Life Lessons From A Middle-Aged Cinderella

In 1983 I was ten years old. That year, my only real interest in sports was meeting up with my friends at the Friday night high school football game (which we had no intention of actually watching) and giving my Granny grief during the Dallas Cowboys/Pittsburgh Steelers game each year. (Danny White was a distant cousin and she had a deep love for America’s Team. Me? Not so much.)

It would be another three years before I discovered my die-hard devotion to the Boston Celtics and Larry Bird, and another five years before I would begin watching Sean Elliott and the Arizona Wildcats as they made their way to the Final Four, making me a UofA fan for life (or until I learned that in order to attend UofA, you actually had to live in Tucson. Once I realized that, the hated Sun Devils didn’t look so bad after all.)

But in 1983, I wasn’t paying attention to NCAA basketball. So later in life when I would hear about the great run of the North Carolina State basketball team to win the national championship, I didn’t get too worked up. I mean, I’m sure it was great and all, but it fell into the same arena as The Beatles and the signing of the Magna Carta. All were a part of history and all were things that I didn’t care that much about. I certainly didn’t know or care who Jim Valvano was. Even into my twenties and thirties, I vaguely knew he had been a coach and was known for running around the court looking for someone to hug after his team won it all in 19…something. I also knew he died of cancer and had started the V Foundation to raise money for cancer research. But again, I didn’t pay that much attention. He was a figure from another era who, sadly, probably died before his time.

I should also mention that at that point in my life, I also hadn’t lost my own mother to cancer.

But today, in 2013, I have lost my mom. And so maybe that had something to do with the split second decision I made as I was flipping through the channels last night and came across Coach Jimmy Valvano speaking in front of some group, giving a motivational speech. Normally, I would have kept right on surfing the channels…but I didn’t. I stopped and listened to what he was saying, and low and behold, the guy was quite funny and extremely motivational. I put the remote down and kept watching. And what I watched was a documentary of the magical run of North Carolina State in that 1983 season, told through the rememberances of Coach Valvano’s players.

What prompted the making of this documentary was the death of one of the team’s stars. In fact it was the guy who scored the winning basket at the last second. When he passed, the other players commented that if they didn’t get together regularly, the only time they would see each other was at each other’s funerals. So they planned a reunion. And ESPN got wind of it and sent a film crew to capture the event on tape. And it was fascinating.

To a sports fan like me, the memories of each game was interesting, but what really made the show special was seeing the love these players had for their coach. And learning what kind of things had done to earn that love and devotion.

Coach Valvano wasn’t the tough love kind of coach. He genuinely was a motivational speaker who knew a thing or two about basketball. At the beginning of each season, and several times during, he would hold a practice where the players never touched a ball or ran the length of the court. What they would do was practice cutting down the nets-the ritual that all champions engage in once they have won their coveted prize. He told them that in order to achieve their goal of winning a championship, they needed to know what it felt like to see it happen. The players said it was weird and awkward at first, but after doing it a few times, they got into it…and more importantly, believed it could happen for real.

He trusted his players. Even if they made stupid mistakes, he trusted them with the opportunity to make it right.

At several points during the documentary, they showed him speaking. In one clip he quoted one of his idols whose name I did not catch, but the quote went, “God must love ordinary people, because he sure made a lot of them. But each and every day, ordinary people do the most extrordinary things.” I don’t know why, but that touched me. It touched me deeply.

Another clip showed him years later, after he had been diagnosed with cancer and could hardly walk on his own. He attended that year’s ESPY Awards and was given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. During his speech, he said something I believe is nothing earth shattering, but at the same time, profound. He said there are three things we ought to do every day. The first is laugh. The second is think. Give ourselves some time to think with no outside influences pushing us. The third was to have our emotions move us to tears. He said if a person does each of those things in one day, what an amazing day. A little later in the same speech, he encouraged everyone to enjoy their life. That’s a total cliche thing to say unless it is coming from a man who has no idea how many days he has left. When he says it, there is nothing cliche about it.

At the end of the documentary, it was well past the time I should have been in bed, but I didn’t care. I thought I knew how the story ended. NC State won the tourney in 1983. But that wasn’t the end of the story. The story has no end. In 1993, NC State invited the team back for a 10-year celebration during a half-time of one of their games. What was impressive was that Jimmy Valvano came. He was beyond not well. But he came. And he showed once again that he loved those players. And they in turn loved him back. They loved him because he cared and he believed in them and never let them doubt that he believed in them. That impact will be with each of those men forever. It will be with their families because that belief changed the course of each life it touched. Belief in each other is powerful.

As I turned off the TV, I couldn’t help but think of my mom. I don’t want to cheapen what I’m trying to say by making this a pitch for my book, so I will not do the big, THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN FIND IT thing at the end. But to me, this story of a coach, my mom and the book that I wrote are all interconnected.

I’m an ordinary guy. I’m beyond ordinary, in fact. I was bald before I was thirty. I live fifty miles from the house I grew up in. And whether or not I show up for work on a given day has very little impact on socity at large.

But my mom loved me. And my mom believed I was great-that I could do great things. I miss her terribly. As I sit here writing this, I’m getting my daily dose of being moved to tears. And because of her, and her belief in me that she emphasized from the time I was little, I achieved something extraordinary.

I can honestly say, only one thing in my life has been harder than writing my book, and that was going on a mission. I’m a homebody and those two years, while unbelievably rewarding, were difficult for me. But writing this novel was easily the second hardest thing I have ever done. There were several times I was ready to give up. There were times when I was convinced the whole thing was no good and not worth finishing. But my mother (and my father as well) raised me not to quit. I haven’t always lived up to that teaching, but I try. And I told my mom a long time ago that I was going to write a book. Because of her belief in me, I knew I had to finish. And I did. And if it never experiences success in the wordly sense, it doesn’t matter, because I know I accomplished something extraordinary. And for my ordinary little life, that’s what does matter.

So thank you, Mr. Valvano. Thank you for the opportunity to learn your story. Thank you for the opportunity your story gave me to reflect upon my mom and my experiences with her. Thank you, Mom, for being the type of parent who instilled the confidence to help me achieve my dream. I only wish you were here to share this whole experience with me.

The Reluctant Blogger is lovingly dedicated to Alberta Lee Rapier.

The Closest I’ll Ever Get To an Emmy

I’m always a little stunned at the people my brother knows. As I have documented previously on this blog, he has dropped the odd e-mail into my in-box over the last few weeks with unbelievable endorsements from Eric Samuelsen, playwright and former president of the Association of Mormon Letters; Carol Lynn Pearson, author, playwright and poet well known to LDS audiences; and Stephen Carter, editor of Sunstone Magazine. In my wildest dreams I couldn’t have put together a group of endorsements like that.

Well, he did it again.

Before I get to the latest message, let me give you some background. Kurt Bestor is a composer. Now, he isn’t just any composer, he is a grammy nominated composer of over 40 film scores and over 40 themes of television programs and commercials. In 1988, he was awarded an Emmy for his collaboration with Sam Cardon on the original music for the 1988 Winter Olympics telecast on ABC. He has performed for audiences all over the world and his annual Christmas concerts have played to sold out audiences for over 24 years straight in the western United States

So, when my brother’s latest e-mail arrived with the following message, I was stunned.

Ryan Rapier’s new book “The Reluctant Blogger” is a refreshing addition to the growing LDS fiction market. Unabashedly, Rapier embraces the vernacular and culture familiar to LDS readers, but he does so in a way that seems honest and unobtrusive. Using language that is very much natural to contemporary Mormon “hipsters” and the college-aged LDS crowd, the novel comfortably and naturally approaches topics and relationships that are authentic, germane, and engaging. It’s easy for me to recommend the book. ~ Kurt Bestor (Emmy-award-winning and Grammy-nominated Composer.)

I wish to thank Kurt Bestor for his time and effort in reading my book. I am also truly grateful for his endorsement. And once again, I wish to publically thank my brother, Jerry Rapier, for his efforts on my behalf. I could not ask for a better brother. I got to spend some time with him and his family earlier this week and I was reminded again how much I regret not living closer to them-especially now that he has a brand new son who is one of the cutest little babies I’ve ever seen. I recognize that as an uncle, I may be biased, but seriously…that is one cute kid. Thank you, Jerry, for all you have done on behalf of my “baby”, THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER.

More on Kurt Bestor and his music can be found on his website, www.kurtbestor.com.

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and at Bookworms bookstore in Thatcher, Arizona. If you are a resident of the Gila Valley, or would like to travel to a remote yet beautiful corner of the Grand Canyon State around August 17, please contact Bookworms to pre-order your copy and be a part of THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER’s launch party. Bookworms can be found on-line at www.bookwormsbookstore.com or by calling 928-428-7626.

An Urgent Plea and The Battle of the Sexes Cinema Style

First and foremost, I have a matter of housekeeping to take care of. Over the last month or so, I have been promoting that THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. For any person still inclined to pre-order the book from that retailer, I, in no way, want to discourage you. If you are planning on buying the book, I will be thrilled with whatever course you take to do so.

However, if you live in the Gila Valley, or have ties to the Gila Valley and think you would like to be a part of the book’s official release, I would encourage you to consider pre-ordering THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER from the local LDS bookstore, Bookworms. I would include their address, but if you are local, you know where it is. And if you are local, there is a good chance me telling you it is next to Audio Visions and R&R Pizza would probably be more effective than giving an actual address.

We are tentatively working towards an official event called a launch party or release party that would be held August 17 during the afternoon where we would provide some kind of amazing food items, a party-like atmosphere and a guaranteed copy of THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER for each person who has ordered it. There would also be several more copies available for purchase that day. And most importantly, I would be there to sign your copy.

Now I know some of you are thinking that having my signature in your book will decrease its value before you even get it out of the store. I have to admit, I would probably agree, but nonetheless, I will still be there just in case.

So again, a release party for THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER is tentatively scheduled for August 17 at Bookworms bookstore in Thatcher, AZ. Exact times for the event will be forthcoming. If you live in the Gila Valley or have any desire to be a part of the THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER’s official release in Thatcher, please consider pre-ordering the book through Bookworms. All copies obtained at the release party have the guarantee of having the author’s signature included. I will sign other copies obtained elsewhere, but you are not guaranteed a fancy dessert item to go with it.

My final request is that if you are reading this, please help spread the word to anyone who you might think would be interested. Word of mouth is an author’s greatest source of marketing. Thank you.

Now, to the mindless meanderings regular blog readers are used to.

For Christmas, I begged for, and received, a Blu-Ray copy of The Dark Knight Rises. Now before all of the naysayers start with their catcalls and hissing over my taste in movies, I would say, HUSH! I don’t mock your choice in cinematic fair…at least not to your face…or at least not very often…Oh, just hush!

I am a huge fan of the Christopher Nolan Batman movies.  I think they are amazing. And while I loved The Dark Knight Rises, I would still have to say that The Dark Knight is my favorite of the three. My wife couldn’t disagree more.

When we got The Dark Knight on DVD three years ago, we had to watch it in twenty to thirty minute increments because the stress level would get too high for her. So when I made her sit down to watch this latest Batman thriller, we started with a similar pattern. However, after the second night of viewing, I looked at her and said, “You hate this, don’t you.”

She looked at me for just a moment before saying, “Yes. They are just so dark. I’m sorry, but…” She didn’t have to finish. Sadly to say, at least for me, we settled on me telling her what happens right up to the final five minutes of the movie and then we fast-forwarded and she watched that part with me. It was a little anti-climactic.

Anyway, it got me to thinking. While at no time have I been forced, I have been encouraged (husbands, you know the encouragement of which I speak, it’s not forcible at all) to sit down with my wife and watch Little Women, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice. After these experiences, I believe a comparison in darkness is warranted.

Up front, I have to address the elephant in the room. Early on in The Dark Knight (TDK), the Joker jams a pencil straight down onto a table and then has it “disappear” with the aid of another man’s head. On the darkness scale, I tried desperately to come up with anything from my wife’s movies that would compare…

(Crickets sounding in the distance)

Okay, there really isn’t one. But on the flip side, at no point after any of these Batman flicks did I make the comment, “Oh, it was alright, but I really think the six hour version is better.” I’m sorry, but six hours of watching British actors go to parties and fuss over who is getting married or not is pretty darn dark. I’m just sayin’.

So, with that out of the way, I will begin a completely random selection of five “dark” movie ingredients and see where we end up. Buckle up, it could be a bumpy ride.

1. Use of a Toxic Agent – In Batman Begins (BB), the villains intend to infect the citizens of Gotham with a hallucinogenic gas that will cause intense paranoia that could easily lead to them killing each other. In the end, several thousand individuals are probably affected. In Little Women (LW), Beth dies of Scarlet Fever. This disease has killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, through the centuries. Which is darker? Shannon’s movie:  Shannon-1, Ryan-0

2. Menacing Home Invasion – In TDK, the Joker crashes a party being held in Bruce Wayne’s penthouse. In Pride and Prejudice (P&P), whatever Judi Dench’s character’s name is bursts into the Bennett home in the middle of the night. In both instances people were threatened, but no one was ultimately killed. I think that due to the lateness of the hour and the intense disrespect shown to people who were sleeping, I would lean toward Shannon’s movie once again being the darker choice here, but since Judi Dench was not wielding a sawed-off shotgun and at no point was someone tossed off the roof of the Bennett household…Which is darker? A draw: Shannon-2, Ryan-1

3. Animal Cruelty – In TDK, a doberman is released and attacks Batman. In a later scene, three rottweilers are let loose on the caped crusader. While the animals do receive some punishing blows, none are actually seen dying. In any Jane Austin story, the men mount up for pure sport and set loose upwards of thirty to forty dogs who chase foxes into the woods. It is like Fight Club for animals. Everyone knows what happens to the fox next. I think this one is a no-brainer. Which is darker? Shannon’s movie: Shannon-3, Ryan-1

4. Betrayal – In TDKR, Selina Kyle, AKA The Cat, leads Batman into a trap where he is captured by Bane, thrown into a prison and almost dies. In Sense and Sensibility (S&S), John Willoughby leads Marianne Dashwood into a romantic trap, if you will, then callously casts her aside for financial gain causing Marianne, for whatever reason, to go walking in the freezing cold rain for hours on end, which leads to her almost dying. (SPOILER ALERTS AHEAD) In the end, Selina Kyle regrets her decisions and returns to Batman’s side. John Willoughby, on the other hand, never returns. How Cold…and dark. Which is darker? Shannon’s movie: Shannon-4, Ryan-1

5. Brutal Use of Hostages – In TDK, the Joker takes two ferry loads of people hostage and then pits them against each other in a twisted experiment to the death. Fifteen minutes into Little Women, I felt as if I had been brutally taken hostage…Alright, I grudgingly admit, Which is darker? Ryan’s movie: Shannon-4, Ryan-2

So there you have it. Taking a random sample of 5 areas of disturbing or “dark” content, Jane Austin and Louisa Mae Alcott clearly have a penchant for the darker side of humanity that Christopher Nolan could never hope to match. I hope my wife appreciates all the thought and effort that went into this scientific comparison. However, something tells me she won’t.

My Betrayal Is Complete and My Thanks to Steve Westover

Growing up in Duncan, Arizona, there were three unalterable truths to life:

1. If the price of copper was good, life was good. If the price of copper was bad…pray with every ounce of your soul for the price of copper to be good.

2. There is no perfect amount of rain in one year. Either it was not enough and all the crops were going to suffer, or, the Gila River would flood and wipe half the town away.

3.  After Satan and Darth Vader, the most pure evil to be found on the earth were the green and white clad minions of Thatcher High School.

To go a little geek on you here for a moment, Thatcher was like Mordor in Middle Earth. All the surrounding communities lived in perpetual fear of the dark riders being dispatched from Minas Morgal on their soulless green and white bus for the sole purpose of laying waste to our (put in your favorite sport, ie. football, basketball, volleyball, etc) team. How we despised them. (I’m sure there is some connection that could be made to basketball coach/principal Paul Nelson being Sauron, but we’re going to leave that alone.)

A victory over Thatcher was an event to be celebrated for days. A close loss was worthy of cursing, egg throwing and eventual nasty letters being written to the local paper. But more often than not, most contests, as far as Duncan was concerned, ended in complete and utter devastation.

So, five and a half years after my graduation from high school, you can imagine my family’s concern when I went and married a girl from Thatcher. It was not pretty. Shannon was accepted, but the taunts and the ribbing was intense in the early years. But the way most of them came to grips with this new arrangement was the fact that we would be moving to Mesa and would not be living in either place. This remained the case for nine years.

Then, Shannon and I felt the need to get our young family back closer to the home we’d grown up with. Which led to a discussion. Where were we going to live?

Duncan was off the table immediately. There were simply no jobs available to make it feasible. That meant we were moving to one of the three communities in the Gila Valley: Safford, Pima or…Thatcher.

My wife made the decision easy. She said, “I can live anywhere…but we’re going to live in Thatcher.” Decision made.

So, almost eight years ago, my family settled into our home in Thatcher, Arizona and life has been perfect since. Or has it?

When it came to attending sporting events, I had very little problem switching my allegiance to my new locale. Well, less problems than I thought. Rooting for the Eagles still causes me to get chills every once in a while, but as the people wearing green began to be my friends and the boys competing happened to be the same ones showing up in my teacher’s quorum on Sunday, the difficulty I experienced waned.

Except when they played Duncan.

For whatever reason, I couldn’t let it go. As I have recorded earlier, when my brother-in-law graduated a couple of years after we moved here, I subtly wore a red polo shirt with grey slacks (Duncan’s school colors) to his graduation. When the two teams would compete, I would undoubtedly find myself on the Duncan side, sitting with my extended family, rooting on the rebellion as we stared into the face of the Death Star. It’s apparently part of my DNA.

But as of last Friday night, it appears I’m going to have to succumb fully to my inner Benedict Arnold.

My oldest daughter will enter high school next year. Up until now, sports have never been of interest to her. They still aren’t, other than a sudden fascination with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. (Shannon and I discussed disowning her, but my wife wouldn’t let me.) But since she was a little girl, she has been fascinated with being a cheerleader. There have been times I had thought the dream had died, but in truth, it never had. This last week, after two years of dance classes and a lifetime of ear-splitting yelling around the house for no reason, she put her skills to the test and tried out for the Thatcher High School Spirit Line.

And she made it.

As a father, I could not possibly be more proud of her. She worked harder for this than anything I have ever seen her put her effort toward.

As a Duncan High School alumnus, I feel my duplicitous life has finally come to an end. I am going to have to don the dreaded green and white.

So forgive me, my fellow Wildkats. To complete the metaphor, the ring has finally taken complete control of my soul and there is no turning back.

But to my daughter, I am so proud of you. And for you and for you alone, I will happily turn to the darkside.

 

In other news, I received a message back from another fellow author in the Cedar Fort ranks who agreed to read my book. Steve Westover lives in rural Missouri and has published four books with Cedar Fort. His stories tend to be action/adventure oriented.

When I first approached him with the idea of endorsing my book, he responded that he would do his best but that he was very busy. I could accept that. With a book having come out at the end of 2012 and another two books due out this year, I was surprised he had time to answer my e-mail. But I’m grateful he did.

A week or so ago, I finally heard back from him and thankfully he had found the time to read THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER. His thoughts?

Heartbreaking, emotionally charged, humorous and real: THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER will grip you by the throat, leaving you desperate for closure until you turn that final satisfying page.

I will admit to having never thought of my book as one that would grip you by the throat. But when I think about it, I like the visual.

So publicly, I would like to thank Steve for taking time out of his packed schedule and reading my first novel. It was admittedly a gamble for him. But even more so, I would like to thank him for his extremely gracious endorsement. I truly appreciate it.

More about Steve Westover can be found at http://www.stevewestover.com

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER arrives August 2013 and can be pre-ordered at amazon.com by following the link at the bottom of this post.  Thanks again to everyone putting up with my ramblings for your support.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Reluctant-Blogger-Ryan-Rapier/dp/1462112544/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363036787&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Reluctant+Blogger

Why I Love Being A Generation Xer

I’ll admit it, I love that my parents never really got me. I love that my kids give me the “my dad is so weird” look while trying to process my latest sarcastic remark. I love that in spite of being the smallest generation over the last century by almost half, Generation X has effectively changed the world to meet our needs. Please Us. DO WHAT WE WANT!!! Because, according to the generations that have gone before, that’s what being a Generation Xer is all about. It’s all about me.

Never mind that the end-all of human existence for many of the WWII generation was getting their picture in the paper or their name on a wall. Forget about the fact that Baby Boomers made us suffer through the Hippie movement and all of its “Finding Yourself” garbage. (No really, please forget about it.  Baby Boomers have been trying to forget about it themselves for years.) No, when it comes to self-centered narcissism, supposedly no one does better than an Xer.

If you don’t believe me, here are a few examples of our naked selfishness at its worst:

I won’t join Rotary. Generation Xers are, for the most part, refusing to follow in the tradition of their forefathers by joining civic groups and clubs. They don’t see the point. If their experience is anything like mine, they are invited to attend one of these meetings where they are subjected to mediocre food, odd renditions of songs sung by the entire group that were outdated during the Lincoln presidency, silly traditions like referring to each other as “Lion George” or “Lion Stanley”, and then comes the program.

When I was four-years-old, a lady in my ward (who would later become one of my most favorite people in the world) went on a trip to The Holy Land. When she came back, she invited my parents (and me by extension) over to view her innumerable slide collection. About an hour in, my little four-year-old self couldn’t take it anymore. I was beyond bored. I have never felt that bored again…until I listened to “Brother so-and-so” at a Rotary meeting talk about a recent trip he had taken. He went forty-five minutes strong without breathing. Through the whole experience, I kept thinking, “There are so many better ways I could be spending my time.” It was a safe bet I wasn’t going to join anyway, but the program cinched it.

Now, I don’t, in any way, want to suggest that these clubs cease to exist. For those who are a part of them, I am sure they fill a purpose. But just let me write a check for ten dollars to…whoever, and let me be on my way.

I don’t want a plaque, I don’t want a party, I just want a check. Most Xers I know feel the same way I do. Don’t waste money buying me something in order to recognize my accomplishments. If you like what I did, especially in the workplace, save the money and just give it to me directly. I don’t want my picture in the paper. I don’t want a cake. Just show me the money, baby, and let me go spend it how I want to.

Loyalty only extends as far as my paycheck. Right after I graduated from ASU, I went to work for the FedEx Corporation. During my training, I met tons of baby boomers who expressed that they, “bled purple.” I didn’t say it out loud, but to myself I thought, “Well that’s stupid. Because FedEx bleeds green, and they don’t give a rat’s rear-end about you.” Shockingly, my tenure at FedEx Corporation lasted no longer than three tumultuous years. I couldn’t stomach the constant use of the words, “Great New Opportunity” as way to describe the latest way they had found to screw me and my fellow employees. And that brings me to another way in which I am a self-absorbed Xer. I despise being condescended to. Which leads me to my last example...

I will not take abuse in order to achieve or hold onto a status. If someone wants me to serve on a board, be ready for my opinion. If my opinion is not what you want to hear, kick me off the board or get over it, I really don’t care which. I have no desire to be the president of anything, and being on any committee, board or whatever, really just means more of my time being taken up. I will serve, but don’t think my membership on said…whatever, means anything to me, because it doesn’t.

Now why am I talking about this? In my upcoming novel, THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, one of the key plot lines revolves around the main character and his struggles with his father, many of which can be attributed to generational differences. It is a subject that fascinates me. And here’s why.

To most people over 50, my generation was truly seen as obnoxious, selfish and ungrateful. But here’s something I’ve noticed in my life that makes me grateful to be born when I was.

My parents were amazing.  I love them dearly. But there are differences in my relationships with my children and the relationship I had with my parents. My parents had their own music. Because of their influence, I love to listen to old Simon and Garfunkel songs or Neil Diamond or Chuck Berry or…the list goes on and on. But the interest was never reciprocated. Neither my mother nor my father ever expressed a desire to get their own recording of my latest Def Leppard single. They never seemed interested in singing along to Bad Medicine by Bon Jovi. And when I purchased Prince’s latest release, it wasn’t long before I was only allowed to listen to it with headphones or when both of my parents weren’t home.

A couple of nights ago, I was driving with my thirteen-year-old daughter somewhere when Bon Jovi’s latest single, Because We Can came up on my iPod. I started singing along. Within seconds she joined me. Because she had heard it on the radio and liked it. Then came Rumour Has It by Adele, followed by Good Time by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen. Both of these songs are recent releases and would be considered her music. But it was my iPod we were listening to. And we were enjoying it together.

Now I know music is a trivial thing, but the point is, my daughter and I have a lot in common. And those commonalities take effort on my part. I can talk to my daughter…actually all of my kids in a way I don’t remember being able to with my parents. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I’ve talked with several of my friends and each has expressed something similar.

I’m not trying to imply that family wasn’t important to generations before mine, it was just handled differently. But the reason I don’t want to join a civic organization is because I don’t want to sacrifice the time it would take away from my family. I don’t feel a strong loyalty to a company or board membership because my first loyalty is to being home. Beyond that, I just don’t care. I don’t go to work for validation or recognition. I go because it pays for the experiences I want to have with my wife and kids. And if it ever stops doing that, or wants to get in the way of those experiences, I’m done.

And that is why I love being an Xer. I respect those who have gone before me from the pioneers down to my parents, teachers and mentors. But I like my life. And I like my value system. And sometimes, I like being viewed as selfish. Because when it comes to what is important to me, it’s true. I am selfish.

For more generational fun, look for THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER coming in August 2013. Or you can pre-order it now on Amazon.com and not think about it again until it shows up on your doorstep, right before your kids go back to school. Just click on the link below.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Reluctant-Blogger-Ryan-Rapier/dp/1462112544/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362687384&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Reluctant+Blogger

A Sign of the Apocalypse and My Book Getting Love From Nashville

Occasionally, something will strike me as so odd or ludicrous that I feel an almost crushing obligation to comment on it in some form or another. So before I get to the main purpose of my post today, I feel the need to get one of these items  off my conscience.

-Over the weekend, one of those “cause posts” showed up on Facebook that almost caused me to vomit through my gales of laughter. Apparently, in Utah (of course) a woman was released from her calling as a Young Women’s adviser because she repeatedly would nurse her child in church meetings, including sacrament meeting, without the aid of any kind of covering. According to the report, she was asked repeatedly to excuse herself to the Mother’s Lounge or to use a blanket of some kind to cover herself. She repeatedly refused. So now, the Feminist Housewives of Salt Lake City or some ridiculously named group like that has taken up her cause for being discriminated against…Where do I even begin?

To be clear, I could easily go on for a full post on this, but I won’t. I will just hit some high points:

Discriminated against? As compared to who? I’m fairly certain if I took my shirt off in Sacrament meeting I would also be released from my calling. And possibly jailed…And rightfully so.

Does this woman realize where she’s worshiping??? Umm…WE”RE MORMONS!!! Outside of the Amish, we are the closest link there is to the puritanical movement of the 1800’s. Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that is a bad thing.

The group claimed that lookie-loo men in the congregation, as holders of the priesthood, should have higher standards than to gawk at a naked breast providing nourishment for a baby-the main purpose designated for that body part. Further, they stated that only in America is the female breast objectified as a sexual object and that in other nations, this beautiful, natural act is not looked upon shamefully the way it is here. Three things…

1. Coughing sound(bullcrap)Coughing sound!!! Please provide any and all proof for any of that tripe. My comment box is waiting breathlessly.

2. Even if LDS men should somehow be expected to hold themselves to a higher standard, what about the hormone-filled teenage boys found in our congregations. Oh Yeah. Forgot about them, didn’t ya?

3. Urination is also a natural function, and yet, I don’t hear many people calling for urinals to be installed at the end of each pew. I’m just sayin’…

Anyway, this group was calling for Mormon women everywhere to step up and provide support and stories of similar discrimination so that they could send these on to Church headquarters. I just love it when a small, small minority wants to defend the so-called “rights” of a group of which the majority doesn’t want the “right” to begin with. And let’s face it, this whole controversy ends quickly as soon as the following happens:

A twenty-year-old blonde bombshell, whose body shape morphed back to its high school glory within two weeks of giving birth to her first child, releases her now somewhat swollen left-side filling station in the middle of sacrament meeting. I guarantee you that over half of the .05% of women who are behind this movement would drop their support in a heartbeat. Higher standards my rear-end. That’s a lit match in the middle of a gasoline refinery right there. And everybody present would know it.

—-

After my mission, I continued with my education at Eastern Arizona College. Some of my greatest memories are of my time spent in Dr. David Lunt’s choral program. I met some of my best friends there and consider that time to be the most “fun” I’ve ever had in my life.

One of the people I met was a fresh out of high school baritone named Brad Hull. Compared to his best friends, Lan Allen and Josh Mack, Brad was fairly quiet and unassuming. And we got along very well.

After that one year at EAC, Brad left on his mission and I got married and we really didn’t see each other again except at the odd college or high school reunion. (My wife and Brad were in the same graduating class of Thatcher High School.) We had heard that after his mission and college, Brad had moved to Nashville with the idea of breaking into the music business. When we heard that news, we nodded appreciatively and silently wished him luck, but didn’t give it too much more thought. I mean, after all; what are the odds someone we knew fairly well would become a well known musician.

Fast forward several years and now Brad is part of the Nashville recording group known as Due West. And while Due West is still waiting for the hit that will provide super stardom, they have a recording contract, their songs are heard on the radio, and they have even been invited to perform on the Grand Ol’ Opry. To me, that is a pretty good definition of success.

All three members of Due West are LDS and are a founding part of the group The Nashville Tribute Band. The NTB is a group of musicians in the Nashville area who come together to perform LDS-related songs set to a decidedly country sound. In short, they are amazing.

So, when I finished my book and was thinking of people I would like to share it with in the hopes of receiving an endorsement, one of my first thoughts was of Brad Hull. We hadn’t really spoken in several years and I knew that the group is constantly on the road and very busy, but I took the chance and contacted him with my request. To my extreme appreciation, he agreed to read it.

Last week, Due West came to the Gila Valley where I live for a charity concert. At this point, I hadn’t heard back from Brad on his final evaluation of THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER. I was a little nervous. But I love their music and so a friend and I went to the concert with no expectations of even speaking with him.

In the middle of the concert, a drawing was held for a future concert at the venue we were at. Due West was in the middle of their performance when they were asked to announce the winner. Shock of all shocks, my name was announced. As I started walking up to the stage to pick up my tickets, Brad said a few words about how he knew me and then proceeded to say to the entire audience that he had just finished my book and how awesome it was. I was floored. It was a very nice gesture on his part.

After the concert, my friend and I waited around to say thank you. When he had the time, he came over and we talked for a bit and he again expressed how much he enjoyed THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER. He also told me that he had sent an e-mail with his endorsement, but that he hadn’t had WiFi for a while and so it was sitting in his outbox just waiting for a chance to be sent.

Two days later, I received the following message:

So I’m on a plane to Arizona right now and I just finished the book.  I am completely blown away.  First of all, thank you again for letting me be a first reader.  I am so happy for the success that I see this book bringing you.  From the first few pages of the book, I was into the story and by about page 50, I felt a total connection to the characters and their stories.  I now close the book feeling like I’m saying goodbye to some good friends.  You did an incredible job of telling a story that every Mormon needs to hear.  These characters may not be real, but the issues are and I related to each one of them to different degrees and felt a powerful message being taught.  I found myself both laughing and crying at different times.  Anyway, all that to say THANK YOU!

He then added this endorsement:

“This is a powerful story told superbly… from the very first page, THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER made me feel so many emotions and by the last page, I didn’t want those feelings to end.” -Brad Hull, Member of The Nashville Tribute Band and Nashville Recording Group, Due West.
Brad, I cannot express my appreciation strongly enough. You guys who make up Due West are some truly talented individuals and I am honored that you took the time to weigh in on my book. You are an amazing musician and an even better friend. Thanks again.
You can follow the group DUE WEST on their website at http://www.duewest.com. 
THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER releases August 13, 2013. It is available for pre-order on Amazon.com today. You may also “like” Ryan Rapier, Author on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/ryanrapierauthor, to receive updated information and previews of THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER.

All Hail The Greatest Weekend of the Year

Oh boy. We are almost there. With each passing day it gets closer…and the anticipation builds.

Of course I am speaking of March Madness and the greatest four days of the year. I mean, if we were ranking a single best day of the year, definitely Christmas would be number 1. But if you are looking for a stretch of days that is better than any other, forget spring break, cast away the idea of Thanksgiving weekend, and look no further than the first four days of the NCAA college basketball tournament.

Now I can hear the detractors warming up already.

“Ugh, basketball. I hate basketball. And it ruins my television watching schedule for two weeks in a row.” As a Person of Interest fan who has to take a leave of absence from my favorite show, I get this complaint…but it’s bogus. Why? Because I say so.

“I don’t like sports. They’re boring.” Umm, WHAT?!? Thirty-two games in thirty-six hours where the loser’s season is done and the winner moves on for a chance at immortal glory? How can anything be more compelling than that?

Since I was in high school I have lived for this event. I fill out my brackets and I gorge myself on basketball for days. When I went on my mission, I nearly succumbed to insanity for having to miss it two years in a row. I missed the infamous Chris Webber time-out. I’m sure it was against mission rules, but thankfully my mother sent me the Sports Illustrated detailing it all at my request.

About fifteen years ago, my friends and I came up with a concept. Why not give our wives a break from non-stop basketball and get together to watch the first Friday’s games at a sports bar near ASU campus. The first year we did this, ASU was in the tournament and both ASU and UofA played on the same night. It was heaven. My friends and I became part of the game vicariously along with 150 of our suddenly closest friends whom we had never met before. A tradition was born. Every year since, I have made my way to a sports bar with my friends from those college days and we eat chicken wings and watch basketball. I have detailed this somewhat on a previous blog.

(As an aside, the other night, I took my two boys to an ASU basketball game and we stopped and had dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. I wanted to begin indoctrinating them on the joys of wings and b-ball. The place was busy and so we had to sit in the bar. That is where my friends and I normally sit during the March Madness weekend. I thought surely they would have a great time and begin looking forward to joining me in my March tradition when they were a little older. Sadly, I learned I am raising at least one boy who is much more righteous than I. After being seated, he leaned over to me and said, “Don’t ever do this to me again.” I replied, “Do what?” “Make me eat in a bar.” He was dead serious. Maybe this is a tradition that will not be passed on for generations.)

Anyway, a few years ago, my friend, Heath, suggested that since we now have to travel to Mesa from Thatcher for this event, we should throw our golf clubs in the car and get a round of golf in at a nicer course down in the valley. I couldn’t think of a better idea, so we did.

In the four short years since that harmless little round of golf, insanity has taken root and a truly grand event has been born. What started out as a round became two rounds when we realized the amazing price we could get if we played the same course twice. Then, since we were missing work on Friday anyway, we figured we might as well get up early and leave town at day break and get a third round in on Friday before going to watch basketball, with the other two rounds coming the next day on Saturday…

…And since we are playing three rounds of golf, why not make a trophy and give it to the person who has the best overall score from the three rounds AND engrave their name on the trophy and the year they won. It makes total sense doesn’t it? Yeah, my wife doesn’t think so either, but she is a kind, patient…long-suffering woman.

So last year, the members of my golf foursome and I took part in the first annual March Madness Invitational. I didn’t win. But I am hooked. And I am almost breathless in anticipation for this year’s March Madness Invitational and the corresponding basketball watching with wings and unlimited Dr. Pepper. I think a portion of heaven for me will require this weekend to continue into the eternities.

Now, as an author, I tend to write about what I know. And that is why both my love of the NCAA tournament and my love of golf both make an appearance in THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER. They certainly don’t play a major role, but they are there. How could two things so important not be?

Speaking of THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, my brother continues to work diligently on my behalf. Last week, he sent me another e-mail from Stephen Carter, editor of Sunstone Magazine. Sunstone, as an organization, has been around since the 1970s and in their own words, “serves…Latter-Day Saints and others for whom life and faith is a wonderful but unique adventure. Sunstone brings together traditional and non-traditional Latter-day Saints, promoting an atmosphere that values faith, intellectual and experiential integrity.”

In other words, they were the “and I’m a Mormon” campaign long before the Church marketing department decided to make that their feature catch phrase.

Anyway, Stephen Carter had this to say about THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER:

“With gentle humor and an open heart, Rapier delivers an engaging story about the joys, sorrows, and complexities of family life.”

I can only imagine how busy Mr. Carter must be, and so it is with the utmost gratitude and humility that I wish to thank him for his time in reading my book and for his kind words of endorsement.

I am so appreciative that I’m inviting him to join us at the Gilbert, AZ Buffalo Wild Wings on March 22nd for chicken wings, unlimited carbonated refreshment and basketball. But if he is even a half-decent golfer, he is sadly disqualified from the March Madness Invitational. I don’t care how nice his endorsement is, I want my name on that trophy.

Okay, This is Big!!!

In my last few posts, I’ve documented my ongoing quest for endorsements. Actually, it would probably be better described as other peoples’ quest for endorsements on my behalf. Well, that trend continued over the weekend as my brother-once again-provided a huge boost for my little debut novel floundering for space in the crowded marketplace of published fiction.

When I was a little kid, my mother had a tiny green book with the hand-drawn picture of a woman on the front. I didn’t know  anything about the book, and what little I could read made absolutely no sense to me as  I was still trying to grasp the intricacies of See Spot Run. But it meant a lot to my mom. I would see it lying around many different places in our home over the years and learned later that the poems contained inside provided my mother inspiration at different times in her life.

So, try to imagine my shock and utter exhilaration when the following e-mail came across my iPhone last Friday evening from Jerry Rapier.

(As usual, he offered no preamble)

“A delightful gift from a skilled writer and insightful observer of life in Mormondom.  “The Reluctant Blogger” shines a clear but affectionate light on our most challenging and rewarding relationships – family, romance, friends, God,self – and invites us to the high and holy calling of laughing at ourselves and loving ourselves pretty much at the same time. Highly recommended.” -Carol Lynn Pearson, poet, author, screenwriter & playwright

I don’t know what else to say, except a very humble thank you.  Thank you so very much, Carol Lynn Pearson, and thank you again, my dear brother, Jerry Rapier. I am forever in your debt.

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER arrives August 2013 and is available for pre-order at Amazon.com for $9.99 RIGHT NOW!!!

Drive-By Fruitings and My Regards to Mandi Tucker Slack

First of all, I just have to get something off my chest. Three days ago, President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union Address. I didn’t watch it. In fact, I haven’t watched a State of the Union in years. I didn’t watch them when Bill Clinton gave them, I didn’t watch when GW gave them, and I certainly don’t watch them now. If I want to watch people iterate their wish lists for things they can’t possibly pay for, I will go stake out a department store Santa line this next December and get more than my fill. But that’s me.

However, the thing I find amazing is how my Facebook news feed blew up during and after the speech with all my conservative friends howling about how partisan the president sounded and how dishonest he was during the speech and so on and so forth. To which I say, “Yeah, you’re probably right…but so what. Did you expect something different?”

I would like to give my rabid political friends some advice:

TURN OFF THE TV AND THE RADIO.

I promise you’ll feel better. It won’t change anything that Washington is going to do policy wise, but at least you don’t have to think about it. You’ll be able to breath deeply and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings more fully. It’s a tranquility you really should get used to. Since no one in Washington seems even remotely interested in tackling the debt and it appears inevitable that everyone’s taxes will go up regardless of assurances otherwise, it is likely that you won’t have any money soon to distract you from enjoying the joys of nature all around you. In fact, you might not even need to worry about having a house to block your views of the great outdoors.

Regardless, understand this: President Obama has been who he is for four years. He then won reelection. He will never have to run for political office again. So my conservative friends, ask yourselves: why on earth would he say anything you want to hear? So then? My advice is don’t waste precious energy whipping yourself up into a frenzy over things you cannot change.

Having said that, I am now going to whip myself into a frenzy over something I cannot change, but that is completely unrelated to politics.

Can I express one of my biggest frustrations with the process of getting a book published?  Well, it is my blog, so I guess I can.

I think query letter’s are of the devil.

As an author, I spent over a year of my life pouring my soul into a novel that means a great deal to me. I have put all of my emotion and lost countless hours of sleep trying to ensure that the story I’m trying to tell is as polished and perfect as I can make it. Then, in order for me to have a shot at getting it out to the masses, I have to sell over 100,000 words to a publisher or agent in a one page letter that only allows for one paragraph as to what my book is about.

Really?!?

Had I known five sentences would be the difference between success and failure, I would have saved myself a lot of time worrying about character development and just focused on writing the world’s greatest limerick.

I mean, I understand that agents and publishers can’t read every manuscript that crosses their desk. I get that. But I began following a couple of literary agents on Twitter and they would tweet some of their judgments on query letters they were pulling from their “slush pile.”

Some of the comments I read were, “While this particular concept sounds like it could be interesting, the writing just wasn’t very strong.”

WHAT??? How the @!*% would you know? You just based your opinion on a bodybuilder’s strength by watching him thumb wrestle. How on earth could you know if the writing is strong or not. If a book has any depth at all, an author is seriously going to struggle wrapping up the plot in a four line synopsis. I defy anyone to capture the essence of Gone With The Wind in five sentences or less. The same challenge stands for Grapes of Wrath (Actually, if anyone could do that for Grapes of Wrath, I would be forever grateful. I might actually make it through the five sentence version.)

Anyway, despite my rage and angst at a process that is inherently unfair, it is the reality of publishing. And so, against my own advice, I am railing against something I cannot change. Thankfully, there are a few exceptions out there, including my publisher, Cedar Fort.  Cedar Fort, and to be fair, most major LDS publishers, will accept full manuscripts. For that, I am truly thankful.

And now that I have that out of my system, I need to take a moment and express my gratitude to a fellow author in the Cedar Fort stable.  (Categorizing authors who publish under the same house as being in stable can really be taken two ways. Either I am a thoroughbred, a stallion, a stud…or a nag. I’m really not sure how to take that.)

Mandi Tucker Slack is currently in the process of releasing her second book, Tide Ever Rising. In fact, it officially released this past Tuesday and she has been wrapped up in book signings and launch parties. However, through all that, she took the time to read The Reluctant Blogger and kindly provided the following endorsement:

“A story that proves there is hope beyond loss, and healing becomes possible through love. Uniquely-written, Ryan Rapier’s The Reluctant Blogger will warm your heart.” – Mandi Tucker Slack, Author of The Alias and Tide Ever Rising

So, I wish to express my deepest appreciation to Mandi, and let her know how much her sacrifice of time during this busy portion of her life means to me. While I have not read her latest, I have read The Alias and found it to be a highly enjoyable distraction. Which is exactly what a good novel should be.

More information about Mandi’s books and about Mandi herself can be found at http://www.mandituckerslack.com. Both The Alias and Tide Ever Rising are available on Amazon or most places where LDS novels are sold.

Meanwhile, The Reluctant Blogger is now also available on Amazon for pre-order and will release in August 2013.

Finally, anyone who has survived to the end of this post and is still wondering about the title, Drive-By Fruitings, well…it doesn’t mean anything. I couldn’t think of a title for this post and have always loved that line from Mrs. Doubtfire. That’s it. Sorry to those who were hoping for a Robin Williams or Pierce Brosnan reference. You will have to leave disappointed.

Parting Shots: Part Three of a Conversation with Author, Jennifer Griffith

Two weeks ago, I posted the first portion of an on-going conversation between myself and Jennifer Griffith, author of BIG IN JAPAN, and one of the few people I entrusted my early manuscript to of THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER.  Part one of our conversation can be found here, while part two can be found here. Below is the third and final part of our conversation.

After asking about her novel, I took the opportunity to finish our conversation by asking Jennifer the following question:

RR:  “Now, I’m curious, what were some of your initial reactions when you started reading THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER? I’m tempted to clarify the question further, but I think I would prefer the answer I will get if I leave it fairly open.”

JG: “When I first started reading it, the very first chapter, I thought, man, this guy can write. It was a breath of fresh air for me. As we got a little farther into the story, I thought Todd, your main character, was a sad case, and I worried that the story might end up being sadder than the kind of stories I usually read (although I do like a good Nicholas Sparks novel from time to time). But about five pages in, I started to recognize (and get!) the sense of humor that pervades the novel. From that moment on, I was in it for the whole ride.

 
One thing that I love about this book is how quickly (like, by page three) I cared about the characters in the book. From chapter one, I wanted to see this man triumph, I ached for his tragedy, I longed for his relief. It is the test of a true writer whether he/she can get the reader to care about a character, and I definitely connected with Todd from the start. And what a good, good journey you took him (and thereby, us, as readers) on!
 
As I read it, I was discussing it with our friend Aimee. She and I kept saying how this story will appeal to women since they love all the talkiness of this style of writing and the relationships that are the core of the story, but it will appeal to men as well because of the real man that Todd is. It’s got broad appeal. I am sure it will find a good readership. I’d recommend it to any of my reading friends. (Almost. There are some who only like Wimpy Kid books.)
 
I need to add one more thing, my other impression of the novel is that it is a story that is very timely. It touches on issues that members of the church deal with all the time and that have in the past been avoided in public discourse. Recently, these issues have been discussed more openly, and I think this book is hitting the shelves at just the exact moment, and I see it helping a lot of people come to grips with realities they never thought they’d have to face in their family relationships. I see it as a healing book.
 
And here’s my final question to you: Where do you expect to see THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER received the best? By that I mean, who do you think is the book’s best audience? (And for the record, I do see it having broad, broad appeal.)”
RR: “I think my strength lies with women over 50 who were avid watchers of DALLAS and THE LOVE BOAT in the late 70s/early 80s. I mean if someone liked JR Ewing back in the day, this is definitely the book for them.
Seriously,I have to admit I don’t know. I think that is one of the problems a person can run into when they just sit down and start writing without knowing their genre, their target audience or even where the story is going to end up. It may end up being the book you wanted to write, but when it comes to the business/marketing side of publishing, things can get tricky.
I think Generation Xers, male or female, will relate best to the story because that’s my generation and I write like an Xer. If you buy into stereotypes, my book would probably attract females more than males, but the men who have read it have made comments like, “I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up reading the dust jacket, but it ended up being much different than I thought it would be, in a good way.”
So again, I don’t know. I think most anybody who gives it a chance will enjoy it. I’m sure there are exceptions, but that will always be the case. My hope is simply that whoever picks it up finds themselves invested in Todd Landry and the people who surround him. And when it’s over, each reader is a little sad, because they feel as if they have to say goodbye to new friends. If I accomplish that, I will have succeeded.”
I would like to thank Jennifer Griffith for her time and willingness to take part in this exercise. For me, it has been a lot of fun to learn about her motivations and experiences in writing BIG IN JAPAN, and I have also enjoyed getting a chance to reflect on my experiences writing THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER. If anyone reading this has any questions for either Jennifer or myself (not that I expect any), please feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post or on the Facebook link that likely brought you here.
BIG IN JAPAN, from Jolly Fish Press is available at most bookstores and is available on-line at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. 
THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER arrives in August, 2013. For more information on its release, go to facebook.com/ryanrapierauthor and click “like” for updates and additional postings. Ryan can also be followed on Twitter at @RyanRapier.