So I Have A Fish Now

Oh, hai!

Oh, hiya.

She is a six line wrasse. I named her Audrey because she has the grace and elegance of Audrey Hepburn.

And because Audrey – like all living things – needs to poop on occasion, I also got a shrimp to, ahem, clean up after her. The shrimp is named Fosse – as in Bob Fosse. I named the shrimp Fosse because his waggling antennae reminded me of jazz hands. I also chose the name because, if memory serves, Bob Fosse (the person) drank Tab. If you don’t remember Tab, it was a diet soda that tasted like poo. So there we are.

Hey, big spender!

The Jets and the Sharks have nothin’ on the Shrimps.

And no tank is complete without a snail. He has yet to exhibit enough personality to warrant a name. I am, of course, willing to hear suggestions.

Turn Ons: Eating slime. Turn Offs: Slimelessness.

Turn Ons: Eating slime.
Turn Offs: Slimelessness.

To be honest, Audrey, Fosse, and No Name Snail don’t belong to me. They are my son’s pets. He just let me name them.

Alex was always fascinated with saltwater fish. Ever since he was about three, he would leave me in the dust the moment we entered a pet store. Off he’d race to the tanks along the far wall.

He must have picked up this behavior from my wife, Ellen, who also has a habit of abandoning me in pet stores. She, however, would dart in the opposite direction, to the furry critter section, and act as if it was her personal petting zoo.

I would’ve preferred to have followed my wife to the critters; I am a rodent person, after all. But you can’t let a preschooler wander off to a distant corner of a huge, busy store alone, because, you know, blah, blah, blah, bad parenting, blah, blah.

I also couldn’t ask Ellen to watch Alex because she would always have her hands full. Literally. She would be cradling three chinchillas in her arms saying, “Who’s adorable? Who’s adorable? You are! Yes, you are!”

So off to the fish tanks I would go. Alex would talk to me endlessly about how beautiful the fish were. How graceful they were. How awesome the tanks looked. How much he liked the pump that blurbled air bubbles into the water.

Then he’d ask me which fish was my favorite. In response I’d point to the 89-cent goldfish, because I had a pretty good idea where this conversation was going.

But he never asked for a fish. Perhaps in his young mind he thought they were for display purposes only.

So Alex and I just talked and watched the fish as we waited for the PetSmart employees to shoo Little Miss Grabby Hands away from the rodent cages. When Ellen no longer had anything in her arms to pet, we were allowed to leave.

As Alex got older he and I still lingered in the fish section of the pet store, but our discussions shifted to questions about fish care. And when his questions got too complicated for me to answer, we’d chat up an employee. Alex knew my philosophy of pet ownership: If you’re not willing to take care of it, don’t bother to ask the question. This philosophy had held him off for years. By the time last Christmas rolled around, however, he was weighing his options. Maybe he did want to take care of a fish.

And maybe I did, too. After all those times of standing in front of those tanks, I began to awaken to their appeal. No, fish aren’t as cuddly as rodents, but they sure are beautiful, aren’t they?

At Christmas, Alex got his aquarium. And this past month, Alex picked out Audrey. Much to my chagrin, Audrey is not an 89-cent goldfish. And much more to my chagrin, Audrey costs much more than an 89-cent goldfish.

And did you know that you have to pay for salt water? You can’t just throw sea salt in tap water and call it a day, apparently. And you need living sand. Not just any old sand. The living kind. That also goes for rocks, too. You need living rocks. (The  idea that the rocks and sand are alive unnerves me slightly.) You also need a heater and a thermometer and a thing that scrapes the slime off of the glass. And those poo-eating shrimp aren’t chump change either. And please don’t get me started on how much that bitty eight-gallon aquarium cost.

When I was a kid, I had a goldfish. I won him at a fair. It lived in a glass bowl with colored (non-living) rocks and a plastic castle. It was dead in two months. I wasn’t exactly sad to see it go. Neither was my mom. The investment was minimal. The bowl, rocks and castle probably cost three bucks.

But I will do everything in my power to keep Audrey alive and happy. I’ve spent way too much for her not to be happy. And alive.

Besides, ever since she came to live with us, not a day has gone by when Alex and I haven’t pulled up two chairs to watch Audrey glide around the living rocks, Fosse whip out the jazz hands, and No Name Snail do nothing. We watch and we talk. And those moments are well worth any investment.

Here’s The Winning Doodle! (I Have More Doodle News, Too!)

She's Norwegian!

She’s Norwegian!

Last week the lovely and talented Alicia Jamtaas was the big winner of the Mike Allegra Win A Doodle Contest. Her prize was a custom made doodle of anything she wanted.

What she wanted was raven shape-shifter.

I had never heard of a raven shape-shifter before. Fortunately, Alicia clarified things:

“A raven shape-shifter is a woman who is able to shape shift into a raven. Like a selkie – woman to seal.”

“Ah!” I replied. (I decided not to mention that I had never heard of a selkie, either.)

Fantasy stuff is not really in my wheelhouse, but I figured I’d come up with something. I visited Google Images. There I discovered that no one on earth seems to agree on what a raven shape-shifter looks like.

So I winged it (so to speak).

Here’s your doodle, Alicia! I hope you like it.

This is the only time I ever see ravens.

Do forgive me. (Click to enlarge.)


This is my last post before shutting down the blog for the summer. Before I go, however, I wanted to give you one last bit of doodle-related news:


That’s right! You no longer have to win a contest to get your very own doodle. You just need to pay me. Click on the Hire Me! menu above for rates and details.


Have a great summer everyone! I’m going to miss you!

Here, lemme give you a big hug.

You deserve it!

You deserve it! (Click to enlarge.)

See you in September!

And The Winners Are….

Who will be the lucky winner? Will it be YOU?

Who will be the lucky doodle winner? Will it be YOU?

Holy schmoley cannoli! You guys sure like my doodles!

I am surprised and delighted to report that my Win A Doodle! Hooray! post was the most commented-upon post in my blog’s four-year history – handily breaking the former record holder, A Natural Cure (which had an unfair advantage as it was Freshly Pressed).

So wow. Just wow. You guys are wonderful!

And your vacation tales were delightful! And horrible! And delightfully horrible! I loved every last one of them.

In fact, if you haven’t already, I would highly recommend that you head back to the post to peruse some of the anecdotes. Your morning coffee will be pouring out of your nose in no time.

But enough of my yammering! It’s time to get down to business!

Let’s find out who will win a Custom Made Mike Allegra Doodle!

Our esteemed judge took his position before the Penguin Ice Bucket of Impartiality…

01 the sorting bucketHe dumped the entries inside…

02 the ballotsHe wielded the Tongs of Selectivity-ness…

03 the tongs of impartialityAnd stirred.

04 stirring...And stirred.

05 stirring...And stirred.

06 stirring...*Sigh* And stirred.

07 stirring...I’m growing old, kid.

08 and the grand prize winner is...And the winner is…

09 Alicia something!ALICIAJAMJAAS!

(How do you pronounce that, Alicia?)

Congratulations, Alicia-Something, you are the winner of a Mike Allegra Doodle!


There are two other prizes!

The mother of Thanksgiving! Woo!BOTF_Hi-Rez-CoverThe Second Prize-Winner gets to select one of my books!

And the Third Prize-Winner gets what the Second Prize winner didn’t want!

So! Let’s continue!

Oh, crap, that means more stirring, doesn’t it?

10 shake Nope. Shaking.

11 shake shakeWhy didn’t I ever spank this kid?

12 shake shake shakeMy parents spanked me and I turned out fine. And obedient.

13 shake shake shake shakeStop shaking! For the love of God, STOP SHAKING!

14 the second prize winner is...And the Second Prize winner is…

15 Giff!GIFF MacSHANE!

Congratulations, Giff! You have won an autographed copy of Sarah Gives Thanks OR Blood on the Floor!

And the Third Prize winner is…

16 third prize is...also Giff?Um. Also GIFF MacSHANE?

OK. That’s never happened before. Apparently that outcome is possible when you throw multiple ballots into a bucket.

So the judge and I had a consultation.

After much deliberation, the judge decided that as much as we love Giff (neither one of us knows Giff, but both of us concluded that Giff is probably someone we would love to go bowling with) it would be unfair to give her two prizes.

SO! We’re giving this another go!

And the Third Prize winner is…

17. the real third prize winnerOh, you gotta be kidding me.

*Sigh* The Third Prize winner is my bloggy tormentor/cat fancier/Brussels sprout eater/punk kid raiser JILANNE HOFFMANN!

I knew we should’ve given both books to lovable Giff.

18 congrats!Congrats to Alicia, Giff, and Jilanne! Please head on up to the  “Hire Me!” menu and send me an email.

Thanks to everyone who entered! See you next week!

Win A Doodle! Hooray!


Here’s your chance to win an official Mike Allegra custom made doodle!

But first, a word from Giddy Happy Mike:

This is the cover of the July 2015 issue of Highlights for Children.

Highlights coverIsn’t it great? I especially like this part:

Highlights cover detailThat’s my story!

“Harold’s Hat,” is in the latest issue of Highlights (which is awesome)! And the editors decided to promote it on the magazine’s cover (which is awesomer)!

The issue arrived in my mailbox on Saturday. My son took one look at it, turned to me and said, “You are so cool.”

Best Fathers’ Day Present Ever.

The entire magazine is fantastic, by the way (Highlights is always fantastic). So be sure to pick up a copy for the little ones in your life. OK?

Thank you for indulging me. Now where was I? Oh, yes…



Don’t believe me? Then just take a look at these recent doodle commissions!

Sarah wanted a Caffeine Gnome, so I gave her a Caffeine Gnome. (Click to enlarge.)

Sarah wanted a Caffeine Gnome, so I gave her a Caffeine Gnome. (Click to enlarge.)

Sue wanted a great dane protecting puppehs. So I gave her a great dane protecting puppehs. (Click to enlarge.)

Sue wanted a Great Dane protecting some puppehs. So I gave her a Great Dane protecting some puppehs. (Click to enlarge.)

Jenion wanted a cyclist. So...well, you're getting the idea.  (Click to enlarge.)

Jenion wanted a cyclist. So I gave her a cyclist. (Click to enlarge.)

Pam wanted a writer in a yoga pose petting an angel dog.

Pam wanted a writer in the sunshine in a yoga pose petting an angel dog. So I gave her a…well, you get the idea.  (Click to enlarge.)

And the less said about this salamander, the better.

And the less said about this salamander, the better. (But if you must know…)

So, yes, your doodling wish is my command.

There is one exception, however. I will not draw whatever you want if whatever you want is pervy. I am a children’s book author, bucko, so take your dirty, filthy business someplace else!


The winning name will be drawn at random. The draw-er is this guy.

Breaking Bad boy No. 2He is apparently a fan of gritty AMC dramas.


To get your name in the drawing, all you have to do is leave a comment below answering ONE of the following questions:

What was the best vacation you’ve ever had?


What was the worst vacation you ever had?

If you choose to describe your worst vacation (and I really hope you do!) please provide some detail to illustrate all the awfulness, OK?


Want me to stuff the ballot box in your favor? OK. I’ll add two more ballots if you announce this contest on your blog and link back to this page. That’s three chances to win!

Don’t have a blog? No problemo. Then you can get one extra ballot if you announce this contest on your Facebook page or Twitter feed.


As I mentioned, the Grand Prize-Winner will get a custom made, one-of-a-kind, Mike Allegra doodle (suitable for framing or lining birdcages).

But I have other prizes, too! Our esteemed judge is going to draw two more names from the hat!

Second Prize: This winner may select a signed copy of my picture book, Sarah Gives Thanks, OR a signed copy of the anthology Blood on the Floor: How Writers Survive Rejection (I have an essay in there).

Third Prize: The winner gets the book the Second Prize-winner didn’t want. Hey, it’s better than nothing.


Your entry is due on or before Monday, June 29. The winner of the drawing will be announced on Tuesday, June 30.

That’s it! Answer a question and get going!


The Long Goodbye

Celebrate Haircuts-2Summer is almost here. It is time to break out the swimsuits. It is time to pretend you’re eating ice cream to “keep cool”. And, yes, it is time to get your hot weather, extra short haircut.

Summer also means it is time for me shut down the blog until September.

I’m gonna miss you guys!

I’m gonna miss you guys a lot.

You guys are wonderful, really.

Really wonderful.

In fact, you guys are so wonderful…


Check back here next Tuesday for a chance to win a gen-u-wine, custom made, Mike Allegra doodle!

Tell your friends, enemies, and frenemies! Spread the word!

It’s gonna be fun. I promise.