Mickey Picayune

The Plugged Drain Pipe and the Kitchen Sink

We were worried for a while… (Photo via Stencil)

About three weeks ago, on a quiet Friday evening as Mary and I were contemplating what we might do to occupy ourselves, there was a burbling noise coming from the kitchen, as if the faucet had been left on.

Our son was showering upstairs, and we were pretty sure no one else was in the house. We could also hear the water running in the shower. Then my wife started shouting because there was water spilling out from the kitchen cabinet beneath the sink.

Water spread across the floor.

Water had backed up into the sink and the pipes underneath the sink had come apart at the joints. It seemed that the weight of that water had pushed the pipes apart.

Hilarity ensued.

The next ten minutes were a blur, but I jammed a thermos under the pipes to hold them together, stopping the water. The shower upstairs stopped, and water stopped backing into the sink. And we found rags and buckets to mop the floor.

For the next hour, we dragged things out from under the sink and set them in baskets for later disposal decisions. Then the real fun began.

I went to Lowe’s for new pipes and repaired the pipes under the sink (twenty-one years grime and mold weakened the joints).

Damage under my sink. (Photo by M. Hadick)

Experimentation with running water upstairs determined that only the one shower would overflow into the sink. Better still, a sink full of water would drain in about one hour. That meant we could wait until Monday to bring in a plumber.

I returned to the store to investigate power-driven drain snakes, but the one that seemed long enough was $500. I considered opening up the clean out ports but the clerks at the store advised me against it. 

Come Monday, the plumber arrived and he brought with him that very same $500 drain snake I saw at the store. One hour later, the plugged pipe cleared, life resumed as before. 

I often try to relate these anecdotes to my writing or some other current event. But I’m merely going to leave it as a stark reminder to appreciate the modern amenities of life in the suburbs of America. 

Every morning I write in a gratitude journal and give thanks for clean water, hot coffee, and indoor plumbing. These minor domestic disasters are a fun lark in comparison to the challenges some people face. 

News about me

I've started my 15th year at the place where I work. The day job. The it's-a-living place where I go. I do like the work and my teammates, so I'm very fortunate.

Life here in Lansing, Michigan is interesting enough. The city has a nice mix of cultural events, restaurants, and clever people doing nice things. Sure there are some a-holes, but that's everywhere.

I first started working in Lansing 33 years ago, and the downtown area had some lunch options, but nothing after five o'clock. It's the State Capitol so after those workers left town, nothing happened. All the action was either in East Lansing or the suburban shopping malls.

Now the downtown has a nice bar crawl, if that's your thing. There are two small theaters, and the Michigan Avenue corridor to East Lansing has plenty going on along the way.

There are multiple film festivals in the area, music festivals, and a strong arts movement.

Festive apartment buildings on the Grand River in Lansing, Michigan (Photo by me)

In spite of that, I haven't been getting out as much as I could because I'm a novelist, and have been hunkering down more and more on my writing during my free time.

Update on my writing

Speaking of novels, you may recall that I finished a thriller last year and asked for some early feedback. I have some feedback, but not all. In spite of that, I'll be forging ahead with revisions. In the meantime, I wrote another novel the past three months. It's a short one, and is really the beginning of a bigger story, but I'll package it up as its own thing later this year.

If you're not a fan of multi-novel stories, my apologies in advance. You can give it a miss, and wait until I bundle them all up into an omnibus edition.

By the time you're reading this, I will likely have started a class on writing satire. It runs for the next month, and I hope to improve my humor and ability to get short pieces published.

You may not know it, but I've been attempting to be funny pretty much all my life, since that moment in second grade when the kids laughed at something I said, and I realized that was a thing: making people laugh.

Books I'm reading or which I read lately

I'm going to leave you with the recent books I've been reading or have read.

In the Woods by Tana French was amazingly good. It was as engrossing as it was emotionally impactful. I really was drawn in and couldn't have put that book aside. I read it as fast as humanly possible (for me, which isn't very fast). She's written about ten like this, so I intend to work very hard to make my writing just as interesting as hers.

The Prone Gunman by Manchette started strong and then got a little worrisome, and then, finally, very worrisome. It's a hard-core crime story with high-paced action. The writing is cool and detached, and that's what helped make it enjoyable. The ending is not what I hoped for, but is truthful.

I'm in the middle of reading A Scanner Darkly, by Phillip K. Dick. It is a bit of a mind bender, as great sci-fi stories are wont to do. I started listening to this (audiobook, obviously) but had trouble following the story, and switched to my kindle. That helped, and now I'm enjoying the characters, and worried for their sake.

Actually…

I'm going to leave you with one more image, of downtown Lansing, near the Capitol, before Christmas, when a few of us gathered to protest and call for the impeachment of Trump. These protests may not change the world, but they help remind us not to let the world change us. The corruption at the top puts our way of life at risk, and erodes our civil liberties. It's not just a story to be told, but a battle to be fought.

Protest at State Capitol, Lansing, Michigan, November 2019 (Photo by me)

Mickey Picayune

Facing Problems Head On Ain’t Fun But Neither is Running Away

Mickey Picayune for November 18, 2019

Last week was a kick in the stomach reminder about harsh weather. We got around eight inches of snow in brutally cold fashion. It doesn't help with the days growing shorter. Harsh weather messes with your mood, and it's for real.

I'm tempted to think of escapist strategies at such times. Wouldn't it be nice to have a place in Florida? Should we sneak off to Arizona? (Am I the sort of Boomer with enough discretionary money to do such things? Not really, but I have good credit.)

But there's a much healthier way to deal with harsh reality

Tough problems have to be dealt with directly. Escaping (or ignoring) the problem only worsens the situation. The solution might take an indirect route, but your mind, and your heart and your spirit will be stronger for confronting the problem.

In my case, I cleaned out enough of my garage to park a single car in it. That may seem a bit ridiculous, but it opens up enough driveway space that I can shovel when the snow falls.

I also took my snow blower to the shop for repair. It's not a big honking thing, but it's enough to help me when the worst snow falls.

I picked up the leaves before the storm, put away my rake, and stationed shovels at all the doors so I could dig my way out of the garage, the side door, and the back door.

Finally, I bought a new pair of water proof shoes. I've worn half-assed boots for fifteen years and decided that having dry, warm feet might help me deal with winter. I found a pair on clearance and I love them.

I'm not looking forward to winter, but I'm not afraid of it either.

Recent Writing

I spent this past week trying to get my act together. My writing act. Namely, I'm working on more of the shorter pieces I had been writing before I tackled the novel over the summer.

I've worked on my content strategy for several years, but never implemented it. I know a few things about the topic, taking courses and reading books, and using it at my day job. Like the cobblers barefoot children, I never did it for myself.

In my defense, the cornerstone of my strategy is to write novels that people love and share. Everything else depends on that. So I'm laying the ground work, and you'll see an upsurge of shorter, entertaining or enlightening stuff.

To wit, here is a piece published in The Haven on Medium:  https://medium.com/the-haven/dress-for-the-job-youre-about-to-lose-not-the-job-you-re-never-going-to-have-26f7c2c02c46

Remember, "Knowledge is good."

Things to Read

In a not-so-subtle call back to dealing with problems directly, and dealing with harsh reality, I'm doing what I can to be a Climate Changeling. I'm composting, added insulation to our house, and installed high-efficiency furnace, hot water heater, and A/C.

Really, I should just get rid of the A/C. I'm considering installing a green-house pit garden. My next car will have a battery, and I'm going to commute to work on a scooter. (As long as my credit holds out.)

I'm certainly not looking to escape anywhere because there's no where else to go. We all need to do what we can without looking away. It's painful, but we've wandered into hell. We need to keep walking.

Read this if you need help looking at the problem without flinching:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/15/sunday-review/depression-climate-change.html

For something very entertaining and uplifting, here is as story about Mary Steenburgen (Danny the Elf's step-mother) who had a change in her brain and turned it into musical gold:

Mary Steenburg, Oscar-winning actress and songwriter

https://www.indiewire.com/2019/11/mary-steenburgen-jessie-buckley-wild-rose-glasgow-best-original-song-1202189233/

Mickey Picayune

Welcome to The Mickey Picayune

Welcome to the inaugural issue of The Mickey Picayune. The change in branding is as much for me as it is for you, trying to get me to make this a regular thing (monthly?) and to offer value each time so that you open the email. It's not like I can give you a free book with every email, but I can give you something. Maybe an updated picture of me will suffice?

New business

I completed updates to my website, www.mickeyhadick.com. If you've read these newsletters regularly, you've probably seen all the bits and pieces, but this is a better presentation and improved navigation. If nothing else, browse my blog for an existential crisis blast from the past.

I'm deep into a sci-fi dystopian novel, now. Those can be tricky to pull off, but I'm keeping it short in case I need to rewrite it.

And this email is coming from a new provider (SendFox) so I hope it makes it past your spam filter.

In other news

I drove out to NYC a couple of days to pick up something very important (my daughter). It rained ten out of the eleven hours during my drive east, so I didn't enjoy the fall colors in the mountains of Pennsylvania. During the drive back, there were some gorgeous views and much simpler driving. I took this one from Riverside Dr. in Manhattan, just before we got on the George Washington bridge (pictured) to leave.

Riverside Drive, Manhattan

What to read while you're waiting for my novel

I just finished Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley. It's set in 1948 but written in 1990, and it's a superb depiction of racism of the time. Also, it's a hard-boiled a detective story as they come. It was really a fun read.

I've also started Watch What You Say by George Weinstein, who I met in September at the writing conference I attended. I'm only four chapters in, but it's a grab-you-by-the-short-hairs kind of story, and I'll be deep into it soon.

Mickey Picayune

The Old Website is New Again

Dawn of a new day for my website.

I've revamped my website, http://www.mickeyhadick.com, after a few years of stagnation. What's most interesting, of course, is my content, especially my blog posts these days. I'm sure there's something there you'd enjoy.

It ain't fancy, and I doubt it ever will be. It's a place to find my articles, links to social media, and links to my books.

If you're an author, you may be interested in my theme, which is called "Published." It's superpower is a custom content type for books. It does a nice job of presenting them.

Also, if you're a writer of any kind, you'll appreciate that I'm working on my website as an excuse to avoid writing my next novel. I haven't built up any momentum with the story, and I'm extremely vulnerable to distraction.

Mickey Picayune

If Want to Be My Beta Reader, This is Where to Start

Me and Brian on Lake Charlevoix

Mickey Picayune

October 25, 2019

I'm in between things. My third draft of the most recent novel is complete. I've started (400 words) the next novel. I've started some changes to my website, but haven't completed them. I'm also going to change my email system from Mailchimp to SendFox.

In a sense, I'm always in between things because I always have a lot of writing projects going on. I don't have 17 books I want to write and then I'll be done. It doesn't work that way.

I'm accustomed to being in between things. It's absolutely necessary for my peace of mind. I'm finding tranquility in the chaos of creation.
That chaos used to be a serious problem for me because of anxiety attacks.

In kindergarten and through first grade, I would cry when it rained. (I cried about a lot of things in kindergarten, but rain was a big one for me.) I finally got over that, but would panic whenever I was late.

If I got a late start to school, I would sweat and cry. I would make my mother late for work, begging for a ride, so that I wouldn't be quite as late.

I practiced being calm to control these feelings. I didn't understand that the triggers would set off negative feedback loops, and the subconscious response to that would take over my emotions and body.

One time, I'd gone to the airport to pick up a rental car for a wedding. I was on a deadline, but I thought I had it all figured out. My father drove me there, and as we walked through the airport terminal, I didn't see any signs for the rental cars. When it hit me that the rental car agencies were a few miles away from the airport, and that I was going to be late, I went into a panic — rapid breathing, sweating, on the verge of tears. My father was baffled, and tried to explain that it was just a few minutes away, and I wouldn't be so very late, but I was in the tail spin.

I'm lucky in that those attacks were not on the level of an anxiety disorder, and I'm not fishing for sympathy in telling this. I'm just sharing that I'm surprised with my own level of calm in dealing with multiple, complicated projects in my spare time. My day job keeps me busy, too, publishing content across ten different websites using four different technologies, plus duties as assigned.

Part of my calm is that I've learned to enjoy all these projects — the writing, the story design and planning, and the website publishing for my day job. I don't mind doing any of it, so none of it triggers me.

Back to that recently completed third draft of a novel

The story is a crime-thriller set in 1979. In it, a cop's daughter dies in a bizarre boating accident. Everyone blames the young man she was with, except the cop's younger daughter, who wants to find out what really happened. She learns that the people she loves the most can be trusted the least.

I'm looking for feedback on the story, so if you'd be willing to read an 86,000 word crime thriller, and tell me what you think, let me know. 

Here is what I'll need from you if want to help:

#1 Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? If not, why not?

#2 Did you get oriented fairly quickly at the beginning as to whose story it is, and where and when it’s taking place? If not, why not?

#3 Could you relate to the main character? 

#4 Did the setting interest you and did the descriptions seem vivid and real to you? 

#5 Was there a point at which you felt the story lagged or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next? Where, exactly?

#6 Were there any parts that confused you? Or even frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts, and why? 

#7 Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details?

#8 Were the characters believable? Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting or more likable?

#9 Did you get confused about who’s who in the characters? Were there too many characters to keep track of? Too few? Are any of the names of characters too similar?

#10 Did the dialogue keep your interest and sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial or not like that person would speak?

#11 Did you feel there was too much description or exposition? Not enough? Maybe too much dialogue in parts?

#12 Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to keep your interest? 

#13 Was the ending satisfying? Believable? 

#14 Did you notice any obvious, repeating grammatical, spelling, punctuation or capitalization errors? Examples?

#15 Do you think the writing style suits the genre? If not, why not?

To top it off, I'd like to ask for this feedback within three weeks (once I send you the manuscript). Given the holidays, that'll put it before Thanksgiving.

I'll send you a PDF or an ebook. If you don't know what you'd do with an ebook, I'll send you the PDF. (No paperbacks this time.)

Can't commit? That's cool. Reading the book is a huge ask, anyway. That much book takes me around two weeks of reading.

Interested? Hit me up directly at mickey@hadick.com

Do you email at work?

I wrote an article, How to Email like a Pro and Get Shit Done. If you regularly use email as part of your work, you may find it helpful. It's over at MickeyHadick.com.

In other news

If you've ever wondered how I go about writing, it's like this: I spend a few minutes in the morning journaling, writing down dreams and thoughts I woke up with. Then I go to work and if a random head about a story pops in my head, I write it down in a tiny journal I carry around. In the evening, I nap or meditate, and then sit my butt at a desk for two hours, working on a story.

That's the ideal.

What is typical involves distractions with dinner preparations, taking out the trash, fixing something around the house, running errands, and life stuff.

But I'm not complaining.

I study Stoicism, and today's message was a reminder that we only have two things to do in this life: be kind to others, and pursue an occupation that you love. Everything else is just distraction, and should be avoided if possible.

I get to write novels. If no one reads them, so be it.

Sailing

I got to go sailing a couple of weeks ago. (Thus the picture at the top of this post.) It's fun. I recommend it if you have the means. My friend Brian makes it a priority in his life, and I went along for the ride.

I'm hoping he upgrades to a party yacht at some point before we're too old to enjoy such things, but the sailing was fun.

What I've read lately

Recently, I read and recommend the following books: 

  • The Street Lawyer by John Grisham. I hadn't read Grisham in a long time, and was curious about this. It really sucked me in and I enjoyed the ending a lot. A couple of plot points were random stuff, but it starts as a crime story, then shifts into courtroom drama.
  • The Feral Detective by Jonathon Lethem. I forget who wrote it but I won't forget the story. It's told from the POV of the detective's client, who has a really interesting emotional journey. That's what sucked me in.
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. I'd always been curious about hardboiled stuff. Some of the lines had me laughing out loud.
  • Double Indemnity by Cain. This was a re-read that happened by accident. I picked up the book, which I read a few months before, and started reading and found I couldn't put it down again. It's that good.

Thanks for reading this far, and thanks for your time.
Peace,
–mickey