Monday, December 23, 2019

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Whiskey is 1

And what we have learned over the past year is how good a dog Bailey is.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Visit from mom and dad

We drove up to Trinity College to visit Sam. We saw "Hamilton" (from perhaps the highest seats I have ever been in in a theater). My dad fixed the chimes in our antique wall clock. We ate BBQ. We just hung out. 

It was a short visit, but it was just enough time to remind me that they are great.

I won't provide a full itemized list of why, but the short list would include being unconditionally loving, being great role models for a successful marriage, and genuinely caring about other people and the world. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

We're #1

As I'm about to go to bed, Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath is the #1 children's book in the entire country on Amazon, in its first day. This is not so much an indicator that NN is destined to be a classic, but that Amazon First Reads is an effective marketing program. 

But it's like if you beat the defending NCAA wrestling champ on a locked hands penalty point. You're not going to complain about it.

And so it is.

An excellent day.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

My life over the past 30 days

I went dinosaur hunting with my nephews.

My bride and I both celebrated birthdays.

We had a spooky Halloween.

I had hernia surgery. From lifting nephews. I'm tough. I'm fine. 

I went to a writer's conference in upstate New York. It was fun and cold.

I created a new author's website (in case you're wondering why no longer points to this blog.)

Copies of my new book arrived. Pub date is December 1.

The puppy dogs are doing just fine.

My lovely bride is as lovely as ever. And we are celebrating the sale of a new manuscript. Yay!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Book update

The cover of Library Books Are Not for Eating is here: 

It has two actual holes cut out of it, like dinosaur bite marks, revealing the art on the inside page. It's very eye-catching.

This is my first book published by Doubleday, which has an illustrious history. It's over a hundred years old, and in its early days featured authors such as Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, and Joseph Conrad--more recently John Grisham. Its parent company, Penguin Random House, is the largest publisher in the world, and home of my favorite author, Dr. Seuss. So I'm happy to be affiliated with both.

It will be out in summer 2020.


  • Three Grumpy Trucks is featured in Scholastic's November Inchworm flyer.
  • We're anxiously awaiting the publication of Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath in December (Amazon First Reads) and January (official publication date).
  • We have three manuscripts in circulation with editors, I'm still cranking on YA novel Imagine, Arizona, and I hope to have at least one more picture-book manuscript done by the end of the year. I'm headed to a picture-book writer's retreat in two weeks, which should provide inspiration and/or feedback.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Note from the future

October 7, 2014

Dear Mr. Tarpley:

I am writing to you from five years in the future--2019. 

There are a few things you may want to prepare yourself for. To make it easier, I'll just give you the good news...

1. He's about to be impeached.

2. They go out of business after you leave.

3. You always said you wanted a daughter, right?

4. Happy first anniversary!


Marty McFly

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

A lot has happened in the past 30 days

And I'm not even talking about Trump.

So let's talk about a few things, some important, some not so important, but all kind of wrapping into that giant bundle of stuff called life.

First, Sam and Ethan are both at college. Sam is in her senior year at Trinity, and Ethan is in his freshman year at Centre College.

Did you see what I just did there?

Sam has been transitioning to female for the past nine months or so. As of last week she is officially Samantha, but still goes by Sam.

When she first told me about this decision, in January, I basically nodded and said, "Okay." 

I think everyone deserves the opportunity to live the life they want to live. God knows I am not the poster child for following obediently down the path of societal norms. Nor was my father. Nor was his father--who left the family farm in Arkansas at eighteen to go to college (oh, the horror). We all deserve to be who we want to be and live how we want to live. That's a pretty basic tenet for me.

I'm old enough that I never would've thought one could choose their own gender. It's the kind of idea that makes me squint and cock my head and say, "Wait, what?"

But you can. At least in blue states.

So I'm good with it. I support her.

In other news--and I'm not claiming this is more or less important than the previous item--we've spent the past three months on a kitchen renovation, which we just finished. The final layer of dust is beginning to clear. The main takeaway is don't let anyone tell you you can't have marble counter tops. They look f-ing awesome. I feel like we're living in Michelangelo's studio. Pllllttttt to the naysayers.

In book news...

Three Grumpy Trucks is going to be a November Scholastic paperback selection. 

Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath had a nice review in Kirkus and comes out on Amazon First Reads in December, followed by wide release in January. 

Library Books Are Not for Eating is slated for summer 2020.

I'm still working on my novel, Imagine, Arizona...20K words toward a 75K goal. We'll get there. 

I took a five-day break from it this past week to write a picture book manuscript, which I just finished yesterday, in order to have something in the sales pipeline. Very pleased with what I can do in five days when I try.

And...last but not least. We're a week away from our first anniversary. Man, were we a hot couple or what? Other couples didn't even want to have their picture taken after us, because they knew they couldn't compete.

Let me just say that I am blissfully happy with my bride. I love her dearly. I can't say that enough. So I'll just keep repeating it.

P.S. Only 240 more days 'til summer.

Monday, August 26, 2019

The worst Beatles lyrics of all time

Even the best band of all time wasn't perfect. Here are some of their weaker lyrical compositions.

#5: Here, There, and Everywhere
It's a near-perfect melody by Paul. But the lyrics are a mess. Where to begin? How about:

To lead a better life, I need my love to be here.

It's like Paul wrote it when he was high, and thought, "This is so profound, man," but afterwards he never bothered to read it again.

Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with the wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there's something there.

For starters, "there" doesn't rhyme with "year." And it's not like either line was so good that you had to force a rhyme to fit it. What does "making each day of the year" even mean? 

In verse 2, "someone is speaking, but she doesn't know he's there." How does he know this? And why is he introducing another character for no apparent reason?

Eek, now the chorus:

I want her everywhere and if she's beside me
I know I need never care
But to love her is to need her everywhere

I have no idea what that pile of vomit means.

Knowing that love is to share
Each one believing that love never dies
Watching her eyes and hoping I'm always there.

I get that he can't say "both of us believing" because the meter doesn't fit. But "each one believing" changes the POV from first-person to third. He could've said "Both of us knowing," for example.

The shame is that the melody is so good, and it deserves better lyrics. It's like every Elton John song ever. Moving on.

#4: Glass Onion
This is a self-referential song from the White Album whose meaningless lyrics, per John, are simply intended to confuse fans who seemed to find hidden meaning in everything.

Standing on the cast iron shore, yeah
Lady Madonna trying to make ends meet, yeah
Looking through a glass onion

It's not horrible. It's just...hey, everybody phones it in now and then.

#3: Run For Your Life
It's not that the lyrics are poorly written--they're just frighteningly violent. They begin like this:

Well, I'd rather see you dead little girl
Than to be with another man
You better keep your head little girl
Or you won't know where I am

And the rest of the song continues on that theme. Lest you think it's just a figure of speech, John assures us:

Let this be a sermon
I mean everything I've said
Baby, I'm determined
And I'd rather see you dead

John later said it was his least favorite Beatles song and the one he most regretted writing. But, alas, he did, and so it must go on the list.

#2: I Want You (She's So Heavy)
This is essentially an instrumental with some random verbal crap tossed in...

I want you
I want you so bad
I want you
I want you so bad, it's driving me mad
It's driving me mad
I want you
I want you so bad
I want you
I want you so bad, it's driving me mad
It's driving me...

Enough said.

Drum roll, please.

#1: Why Don't We Do It in the Road?
Just two lines of lyrics, both of them stupid:

Why don't we do it in the road?
Why don't we do it in the road?
Why don't we do it in the road?
Why don't we do it in the road?
No one will be watching us
Why don't we do it in the road?

Paul was inspired by seeing two monkeys doing it in the road in India, and apparently decided to spend eight seconds writing a song about it. This was the unfortunate result.

Honorable Mention:

Love Me Do: Not much to it, but even at only a few lines it's more than three times the length of Why Don't We Do It in the Road and I Want You.

Your Mother Should Know: A bouncy tune by Paul with lyrics that make no sense. Why should your mother know about a song that was a hit before she was even born, regardless of how old she is?

Okay, that's it. Let's go listen to some Beatles music and be happy.

Friday, August 23, 2019

The best Beatles lyrics of all time

This post is only about lyrics! Here's my best shot, with my justifications:

#5: Maxwell's Silver Hammer
This is a bouncy little tune about a hammer-wielding murderer. Paul wrote it, and the other Beatles were unanimous in their dislike of it. (Lennon referred to it as "more of Paul's granny music.") Melody aside, the lyrics feature sophisticated, multi-syllabic rhymes and perfect meter:

Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical science in the home
Late nights all alone with a test tube, oh, oh, oh, oh
Maxwell Edison, majoring in medicine, calls her on the phone
Can I take you out to the picture show, Joa, oa, oa, oan.

It's clever, it's unique, and plllttt to John.

#4: When I'm Sixty-Four
Another McCartney composition, written when he was sixteen. It features some of the best lyrics ever penned by a sixteen-year-old, such as:

I can be handy mending a fuse
when your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride

Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
when I'm sixty-four?

#3: Across the Universe
This one is John's. He claimed it was among the best, most poetic lyrics he'd ever written. He was correct.

Words are flowing out like endless rain inside a paper cup
They slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind
Possessing and caressing me

#2: Penny Lane
Primarily written by Paul, with lyrical contributions from John, this song wonderfully evokes a time and place--namely, a neighborhood in south Liverpool they frequently visited in their youth. 

In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he's had the pleasure to know
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say hello

It's gentle, poetic nostalgia beneath the blue suburban skies.

#1: Eleanor Rigby

Written primarily by Paul, with input from the other three, this song broke with convention by being a pop song about loneliness. The lyrics are eloquent and haunting:

Eleanor Rigby
Picks up the rice in the church where the wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window
Wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

Honorable Mention:
A Day in the Life - An interesting collection of vignettes from newspaper stories, with lines like "A crowd of people turned away. But I just had to look, having read the book."

Back in the USSR - A parody of Chuck Berry's Back in the USA and the Beach Boys' California Girls, it's clever and fun. And the Ukraine girls really knock me out.

Let it Be - Admittedly, part of my love for the lyrics is the way they blend with the melody that accompanies them. In any event, there's something spiritual about a song that begins, "When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me."

She's Leaving Home - I love the imagery and characters of this song, and it might've made the top five were it not for the unfortunate last line, "Fun is the one thing that money can't buy." Really? Must have been in a rush to finish an otherwise great set of lyrics.

So...that's my best shot at a tough topic. What did I miss?

My next post will be the worst Beatles lyrics of all time!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Mrs. Maisel exhibit

Here are some pics from our visit to the "Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" exhibit at the Paley Center.

The exhibit featured costumes, props, and re-created sets from the show, which is set in NYC in 1959-61. 

Our 1959 television debut...

A quick trip to Paris, complete with cigarette...

Jo gets a quick 'do in the Catskills...

"B. Altman's, how may I direct your call?"

On the way home, a block from our apartment, we were discussing Tony Shalhoub, the actor who plays Abe Weissman on the series. We both looked up, and coming toward us down the sidewalk was...Tony Shalhoub. He said hi. We said hi. Then Jo squeezed my hand, and I thought, "I love New York City."

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Odds and ends

One of my favorite places in the world is Brownstone Discovery Park, a Connecticut waterpark created from an old rock quarry. It's so cool because there are no fiberglass slides, no fake palm trees, and no steel drum music from speakers hidden in fake rocks.

There are cliffs you zipline off, cliffs you jump off, and cliffs you swing from via Tarzan rope.

I went with Ethan and his girlfriend Ruby. My three thoughts for the day:

1. I love swinging from a rope, letting go at the top of the arc, and falling into the water like I am a graceful heron.

2. I will miss Ethan when he goes to college.

3. At some point I will be too old to grip the Tarzan swing, and I will confidently leap from the cliff, only to immediately plummet into the water 20 feet below, like the people who are old or overweight. When will that time come? I don't know. Will anyone warn me in advance? Will I listen? 

Monday, July 29, 2019

Practicality is overrated

If practicality were the most important thing in the world, you'd have been a podiatrist. You'd live in a small town in South Dakota in a post-war ranch house, preferably single-level, with a 2-year-old Kia in the driveway with 12 months left on the warranty. You'd have no kids (not worth the money), no pets (not worth the hassle), no antiques (you can get a perfectly nice lamp from Menards in Sioux Falls and you don't have to worry about bumping into it with your TV tray).

You'd never live in New York City (crowded and filthy), certainly not in Manhattan (overpriced), and God forbid in a pre-war apartment (do you have any idea how much energy those high ceilings waste?).

You certainly wouldn't work in media (unstable) or write children's books (no money, no future).

And if, on a misguided whim, you ever decided to renovate your kitchen, you'd never choose marble countertops. Ever. Marble is too soft and porous. Everyone agrees. It scratches too easily. It chips too easily. It stains too easily. It doesn't matter that every time you and your wife walk into a kitchen showroom and gasp at the island countertop and say, "What's that?" they always reply, "That's marble. But you don't want that. Come look at this quartzite. It's more practical."

You suspect that if Michelangelo were alive today, he'd be advised to sculpt with quartzite. He'd be told that that the Menards in Sioux Falls sometimes has clearance sales.

But, alas, you are not practical. You are fortunate to have a wonderful wife who loves you anyway. She said you can make the decision about the countertops. He-he. Dangerous. Like giving fireworks to an 8-year-old boy.

As soon as you recover financially you are going to take her to Paris. You will take her to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and you will tell her how much you love her, and you will kiss under the Parisian full moon, and you will both smile because you are in love and you have marble countertops like everyone in Paris. And to hell with all the podiatrists in Sioux Falls who think you're nuts.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

First-world problems

This morning at brunch Jo and I were discussing whether our kitchen renovation is going to come in on budget, and whether having marble counter tops is going to make us stressed out all the time, and whether we should go with the Bosch or the Bertozzini appliances.

Is Ethan going to like college? What is Sam going to do when he graduates?

I need to sell another picture book manuscript.

And I need a new media gig.

And my feet are sore from running in the park yesterday.

And some a-hole stole a couple of the solar landscape lights we just installed.

And look at those cute babies; we need one.

How nice it is, for however long this bliss lasts, that these are the biggest problems in our lives.