A Blog Break

Last year I took a summer vacation from the blog. As much as I missed the activity – and I missed it a lot – the break did allow me to recharge my batteries and redouble my other writing efforts.

I think I need to do it again.

I’ll be back in September. In gratitude for your understanding, I present you with a doodle of a Film Noir duck detective.

Duckie PI!

Duckie PI!

And Here is the Winning Doodle!

Last week, the lovely and talented Kid Lit Reviews won my second Win a Doodle Contest. So she gets a doodle on the subject of her choice.

Kid Lit, who, it turns out, is a devoted animal rights activist, gave me her request:

How about a Great Dane standing guard over a few dogs that are behind him? The Dane is the rescuer and has rescued these other dogs from the mean streets and bad homes and now refuses to let anyone else harm them.

Okee doke, Kid Lit; your wish is my command.

great dane the protector

And the Original, Custom Made Mike Allegra Doodle Winner Is…

for YOU

Yowza! The response to last week’s contest was incredible! Dozens and dozens of you (including a couple of honest-to-God illustrators) sent me Words of Wisdom for a chance to win one of my doodles.

I don’t understand all this Doodle Mania, but I am flattered by it.

But now it is time to get down to the business of drawing the winning name!

Unfortunately, my son thought differently. He insisted that I “practice my doodling” first.

I sighed. Then I asked him what he wanted me to doodle.

He wanted a LEGO man wearing a 1980s astronaut shirt. This LEGO man, he explained, should also sport a medieval helmet and a battle axe.

“Anything else?” I asked?

There was. He also wanted the LEGO guy to be Benny, the youngest child in The Boxcar Children.

So I “practiced my doodling.”

It's not easy being this kid's father.

It’s not easy being this kid’s father. It’s also not easy to enjoy The Boxcar Children.

Now that my son was duly bribed, he got to work.

***

In the months since the last contest, The Drawing Hat was given away to charity. So this drawing will mark the auspicious debut the Drawing Penguin Ice Bucket.

Beautiful, isn't it?

Beautiful, isn’t it?

So! Let’s get started.

My son mixed the ballots…

Drawing 2

And mixed them…

Drawing 3

He mixed them very well.

Drawing 4

You really have to admire his professionalism.

Drawing 5

OK. Knock it off, boy.

And the winner is…

Drawing 6

Drawing 8

KID LIT REVIEWS!

Congratulations, Kid Lit! You win a personalized doodle on the subject of your choice!

All you have to do is go up to the menu item that says “Write Me a Note” and, well, write me a note.

***

Thanks to everyone who entered! You folks are awesome!

 

Win a Doodle! Win a Doodle! Win a Doodle!

Who will be the lucky winner?

Who will be the lucky winner?

In March, I hosted a contest. The grand (and only) prize was an official, original, custom-made Mike Allegra doodle.

Despite my doodling ability, the number of people who entered this contest was pretty large. This surprised me.

What also surprised me was that some of you reeeeally wanted that ding-dang doodle. In fact, a few people threatened to sic their cats on me if I didn’t do another doodle contest post haste.

To these people I say settle down because here’s another chance to win a doodle!

IF YOU WIN, I WILL DRAW WHATEVER YOU WANT!

Don’t believe me? Here’s proof:

Jenion (the winner of the March contest) wanted a drawing of a bicycle racer. So I drew her a bicycle racer.

Ta daa!

Ta daa!

But here is real proof: I am not fond of cats. (I am horribly allergic and keep rodents as pets.) But, once upon a time, Jilanne Hoffmann’s punk kid asked for a drawing of a cat. So I drew him a cat.
Sigh.

Sigh.

Then Jilanne Hoffmann’s punk kid asked for a drawing of a kitten. So I drew him a kitten.

Double sigh.

Double sigh.

Did I mention that Jilanne Hoffmann’s kid is a punk? Well, he is.

So, yes, I will doodle whatever you want.

Well there is one caveat: I will not draw whatever you want if your wanted whatever is perverted. I am a children’s book author; behave yourself!

HOW TO WIN

The winning name will be drawn from a hat. The fellow drawing the name will be this guy.

The sober judge.

The sober judge.

He is fair, impartial, and looks like a 19th century bare-knuckled pugilist.

HOW TO ENTER

To get your name in the hat, all you need to do is leave a comment with some Words of Wisdom.

To get the ball rolling, here are some actual Words of Wisdom from my parents:

Mom: “Don’t be a candy ass.”

Dad: “The ox is slow but the Earth is patient.”

Mom’s wisdom usually came in the form of vague threats.

Dad’s wisdom usually sounded like its was written by a Confucius in need of a designated driver.

You can do better than this. I know you can. I’m counting on you.

HOW TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING

I’ll add two more ballots to the hat if you announce this contest on your blog and link back to this page. So, yes, you can get three chances to win!

Don’t have a blog? OK, then you can get one extra ballot if you announce this contest (and link back to this page) on your Facebook page or Twitter feed.

DEADLINES, ETC.

Your Words of Wisdom are due on or before Monday, July 21.

The winner of the drawing will be announced on July 22.

The completed doodle will be posted on my blog. The original drawing (suitable for framing) will be mailed to the winner.

Also, cheaters will be stabbed.

Grrr!

Grrr!

So get going! I need all the Words of Wisdom I can get!

GOOD LUCK!

A Purposeful Post: Part Two

They grow up so fast!

Sniff! They grow up so fast!

A couple weeks back, my blog pal, Harula, posted a writing exercise. The theme was “Purpose” and the idea was to complete the following four prompts with whatever spontaneous musings sprung to mind.

* When I was a child, I believed I was here to…

* As a teenager, I believed I was here to…

* As an adult, I believe I am here to…

* The most important thing life has taught me is…

The answers to the first two prompts can be found here. In this post, I get the last two:

***

As an adult, I believe I am here to…

…write. It’s trite for a writer to say this, but I do believe it. I hope that one of my books outlives me. I hope that it might be handed down to the next generation, the same way I gave my old children’s books to my son.

But my son is the big reason why I’m here – to raise him the best way I know how, which is almost certainly not as good as it should be.

Parenting doesn’t come naturally to me, for I’m too solitary and regimented. Now that I’m a dad, I am in a sort of war with myself to resist these natural inclinations.

Fortunately, Ellen is better at this sort of thing. Not a moment goes by when I am not grateful for her presence, for it is she who shoves me back on the right parenting path on the occasions I become too hermit-ish.

I have one child. When people ask me why Ellen and I don’t have more, I have a stock answer: “My boy got all of our best traits,” I say. “A second child would get all the the genetic diarrhea.”

I’ve been told that this is not how science works, but I still choose to believe it.

Another reason I have only one child is because one child works for me. I don’t like messing with what works.

“Once you have two kids, three is easy,” a dad leading a parade of screeching moppets once told me.

“But you have four,” I pointed out.

“And once you have three, four is even easier,” he replied, his smile wide and condescending. It was the smile that got me. The smile said, “You don’t have what it takes, Buddy Boy,” and it stung because I knew he was right.

But I was also thinking, “Well, at least I’ll be able to pay for college, Mr. Smug Guy.”

That’s another reason why I’m here. I believe that, if possible, kids should graduate college no worse than flat broke. It troubles me that college debt is The New Normal. I will do whatever it takes to keep that from happening to my son. It’s hard enough to build up from nothing without having to begin one’s adulthood deep in the red.

The most important thing life has taught me is…

…that failure is not a big deal. I’ve spent much of my adult life screaming this fact from the rooftops. I’ve seen way too many people more talented than I give up on their dreams way too soon because the idea of failing is just way too terrifying.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Jealous?

And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Jealous?

I believe that almost every success I had is based on the fact that I’ve simply refused to stop trying. I love to repeat my old chestnut, “I got 114 rejections before my first book contract,” because I’m proud of it. I think that my many rejections say more about me than my one book does. It says that I will never give up.

Granted, it also says that I’m a little tweaked. But, hey, for a writer, that’s just par for the course.

So! What’s the most important thing that’s life has taught you? Tell me in the comments!

Career Highlights

Our hero.

Our hero.

I love to take part in flash fiction contests because they force me to push my mind in new and unexpected directions. So last year, when Susanna Leonard Hill announced a “Fourth of July Mystery” writing competition, I was eager to give it a go.

The timing of the contest also turned out to be excellent. I was in-between projects and was stumbling around trying to figure what to work on next. So, a Fourth of July Mystery it was! Even though I was less than eager to tackle another holiday story, I figured that, at the very least, it would be a fun writing exercise.

My first instinct for a Fourth of July Mystery was, The Mystery of The Missing Fingers (Spoiler Alert: The Cherry Bomb did it!), but I came to my senses. Instead, I submitted a story titled Harold’s Hat. Want an elevator pitch? Here ya go:

“Mwah-ha-ha!” This year the ever-inventive Harold is definitely going to beat Betsy Lominzer in the Fourth of July Patriotic Hat Contest. His creation has it all: flashing lights, a siren, megaphone, music, battery-powered flag waving action and shooting sparks. How could Harold possibly lose with something that awesome? Here’s one way: He could lose his hat! With only minutes before the competition begins, can Harold find his creation and get to the town square in time to square off against his hat-making nemesis?

I was pretty happy with the result, so I decided to revise the story and attempt to sell it somewhere.

About three seconds after finishing said rewrite, I stumbled upon the theme of the 2014 Highlights Fiction Contest: “Holiday Stories.” This, I figured, was too big a coincidence to ignore. So I didn’t.

And I won!

When the Highlights editor wrote to tell me, she said that she was “eager to announce my win to the world.” She followed up this statement with a “Mwah-ha-ha,” which I found pretty hilarious.

Needless to say, I am so very grateful to Susanna — who is the very definition of wonderful. Just one look Susanna’s blog proves it; every post – every single freakin’ post – is designed to help her fellow writers succeed. That was certainly true in my case. If it wasn’t for her contest, I never would have come up with this story.

When I rewrote Harold, I asked several talented bloggers for feedback. Cathy Ballou Mealey, however, deserves to be singled out for special praise. Her thoughtful critiques inspired me to push Harold in new and considerably more exciting directions. I believe that if it wasn’t for Cathy’s comments, Harold’s Hat wouldn’t have won a darn thing.

What I’m trying to say is that my writing is so much richer now that I am a part of a blogging community. This win proves it. Thanks, everybody. I am so very grateful.

 

A Purposeful Post

The young me and the noisiest typewriter on earth. Lordy, did I love it.

The young me and the noisiest typewriter on earth. Lordy, did I love that thing.

A couple weeks back, my blog pal, Harula, posted a writing exercise. The theme was “Purpose” and the idea was to complete the following four sentences with whatever spontaneous thoughts sprung to mind.

* When I was a child, I believed I was here to…

* As a teenager, I believed I was here to…

* As an adult, I believe I am here to…

* The most important thing life has taught me about why I’m here is…

I decided to give it a go. The answer to the first two prompts are below. I’ll post the next two soon:

***

When I was a child, I believed I was here to…

…become a “dinosaur expert.” I was fascinated by Stegosaurus and was rooting for the  poor devil in his Fantasia fight with Tyrannosaurs Rex. I loved Stegosaurus so much that at times I wanted to be a Stegosaurus. Is that odd?

I also was fascinated by the sheer size of Brontosaurus. He was as long as three city buses laid end to end! Dang! Who wouldn’t want to be a dinosaur expert?

Many years later that I learned that Stegosaurus was extinct by the time T-Rex appeared on the scene, making Fantasia scientifically inaccurate — despite what that egghead Deems Taylor would have you believe. Then I learned that Brontosauruses never existed at all. So The Flintstones? Lies. All lies.

I am still fascinated by dinosaurs today but now possess the self-awareness to understand that I am way too impatient to be a paleontologist.

By the way, my favorite dinosaur has since changed. I am now a fan of Triceratops. Especially the adorable and slightly derpy looking stuffed triceratops who sits on my son’s bed. This fellow has gone by many names over the years. When Alex was three, he called him Oscar Lotion. I have no idea why. Later the name changed to Susie, then Harold Lloyd, and now, simply Triceratops. I call him Oscar Lotion Susie Harold Lloyd Triceratops and pretend he is a prehistoric accountant.

No, Mr. Allegra. I'm afraid stuffed animal purchases are not deductible.

“Sorry, Mr. Allegra. I’m afraid stuffed animal purchases are not tax deductible.”

As a teenager, I believed I was here to…

…be an actor. At an early age I noticed that I had a sort of fearlessness in front of crowds and could quickly remember lines. I didn’t do much acting growing up, but what I did was intoxicating. My big high school break was when I played the voice of Audrey Two in our school’s presentation of Little Shop of Horrors. I wanted to be the sadistic dentist, Orin, but I was the only one in the school who could pull off that deep, Ron Taylor voice. In other words, my high school had way too many white people.

I was this guy.

I was this guy. It was awesome.

In college I lied my way into acting classes (Ha! Acting!). I soon recognized that I liked acting students much, much more than graphic design students. This was kind of a problem because graphic design was my major. Horrified by the idea of actually using this graphic design degree, I contemplated going to acting school. I auditioned for and got accepted into the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in New York before deciding that I have already accrued enough debt, thank you. Besides, I knew that deep down, acting was too uncertain and unstable a career for my personality.

This turned out to be a wise decision, for in tandem with my passion for acting, I had developed a passion for writing. A person can write and hold a steady day job. Four short years after I graduated from college, my day job switched from graphic design to writing. I got my start as a newspaper man and found the experience to be amazing. I wrote during the day for a salary and then wrote at night and on the weekends to draw a supplementary income. In other words, I became a very happy person.

***

And there you have it! Part two is coming soon.

When you were a kid what did you believe you were meant to do? Tell me in the comments below! C’mon, be a sport!