Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas pickle

Christmas pushups

Nicholas is getting good at pushups and "creeping" around, as he gets oh so close to crawling.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pulling a stunt in Taylor

We had a great event at the Howard Theatre this past Sunday benefitting Hospice Austin of Williamson County. I read briefly from EVACUATION PLAN and Gary Kent showed a pristine print of of his film RAINY DAY FRIENDS with star (and rather famous stuntman) Chuck Bail on hand to tell some tale tales.

That's Gilbert Wildin and family with Chuck, Gary and Bob Ivy outside the theater. Gilbert played some blues guitar to open the event.

Grace Holland of Hospice Austin, Gary, me and my sister Clare.

Gary orders up some goodies at the counter. Cole the manager called the event the best in his time at the Howard Theatre.

Chuck Bail, Gary Kent and Bob Ivy. You may know Bob as the mummy in Bubba Ho-Tep.


Ah, our boy is growing up. Eight months old and counting (plus biting).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oprah? It's Joe. I've got a book for you...

Good news on the novel front. The San Marcos Daily Record did a great profile in advance of Texas Authors Day there this coming Sunday. And Dawn Papuga wrote a great review.

Meanwhile, my OLDER sister has created a group on aimed at getting Evacuation Plan on Oprah. Join the cause! Start by joining the group. Then send her an email telling her what a great topic it would be...

Nicholas misses his Mommy

Hard to believe he was crying right before this.

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Let's hope Nick doesn't inherit that nose!

The blackmail photo for when he's a teenager.

Vittles be good!

Tiffany is at a conference for a few days, so Nicholas and I and the spotted pooch Spike are toughing it out. I promised I'd post some photos for my lovely bride, so here are some I really like from this past week.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Writer's strike

My latest Dallas Morning News column delves into the effect the Writers Guild of America's ongoing strike may have in Texas. I also talk about this in a piece upcoming this week in The Austin Chronicle.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Going nuts at the Texas Book Festival

That's a nutcracker I'm hoisting in the air at my Texas Book Festival booth. I brought a bunch of pecans gathered from our yard and offered passersby a crack at them Sunday, while getting them to stop and check out EVACUATION PLAN.

Thanks to everyone who came by. I sold some books and met some incredible people! The next event is Texas Authors' Day on Nov. 18 from 2-5 p.m. at the San Marcos Public Library.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

EVACUATION PLAN goes to Denmark!

I spent two hours this morning discussing my novel EVACUATION PLAN with students visiting Austin from Denmark. What a treat. They asked interesting questions and we had a lively discussion of hospice. Best of all, I can be assured that there will be many copies of the book floating around Europe. Speaking of which, my mother's friend had a copy with her on a recent flight to India and accidentally left it on the airplane. I wonder where it ended up?

Two new reviews of EVACUATION PLAN worth checking out by the wonderful Peggy Tibbitts and the good folks at Curled Up With a Good Book. Joe-O sez check them out.

And YES I will be selling the book at the Texas Book Festival this Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Look for the tents!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

'Evacuation Plan' is No. 1!

I woke up this morning, grabbed the Austin American-Statesman and saw that my novel EVACUATION PLAN is ranked as the No. 1 local bestseller this week! Woo hoo! The commotion at our house confused Nicholas, but he eventually calmed down.

In other book news:

If you're in Austin and have Time Warner cable, you can catch me repeatedly this month talking about and reading from EVACUATION PLAN. I spoke to the Writers League of Texas recently and it was recorded for their series "Writing Across Texas." It's airing on Channel 10.

And a story from the book titled "The Gambler" has been adapted by Janet Heimlich into a play that will be performed in early 2008 as part of Frontera Fest.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Wascally wabbit

This week Nicholas moved from rice cereal to carrots as the parade of pureed foods continues. Guess what orange carrots + Nicholas equals? Green poop.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Taking it on the chin

Lots of drooling and grimaces, but Nicholas tried some semi-solid food for the first time tonight. He wore most of it.

The high and mighty Nicholas

We bought the rapidly aging Nicholas his first high chair this past weekend. Once we spent a few days figuring out how to put it togeher, we slipped him in and let him play with the accompanying toys that are supposed to get him to like it before we start with a little solid food--that's coming tonight!

After six months of nothing but mother's milk, we have also started substituting one bottle of formula a night. The poop is no more stinky from the change so far, but give him time.

Nicholas measured a whopping 28 inches tall at his six-month doctor's appointment, making him in the 95 percentile for height. I expect him to tower over me one day.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Friday Night Lights, season two

My story from the set of Friday Night Lights made the cover of the Dallas Morning News entertaiment section. The show's second season premieres tonight.

Diaper David, I love you

I'm turning into a major fan of the writer/artist David Shannon. What, you've never heard of this genius? You clearly don't have young children. In the pre-K set David Shannon, and his alter ego Diaper David, is a god.

It seems that when Shannon was five he drew a crude picture of himself as a baby. Years later when he was an artist and a new dad, his mother sent him the drawings. They are the basis for a series of books.

Shannon has three Diaper David board books, which are the ones that can stand up to chewing and potential shredding. My friend Mary Hoover sent u\s the book "Oops!" as a gift. Nicholas loves it, to say the least. When he so much as sees the books, he starts giggling. And they've made up the better part of his vocabulary with "uh oh," "yum," and "ahhh!" being heard a lot around here.

For Nicholas' six-month birthday this week, I gave him Diaper David himself. David immediately received a lick, the highest compliment in the land.

Writers, sharks and hospice workers

It's been an interesting week. I was at the Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers last weekend in Houston. Right before I left I got a wonderful email from the writer Carmen Tafolla, who picked up a copy of EVACUATION PLAN at Langdon Weekend and really liked it. She's offered to help with some events in San Antonio.

On the plane back from Houston I sat net to a woman who described herself as a shark wrestler. She was coming back from Nashville where she'd purchased a few more sharks for Qua, an Austin nightclub that's about to open. People there will dance over a tank of sharks!

On Monday I spoke to my first book club, and it was an important one made up almost entirely of people who work directly with hospice patients (that's me with two of the book club members in the photo. David Zuniga set this event up.). It was very enlightening and reminded me of what I hope to accomplish with my book.

This Saturday I'll be at a book festival in Manor. It's at Jenny Lane Park. Stop on by and say hi!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Writers League invades Dallas

A good time Saturday as the Writers League of Texas had a meet and greet at the Stoneleigh P in Dallas. Met some interesting people, sold a few copies of my novel EVACUATION PLAN and got to hang out with some old friends.

This is part of an effort o make the Writers League more true to its name and a real statewide group.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

An eye on Nicholas

Nicholas went to the eye doctor on Monday to check in on his droopy pirate eyelid. The condition is called ptosis, and we got the word he'll probably have to have surgery to correct it, but not until he's two or three years old. The good news is it's not affecting his vision so far.

He was miserable having his eyes dialated, but seemed to forgive us after a while.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Da-Da goes to Waco

It was a sweaty, fun night in Waco. I met up with Paul and his pal who drove in from Dallas. Some nice Baylor fan gave us two free tickets as we were about to go buy some. We wandered to the Bobcat section to cheer on the school that shall forever be known as Southwest Texas State. The game was forever close, as you can see from the 21-14 score in this photo as Boko the Bobcat mascot gets a ride through the stands after a Bobcat TD. It seemed the night was ripe for an upset, but Baylor passed at will and foiled an onside kick with little time remaining to take the game 28-20. As one Baylor fan said as we walked back from George's where we got a beer at halftime: "We suck." It's the second time in recent years (the other two years ago against Texas A&M) that the Bobcats seemed poised to upset a Big 12 team.

I came home to discover that Nicholas has learned to say (repeatedly) "Da-Da." Fortunately he repeated it for me this morning.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Midwest Book Review

A new review from "Midwest Book Review":

Evacuation Plan
Joe M. O'Connell
Dalton Publishing
P.O. Box 242, Austin, TX 78767
9780974070384, $13.95

This is a fictional account of life's last journey. A screenwriter named Matt decides to volunteer at a hospice for inspiration and help with his writing. The hospice is a last haven for the living and it's chock full of stories for those who listen. Matt takes the people he meets and changes them into colorful characters with lives of his choosing.

We go back and forth between Matt's time in the hospice and his imaginary tales. The book is compassionate and like life, often absurd, sometimes funny, sad, or bittersweet, but never boring. We're human and we've all screwed up more times than any of us can count. It's about forgiveness of oneself and others and a new way of looking at death.

We're all on the fast track to death and each moment is precious. Mr. O'Connell's wise words will help us remember that. Life is too short to forget.

Victoria Kennedy

Eat it up, yum!

Nicholas hasn't actually started eating solid food--we're holding out until he's six months old, which is just around the corner--but he has started practicing with his rubbery spoon. He loves it almost as much as imitating the way I chew my food.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Football, poetry and me

A view from the podium.

Larry Thomas reads.

It's been an interesting week. Monday I went to my first Mack Brown press conference as The Austin Chronicle continued in its quest to turn me into a sports writer, specifically on the University of Texas Longhorn football beat. It resulted in two pieces that you can see here.

Friday, poet Joe Hoppe, prose writer Maxine Beach, who is also the new head of the Austin Community College Creative Writing Department, and I got up early to drive to Granbury. After biscuits and gravy at a local diner, we read at Langdon Weekend, an event sponsored by Tarleton State University. In the photo above you can see my view out on the audience with a copy of my novel Evacuation Plan in the foreground.

Later we listened to a reading by Texas' new poet laureate Larry Thomas at a private residence overlooking the local lake.

On the way back we stopped in Dublin for some of that real-sugar Dr Pepper minus the period.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Get up, stand up, POLKA!

Nick sits up. In answer to critics concerned that he never wears clothes, he has donned a towel.

Nick's new name is Little Tall Boy.

OK, so my boy is true to his mother's roots. Tiffany is from old German/Czech stock, therefore it's natural that Nicholas would love polka. He's spending more and more of his time sitting up and standing (with my assistance for balance). But today I put on the turntable (Yes, I have one) K-TEL's Greatest Polka Hits and danced around the room with him. I've never seen him smile or laugh more, and he already does both a lot. His favorite song is "Too Fat Polka" by Frankie Yankovic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Surviving the Friday Night Lights heat

I'm still recovering from spending much of Monday on the set of Friday Night Lights for an upcoming Dallas Morning News article. I visited the set last year as well, but this time the operation had gotten fancier. I'm always amazed at how much access the show allows and how friendly they are. Trying to get on the set of a motion picture can be an ordeal, and the result is mainly tedium.

AT FNL's football set in Del Valle, I wandered through the coach's office and the locker room with the only concern that I didn't get in the way of the camera. Much of the day was spent on the field where I saw "Smash" take a real-live hit. It was loud. Kudos to the actor who didn't need the fake sweat they sprayed on him. The EMS guy on hand said the players drink endless streams of water this time of year and never have to pee. I downed five bottles in the time I was there and came home with a lovely sunburn necklace.

Want some secret info? Kyle Chandler may leave for a college coaching job, but he quickly returns to fictional Dillon where his new baby is portrayed by triplets. Oh, and the nerdy redhead joins the football team. Read the rest in the DMN soon.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Jeff Salamon's Statesman column

A brief shout out from Jeff Salamon in the Austin American-Stateman today for Evacuation Plan. Scroll to the bottom of his column. Jeff is going on leave to care for his new child. I can relate. Monday is the official start to the year I plan to be at home, writing, teaching online and enjoying time with Nicholas.

Oh, and April Kihlstrom had this nice comment about my recent Writers League of Texas talk. Thanks, April!

Monday, August 20, 2007

What you missed during the credits

Let me say up front that I'm the guy who sits through the entire credits of a movie. It's a matter of respect for the people who made the film. It's also sometimes a hunch that I'll miss something.

A buddy and I went and saw The Simpsons Movie this weekend. At the end I leaned over and whispered that there would be something worth staying for during the credits. How did I know? I'm a Simpsons fan. Of coure there'd be something during the credits. We were the ONLY people to see that I was right. So, without further ado, here's what you missed by leaving before the credits had completely rolled:

* The Spider-Pig song.

* Maggie's FIRST WORD!

* The Springfield Theme song.

* A word from the (pimply faced kid) theater assistant manager.

Aren't you ashamed now? Don't you really want to know what Maggie said?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Writers League of Texas

A great night Thursday speaking to the Writers League of Texas about Evacuation Plan. Despite a pouring rain, about 40 people showed up to hear me read from the book. David Zuniga of Hospice Austin again spoke briefly about hospice and the evening ended with some lively discussion. Because of a mixup about getting the book in stock at Barnes and Noble, I was allowed to sell the books directly myself, which allowed me to give a portion of the proceeds directly to Hospice Austin. I was able to hand David a check on the spot. I, of course, forgot to take photos of the event despite having a camera in my pocket. So you get a pic of Nick and book instead.

A couple of interesting developments in the evening:

-- I was asked to speak to the San Gabriel Writers in January.
-- Diane, the president of the Writers League of Texas, suggested that the book would be a perfect choice for the Austin mayor's book club. Anyone want to email him and push that idea? Anyone know, ahem, Oprah?
-- The eveming was filmed for the Writers League access television show that runs on Time Waner Cable. Look for it soon.

Also this week, the first book club signed me up to speak to them. Bring on those requests!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Film news times two

Check out the latest in my film indusrty columns in The Austin Chronicle and Dallas Morning News.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Nicholas skinned this teddy bear and made it into a hat. No, it's actually the softest bib in the world and a present from Judy. Thanks!

Grabbing the footsies!

Thanks Tim and Martha for the giant firefly. It is in the top five rotation of the Nick Toys--with a bullet. Warn the teddy bears!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The death of the leaper

Austin used to be the kind of place where we valued our graffiti as art. I don't mean just any scribbling. I'm talking Daniel Johnston's "How How Are You" frog on the Drag. I'm talking the female stick figure who jumps to her death on the side of the Stokes Parking Garage at 12th and Guadalupe. On each floor the beskirted lass tumbles, twists and turns. Years ago her final landing was painted over. Recently the entire artwork disappeared under dull brown paint. Color it one more sign of the Dallasization of the weird Austin of yore, which has turned into a T-shirt slogan (one stolen from Red, the guy who actually coined Keep Austin Weird. Hey, Red!).

What's worse? Few people seem to have noticed. I scrounged these photos off the web as posted by the few observant. Long live the leaper!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Heads up? Shot down!

Nick turned 4 months this week, and in the last couple of weeks he's been holding his head high--no small feat for a youn'n.

He's sitting up in his chair!

The bad news about turning 4 months? It's time for the next round of shots!!! This is him in the aftermath.