey game. The rink was way out in the center of the baseball diamond, and our VIP seats would’ve been fabulous for a ballgame, just a few rows behind home plate, but once the players took the ice we could basically only see them from about the waist up. As Barb said, “It was a lot like sitting out in your yard at 10-below watching a hockey game on a TV across the street.” Mostly, we could just watch it on the centerfield Jumbotron.

That was true, but it was still great to be there. What was funny was that all the high-tech stuff pretty much failed. The things that kept us warm were the old-school items like ski jackets, great mittens, hand warmer packs in the mittens, and the hats, hoods, and other accessories Joe and Mary Beth loaned us.

After a while, the Blues started pouring it on and we noticed that whatever batteries were supposed to keep our feet warm were failing. Once our toes became so numb we weren’t sure they were still there, we decided to check out early. That was OK. It was a fantastic experience and I could feel my toes again the next day!

Another hint: When it gets to be that cold, I found it best to move my thumbs right into the main mitten instead of the thumb slot. With those heat packets, our fingers never got cold. On the way to the car, however, when it was time to unlock the doors and actually get in, just having the mittens off for a minute was painful.

Painful also describes today’s temperature. When I got up this morning, the sun was shining, the snow was glistening, and it looked quite beautiful outside. Then I thought it might be prudent to check AccuWeather to see what the temperature was.

Gorgeous day, I think…

And here I get to illustrate just how bone-chilling it was this morning.

You don’t mess around with -16. We may have gone to a hockey game at -11, but even that was a walk in the park compared to minus 16. I know this because I had to check on the hot tub and service it with chemicals today.

I bundled up as well as I could, figuring I’d only be out there for a couple of minutes, but the first problem was just getting the lid opened. I had to take my gloves off to make that happen, and it almost didn’t happen anyway. It was practically frozen shut, but I finally got it lifted without actually breaking the cover itself. I added chlorine tablets to the floater, and put in some granules to get the pH and alkalinity back in line, and put the lid back down. My fingers were numb. I mean 100% totally numb, despite the fact I was leaning over a hot tub with 97-degree water.

But this is Minnesota. The sun is out. The sky is blue. It’s OK. We deal with it. I doubt we’ll go for a walk today, but with the fireplace going and the boyz snuggling with us, it’s all good.

And now about a connection…

I recently joined a Facebook group called “Growing Up in St. Louis County” and immediately found it to be a fun place for getting all nostalgic about the St. Louis area, especially the suburbs. Within days I was corresponding with a variety of people who not only lived near me, in Kirkwood, when we were kids, but who knew a lot of the same kids I played with growing up. It was amazing.

And finally, I saw a post that said “Bob Wilber? The same Bob Wilber that lived in Pheasant Run in the 80s and who was good friends with Lance McCord???”

I recognized the name Sheri Sanders at once, although she’s now hyphenated as Sheri Sanders-Klutho. Sheri was Lance’s girlfriend back eons ago, and I mostly just remember that she was a great person. Way back then, when we first met, she was a flight attendant for Ozark Airlines. They had their base at Lambert Airport in St. Louis, and with TWA also having their main hub there the area in West County where we lived (Maryland Heights) was full of modern apartment complexes where a lot of flight attendants lived. Also more than a few fun bars. I got to know Sheri well when she and Lance were dating, and we always had fun together. I hadn’t heard from her since probably 1985 or 1986.

We started direct messaging each other on Facebook, and she immediately bought “Bats, Balls, & Burnouts” for her husband’s Kindle, knowing she’d read it first.

Yep, she’s still flying. When Ozark was bought by TWA she made that transition. When TWA was acquired by American, she got laid off, but now she’s back in the air with them.

She’s almost constantly on the road and actually flies out of DFW quite often, having to commute down there to catch her trips, but with the Kindle she was able to dive into the book.

Sheri and her hubby Leo. I hope I get to meet him and see her again soon

I’m proud, and I’m thrilled, to say that she loved it. The only complaint she had was that it would often keep her up so late in her hotel room because she couldn’t put it down. As she went through it, from front to back, she kept me up to speed on what she had just read, and it was like living it again for me. It was really wonderful.

I had worried that the NHRA part of the book might lose her, because she obviously didn’t know much (or anything) about professional drag racing and Nitro Funny Cars.

Today, I got a note she’d sent me late last night, telling me she had finished it. She read the whole thing between flights and in hotels in just a week. I was stunned, but so happy to make that connection again and to know that she liked it.

In the epilogue for that book, I wrote that it was “uncanny” that I started the writing process on January 5, 2016 and finished writing on January 6, 2017. I know she read it to the end because she messaged “It’s uncanny that I finished the book and noticed that today is January 6th.”

What a lot of fun this has been. And it never would’ve happened if I hadn’t joined that St. Louis County group on Facebook. See? There are a few redeeming things about social media. You just have to block out the insanity and find the comfort.

That’s it for this installment. A bit frustrated with the cover issues, but Todd will fix that. Really happy about everything else I got to write about today.

As always, if you enjoyed any of this it would be super-duper nice if you’d click on the “Like” button at the bottom.

Back soon…  Keep an ear out for more book updates and be ready to click that “Purchase” button on Amazon when it goes on sale. Just a few weeks now, I’m told.