Saturday, July 26, 2014

50 is just a number

I have never been a big fan of numbers, nor have I been a skilled practitioner in the art of manipulating them. As a kid I, frankly, sucked at math. Math was, to me, an abstract thing.

But give me a creative endeavor, like writing, and I am at home. While I have never been one to be able to correctly label all parts of a sentence or identify what needs to go where, I have always known instinctively how to construct a sentence to reflect both fact and meaning. (That isn't a boast. There are many others who do it better than me.)

Today one of those abstract numbers is working hard to materialize out of my consciousness and stand on my shoulders. Today, I am 50. Half a century. .5c, as one of my friends put it.

I have been saying—and thinking—that 50 is just a number. No parties, I have said. No black balloons. No over-the-hill cakes. Waking up 50, I said, would be no different than waking up one day short of 50.

Meanwhile, in England, today marks the beginning of the Royal London Cup, a one-day county cricket competition. This competition is a 50-over tournament, a change from county cricket's usual 40-over format. The move to 50 overs was to bring the county game in line with international one-day cricket. The reasoning, I suppose, was that England's less-than-stellar performances in One Day Internationals could be somehow blamed on the fact that their players were not exposed to 50 overs as they moved up through the ranks into the national team.

That is blaming a number, and it is rubbish. At least that's been my take on it.

Until I woke up 50 years old. And it hit me.

50 is isn't a big deal. It really is just a number. For me, though, it is a nice, big round number on which I can perch and look back over my life so far. Take stock. Wonder how I got where I am. View the highlights (or lowlights). And that's not always all sunshine.

Looking back down the road this morning, I see my mom playing “Authors” cards with me. I see her standing at the sink, hallucinating, thinking that she is washing her face when the water isn't even running. I see her carted from our home by ambulance never to return. I hear crying at hearing of her death and being told to stop it because it isn't manly. I remember listening to all that “manly” advice and going in to 8th grade printing class at Wilson Middle School, trying t smile and keep a brave face, telling my friends what has happened. I see their disbelief at my mask of calm. I see the churning ocean of pain frothing away below.

I see my high school self, making jokes, being silly, clowning because I am too afraid of real social interaction with my classmates. Afraid of being disliked or not living up to their expectations. Afraid of rejection. I see myself gazing fondly from afar on girls and wishing I had the courage to ask them out—or even talk to them.

I see many downs and curves. But then, with the downs, there are the ups.

I see my new mom proudly holding the adoption papers that say she is officially the legal mom of a 40-year-old. I see and hear the delight of my niece and nephews as I race over and leap, fully clothed, into the swimming pool. I see myself the old Maring Grace library, where I spent many an afternoon among the quiet stacks, bathed in the dusty, slanting light from the large windows, reading titles and imagining what they are about. I see neighborhood friends like Jeff, Marlesa, Joe, Cathy, Brad, and Michael; we are racing Big Wheels and playing wiffle ball or football; riding our bikes; hanging out by the railroad tracks; sifting through used comic books at the Book Center. I see coming to grips with a new way of living and being, coming into adulthood in college, learning more from my friends Lisa, Christina, and Patti than I ever picked up in class. They taught me that women are strong and intelligent and independent and talented and should in no way defer to the male perspective. I see myself walking into WBST for the first time, scared half out of my wits, and being greeted with open arms by Rob O'Brian into what would be my world for 15 years—the world of broadcast journalism.

There are many more memories looking back down that road. Closer to me the road takes an unforeseen twist and I see myself, in my late 40s, falling in love again, rising front he ashes like a phoenix (good grief, how many writers have used that tired old thing in a birthday piece), drawn up by Karen, a creature of light and love into a new life full of adventure. I see myself becoming a dad. And I see some of the most precious memories yet. Games of Candyland, bouts of Barbies, walks in the woods, swinging and sliding at the playground; hugs and tantrums and kisses and fevers and boo-boos (plus the stuff that happens to Heidi). I see many walks with our baby dog Star Morgan.

There are so many things one could write down, looking back over 50 years. But I have thought enough about that. What I want to do now is think about here. Now. Not even the future. The present. Because that is where we are. Heidi is starting Kindergarten and becoming more dramatic every day. I am a couple of months into a new role with my employer of 15 years, Draper. My dad is in a nursing home. There are repairs to make on the house. I have a kids' book out and need to finish up the sequel. There's a lot going on. At a time of life when most people are saying goodbye to their kids, my life is seemingly just getting started. So, while it is interesting to look back and take stock, what I really need to do is hang in there, gather my strength, be open to changing from the way I've always thought or believed, and keep going—up.

So, I guess for me, 50 is a big deal after all.

Fifty is also a big number for England. They believe it is the number that will help bring them success in international one day cricket. But, hopefully they will use this competition as a time to take stock, see the real twists and turns and ups and downs that have brought them here to this moment. They will see some of the real issues—I won't get into them now—and decide that now is the time to chart a new way forward. Hang in there, gather strength, be open to changing from the way they've always thought or believed, and keep going—up.

My wife gave me a birthday card that said she hopes to be right here with me for the next 50 years.

Let's go, sweetie!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The times they are a-changing

The England cricket team seems to be in the midst of a vain search for itself at the moment. Things are changing and, being a team made up of people who grasp onto control like an owl grasps a mouse, it has not gone well, because change really can’t be controlled—no matter how much we like to think it can.

Just a couple of years ago, England cricket was on top of the world, with a number one ranking, top 10 batsmen and bowlers, and a seemingly unending pipeline of talented replacements ready to fill in when necessary.

Then something hit England like a 150 kph cricket ball. No, it wasn’t Mitchell Johnson. It was time. Although time was riding on Johnson’s shoulders with each run up in the last Ashes series, he was only the messenger.

With time, cricketers age. The heat takes a toll it once did not. The eyes dim. The muscles react a tad less quickly. Thinking grows foggy after long periods of play. Mins are easily distracted. Meanwhile, other cricketers—other teams—are aging into their prime. Where there was once weakness new strength is developed. And it seemed to happen overnight.

My little girl is changing so much and so fast that it is dizzying. She went from a size 8 to a size 11 shoe in a couple of months. Just a couple of months ago she was a five-year-old dancer to old movie musicals, a Barbie and Candyland expert unparalleled, and the little girl who still held my hand in the parking lot every time. She would step gingerly into the swimming pool, and hang onto a teacher or the edge. We could sit together at the library and color for long stretches. Now she’s nearly six, hardly ever watches old movies, prefers playing running games like “Where’s My Chicken,” and, instead of reaching for my hand in the parking lot, accepts mine when offered. She no longer likes to be read to at bedtime. We usually don't color any more at the library. She jumps into the deep end of the swimming pool—with relish.

The problem is that she is in an in-between pale. She has advanced in many ways beyond the things she knows, but cannot yet quite do the things she wants to be ready for. And England finds itself in a similar place, I believe. An in-between place.

Things change. We cannot control that. What we can control is our reaction to that change. Perhaps Alistair Cook could release his clutching and increasingly brittle grip long enough to realize he might need a break from Test cricket to get himself back in order, and that there is no shame in that. The shame would be to continue on as he is and ruining his career. Perhaps the England selectors and management could recognize that they are suffering from what we in the States call “too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” It’s crude, but what it means is that there are too many people in charge, trying to stay in charge because they think that’s what is needed, trying to control too many small things and harming good players in the process.

As my own daughter changes, I cannot control how she changes. I can influence. But I cannot control. I can control my own reaction, and, like the England team, that is not always a success. As her personality develops, and she acts more and more like me, that can lead to frustrations and arguments because if there’s one thing none of us likes to see reflected back at us it is a true image of how we really are.

The Loudon Wainwright III song “Daughter” has been going through my mind recently, and is in my earphones as I write this.

“That’s my daughter in the water,” he writes. “I lost every time I fought her. I lost every time.” I feel his pain.

But the thing is, I’m not losing an argument to my daughter, nor is he. We are losing an argument with change. She’s going to grow up. She’s going to change. I just have to be there for her whatever that means.

The same thing goes for England players and management. You can’t argue with change. You just have to be there in the middle of it. Instead of fighting it, work with it to your own betterment. Take some time to adjust your game and approach to the changing cricket landscape around you, and the changing physical and emotional landscape within.

Even when things change, my bet is you’ll still love the game.

Even when things change, I’ll still love my daughter.

That’s my daughter in the water. … Who’d have ever thought?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Thorny Issue

In my day-to-day life, I work as an External Communications Specialist for a manufacturer. My employer is in several markets and industries, and chief among them is the AV world. In this blog, and most of my other writing, I really try to keep my work world separate from my personal stuff like cricket, dad-hood, and life in general.
But there has been an issue rearing its head over the past few years in the AV industry that has had me thinking. The issue is about so-called “booth babes,” and it has been a hot topic of discussion in the AV world following the InfoComm trade show in July.
Booth babes are young women—typically scantily-clad—who are employed by exhibitors in trade shows to try and entice people—men, obviously—into their booths, or, at least, to get people to have their badges scanned by the exhibitor to be added to a mailing list.
Others, including my boss, have discussed this within the context of industry forums and blogs, and I want to tread carefully here and say my thoughts do not represent those of my employer. But I wanted to address the issue because it concerns me as a human being—not as a man, as a human being.
Here’s the issue, in a nutshell: Most of the time these booth models have no product knowledge and are simply there to flash some skin and lure male attendees into the booth. If those attendees need some real knowledge about a product, they are probably out of luck. There have been many voices decrying the practice, and some who say they refuse to visit companies who use this tactic in a trade show environment that is full of professionals simply trying to get information on new products. Many people—especially some women who make up a growing demographic in the AV industry—feel uncomfortable being approached in this way, and see it as unprofessional at the least and insulting at the worst. Many women have said they feel it is proof that they are not accepted as equals in the industry, and that the only accepted role for them is as “eye-candy” rather than trusted and equal colleagues. There have been some calling for InfoComm to take steps to discourage such behavior—without getting too much into the business of telling companies how they can go about their business.
There has also been the inevitable backlash from people who say there’s nothing wrong with the practice. Arguments range from “this is my job” and “it’s just having some fun” to the old chestnut that it’s about people trying to put their Victoriana/Puritan values onto others.One of my AV friends has also pointed out that by talking about the practice we are giving these companies the attention they want (a valid argument, which is why I’m not mentioning any company names here). There have also been accusations that any men who find issue with this practice are trying to serve as protectors of women’s virtues, which is just as bad as exploiting women’s sexuality for personal/financial gain.
These all might be somewhat valid points for some. But my own interest in this has nothing to do with those things. I oppose the use of “booth babes” for several reasons, but not because I think women in the AV industry need protecting by me, a male (they don’t—one of the first things I learned in college from my women friends was that they did not need defending or protecting and this lesson has been hammered home by my own five-year-old daughter); nor is it a question of wanting to put Victorian/Puritan/conservative values on others (I am, as friends and family will attribute, about as lefty a liberal as you can find in the Midwestern United States). I don’t oppose booth babes because I don’t like women in revealing outfits, or because I don’t want women (or men) to enjoy the freedom to wear whatever they want whenever they want, or do whatever job they want while doing it, or because I have something against sex and sexuality (I don’t-I’m a big fan).
I oppose this “booth babes” thing because, just as many women in the AV industry (and in life in general), I as a male resent being reduced to a stereotype. We see so much of this tripe in day-to-day life: women are conniving and smart but weak so must use their sexual wiles to manipulate the desired outcome from the lunkhead men who think with their willies. Those stereotypes are wrong on both counts (at least I hope so!). I oppose it because I don’t need a carnival barker to try and trick me into coming into the tent to view the three-headed monkey who speaks three languages. I also oppose it because, even though people say it isn’t exploitive of women, I don’t see any scantily-clad muscular men populating booths to try and attract the increasing number of women in the AV industry. I also oppose it as a marketer, because it is such a cop-out to go with the “sex sells” approach.
It all adds up to this, for me: By using sex to “sell” in this manner, what we as a society are actually saying is that your sex and sexuality don’t belong to you; it belongs to someone else—whoever has the most money or power or fewest scruples to use it. And it isn’t the models’ fault for wearing scanty clothing or looking a certain way. It is our fault because we are commoditizing it. So, since sex and sexuality are now separated from the person, then that person is simply the holder of the commodity we want—and her existence as a person is not so important. She is only a delivery system.
We are dehumanizing her.
And now we are walking down the road to misogyny. And we have many current political examples of where that leads.
That may sound over the top, but it is why I oppose “booth babes.”
And in deference to an AV friend who rightly points out that by talking about it too much we may be helping to spread the word about the practice, I will now stop typing.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cricket the Arcane

I have been asking some of my friends—my non-cricketing, American friends—to ask me their questions about cricket. Any question. Whatever they would really like to know about the sport. I was looking to come up with some new content for the blog, and figured the best way to come up with relevant topics would be to ask people what they want to read and learn about.

I entered this exercise with two main assumptions. Number one was that I would not get many responses. I also assumed I would get questions on playing the sport, such as, “how is it played?” or “why do they stand around like that,” or perhaps even “why don’t they wear gloves?”

I was correct in the first assumption. I had three or four responses in all to my question, and one of those responses was a story from a friend about how, during a visit to the UK a couple, someone had spent 10 trying to explain cricket to him, and that it was 10 minutes of his life he’d never get back.

That story of the lost 10 minutes, although not a question, is the response I wanted to tackle first, because it underlines a prejudice in the United States, among people who don’t follow cricket, that the sport is boring, arcane, and too complicated to figure out—especially when we have action-packed, two-fisted, no-brains-needed sports like basketball, baseball, and American football. And that is where they are wrong. They are wrong because not only is cricket easier to figure out than they think, but also because those other, more traditionally recognized “American” sports can be just as complicated.

When my friend relayed this story, my first response was I wouldn’t need 10 minutes. I could explain it in a few seconds. And here’s what I said:

“There are two set of "stumps", one on each end. The bowler is trying to hit them and get the batter out. The batter is trying to stop that from happening, and in addition runs back and forth to score runs when s/he hits the ball. There you go! Simple! But the more questions you ask, the more complicated it gets. Just like football or baseball or soccer.”

That last line resonated with my friend, who officiates high school sports in Indiana, because he was at that precise moment reading through the Indiana High School Athletic Association football rulebook as an off-season refresher. He understands the concept that, on the surface, there is a simplicity which allows spectators to begin enjoying many sports, but also an underlying complexity that takes more time and knowledge to navigate. And being able to navigate that complex undercurrent takes some time. Not just in cricket, but in other sports, as well.

Take football as an example. On the face of it, the sport involves two teams trying to move a ball from one end of the field to the other. They can pass it or run it. Simple. But then you start getting into things like downs, who stands where, who can be downfield when, where you can throw the ball, offside, and all the other intricacies that give the sport the nuance that fans have come to appreciate. Then you get into rules differences between the levels of play. High school, college, NFL, Arena, Canadian: all of these levels and leagues have different rules, just as in cricket, where you have different formats to deal with.

So, the next time someone says “cricket is too complicated,” tell them the truth. It’s no more complicated than any other sport. It’s simply a question of the depth of their enjoyment.

Just start watching; the nuances will come, as they do with any sport.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Cricket League for, by, and about American Cricketers

A league by, for and about American cricketers. That’s how the Chief Executive Officer of the American Cricket Federation describes the new American Cricket Champions League.

“I have for years thought that American domestic cricket lacked structure and context,” says Jamie Harrison of today’s ACF announcement, “and when I came on as CEO, this was one of my first proposals. Having said that, I quickly learned that others, such as Shantha Suraweera (Orange County Cricket Association) and Leighton Greenidge (Southern Connecticut Cricket Association), had been saying the same thing, so I'm sure that lots of people had this idea over time.”

According to a press release from the ACF, the American Cricket Champions League will be a 40-over competition consisting of the best players from seventeen cricket leagues from across the United States.

“The ACCL will pit league teams against each other in six geographic divisions,” according to the release. “These teams will have home and away matches, with three points awarded for a road win, two points for a home win and one point each for matches abandoned due to weather. ICC ODI match rules will be used in the games.”

Harrison says the 40-over format was chosen over was has been the “hot” form, T20, because he believes it is the future of short form cricket—and not just in the United States.

“If a team travels four hours to play, a T20 seems insufficient to justify the travel,” Harrison points out. “In the long term, I believe that it is easier to create a solid T20 squad from experienced ODI players than the other way around.”

“The launch of ACCL should herald exciting times for US cricketers and another key step in unifying American cricket,” according to Avinash Varma of the Washington Metropolitan Cricket Board, who will serve as the ACCL’s first commissioner. “For perhaps the first time in US cricket history, cricketers from across the entire country will be able to compete with their peers and play for a single national championship, which will galvanize cricketers, both youth and adult, from across the nation.”

Six division winners from the ACCL will play in a national championship tournament in October. The winner of that tournament will be national champions, and represent the United States in the North American Cricket Championship next March in Phoenix.

Harrison says leagues are free to manage their own selection processes for the ACCL, and interested players should contact their league representatives for more information. One thing he can say with certainty: This league will not be an effort to bring international players in to play cricket for big money, then leave again. This league is about American cricket and cricketers. It will also have local sponsors and team names to try and help develop more of a local grassroots following.

“I want to see players and teams - all of American cricket - raised from obscurity,” Harrison says. “I want to see players get better by playing regular matches against other players of elevated skill. I want to see fans develop of local cricket sides, just the way you see it in any other American sport. After fifty years, I want to see cricket finally progress in this country.”

The top run scorer in the National Championship Tournament will win a Cricket bat, pad & gloves from ACF equipment partner Hammer Cricket. Hammer will also give the ACF Batsman of the Year a full sponsorship, including two bats, gloves, pads, a bag, additional guards and other apparel.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cricket in America (with apologies to Supertramp)

In honor of the inaugural American Cricket Federation’s North American Cricket Championship taking place today, I thought I’d finally get around to writing a post about cricket in America, from the perspective of a couple of fans and players, and the head of America’s top cricket organization (by “top” I mean “best,” not necessarily “official”).

I conducted the interviews for this piece a few months back, before the American Cricket Federation petitioned the International Cricket Council to review cricket governance in the United States. I wrote it because I thought it would be interesting to hear from a couple of Americans who approach the game as not just fans of cricket of as players. I also hope to hear from more of you!

In the next week or so I will post lengthier interviews with the people I talked to. For now, here’s my post.

Robert Taylor was like most Americans. He was aware of the existence of cricket, but that was pretty much the limit of his knowledge. Then, one day in 2003, he was walking through Heathrow Airport and happened to pick up a Wisden Magazine.

“It struck a major chord with me,” he says, “and just got hooked for good. I can't explain why … maybe I thought of it as a challenge to learn more about it and learn how to play it. Now I am hooked.”

As we try to grow the sport of cricket in America, one thing that struck me about Robert’s story is how he saw something there, and then was able to develop that interest until he became, as he said, “hooked.” What is it about Robert’s story that we can use as a learning experience? For me it comes down to one thing: He got his hands on a bat and started playing.

“It made zero sense in 2003 and now it's all clicking after fully immersing myself in the game,” according to Robert. “Learning about how to play and understanding the history and making new friends who teach me it all. What I didn't realize on that boring day in Heathrow, was that not only would I come to love and understand this classic game, I would end up making some of the best friends I've ever had.”

Robert is an all-rounder who says he loves fielding at mid-off and in the covers for his team, the Charlotte Cricket Club. He’s been playing seriously for about three years.

Far away from Charlotte, where Robert plays, Bandon Decker is a fan and player in another unlikely location: Missouri. Like Robert, Bandon enjoys fielding in close. He bats in the middle order, typically, and also bowls medium pace. His introduction to cricket came courtesy of a school project.
“We were doing turn of the century history and one of the modules was about WG Grace,” he says. “The homework was to learn a bit about cricket and I never really looked back.”
For Bandon, cricket obviously speaks not just as a spectator, but, like Robert, as a player.

“In both cases the intellectual, slow burning nature of the contest speaks to me. It is very easy for me to get lost in a match and not realize how much time has moved on until suddenly the umpires are taking the bails off. As a player this tends to manifest itself as it being an easier game for someone fairly out-of-shape like myself to play. It's a workout, but not a strenuous one and it's also not a huge mismatch between players of differing physical ability.”

While Bandon’s approach has been mainly spurred by the intellectual side of the game, Robert also finds that camaraderie, action, and achievement motivate him.

“It's a major high taking a catch, and it's a major low dropping an easy catch! I caught and bowled someone last month and I think about it every day. I clean-bowled one of the best Indian batsman in our league and it was such a rush, especially when your team congratulates you and jumps on you. I feel in those moments that is such a thrill to be alive playing this game AND contributing.  what an American dream feeling for me, proving that a dude like me can do it.  I am the only American guy in both North and South Carolina cricket so it feels special and I feel lucky.”

That last sentence presents us with the problem facing all of cricket in North America. Here’s a native-born American, with love and passion for a great sport—he gets it. And he’s the only one in two states.

Allow me to stop here and say there is nothing wrong with having all of our cricket leagues full of people born in America, or born anywhere else in the world. We are a melting pot—or we’re supposed to be, anyway. My point is simply that for the sport to become a success nationally, and for America to someday compete internationally, we also need to develop the game among native born Americans—whether their parents were born here or somewhere else. Whatever their roots. Whatever their beliefs or language.  And that is just what Jamie Harrison, the American Cricket Federation’s Chief Executive Officer, has been doing for years as the head of the United States Youth Cricket Association. The USYCA is an effort to bring cricket into schools—to teach kids and get them interested in the sport—and it has found a good level of success.

“I love the artistry and creativity of the game—it’s grace and beauty,” Harrison says of the game he obviously loves. “For example, as a lifelong baseball fan, I now see the batter's box as confining, something that restricts the movements of players, whereas the wide open area of the crease, and the 360° playing area, allows for so much more in the way of imagination. No one comes up with new ways of hitting a baseball, but with cricket, it happens all the time.”

Innovation like that sounds like something that would be meat and drink to American sports fans. But getting to that level of interaction, where people are aware of the game on a more intricate level, there is much work to be done.  Harrison feels like cricket needs to look at soccer for lessons on how to grow as a popular domestic sport.

“It was a niche sport, played generally by expatriates in certain areas of the United States, until the game found widespread adoption by schools and youth sports organizations, which in turn drew the parents into the game,” he points out. “There are over 50 million children under the age of 18 in the USA, and if we could just get 1% to play organized cricket, we'd be set up for an excellent domestic program.”

Therein lies the problem. Harrison says the domestic infrastructure has been has been ignored and untended on all levels.

“America will become a cricket-playing nation,” Harrison predicts, “just as soon as we throw ourselves into the hard work of making cricket widely available to all ages.”

For his part, Robert Taylor looks at the current state of cricket’s reach and feels there’s no chance for cricket to catch on in a big way in the U.S. His reasoning is based not on infrastructure or administrative approaches. It is based on how the game has been introduced here, and on an opinion that does hard-core cricket fans proud.

“The only way to appreciate limited-overs cricket is to be well-versed at test cricket,” he says, adding that he doubts that is an investment the average American will make. “You can't just suddenly arrive at T20 without first fully appreciating test cricket. So we are doing the game a big disservice by presenting the game first as T20 to America because no one will really fully appreciate it.”

Harrison, however, feels there is a chance, mainly because cricket is such a great game with some at least subliminal connections for Americans.

“I think of cricket as a beautiful mashup of the bat-and-ball skills of baseball and the psychology of golf,” he points out. “It's a very cerebral game, and I think that gives it an advantage over many sports that simply rely on physical attributes. I'm convinced that the game can bring in a whole new audience who are looking for something they can sink their minds into, so to speak.”

Bandon, on the other hand, agrees with Jamie Harrison that cricket does have a fighting chance in the United States, and says that increasing communication is important.

“Certainly I think cricket can follow the example of rugby, which gained a foothold first and is now starting to expand beyond that. I don't know if I would go so far as to say it will though; the organization is so poor that I think it will at the very least be a slower process.”

Bandon points out that efforts to reach children—like those being undertaken by USYCA—are key, as well as possibly introducing the game to a fairly small market and using that as leverage.

“ What must happen at some point though is that the matches be on some reasonably easy to watch platform,” he points out. “Cricket isn't going to get far with the current set up of having to pay $15/month to watch only whatever matches Willow deigns to pick up. What must not happen is executives deciding that Americans will only care about T20. Certainly some will only care about T20, but there are plenty like me who will prefer the longer format immediately. …To only try to introduce one will be foolhardy, especially as there is nothing to suggest that people do migrate from the short forms to the long one.

As far as international cricket and the United States, Bandon says he’d love to see an England/USA matchup someday.

“From a more general perspective, there is nothing really to be lost by trying to be competitive on the international stage,” he says, adding “it is a worthy goal.”

As for Robert whatever happens on the national or international level, he’ll be standing at mid-off or running in to bowl and loving every second.

“I thought it was just another sport or another game but had no idea then that it would become a religion and a way of life. How lucky I am to find it because not many other people like me from my background discover the game and fully appreciate it.”

So, what are your thoughts? Can cricket survive and thrive in America? What will it take? Can it ever be part of the mainstream?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Camille Miles, Private Eye

When I was a kid, one of my greatest pleasures was walking to the Maring Grace Branch of the Muncie Public Library. It was my neighborhood library, just a few blocks form my house.  Behind the giant, creaking wooden door and up the echoing stone steps I found really nice older ladies with pointy glasses, shelves of dark wood, glorious card catalogs, and--best of all--books! Books! Books!

From my earliest visits, the library fed my love of mysteries. Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, The Three Investigators, and, yes, even a few Nancy Drew stories were followed by Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle, Erle Stanley Gardner, and many others.

As I grew up I still loved these early discoveries, and added to them mysteries by such wonderful authors as Colin Dexter, Tony Hillerman, and others too numerous to mention.

Since I've been a writer nearly as long as I've been reading, I've always wanted to write a mystery. Over the years I fiddled around with the occasional idea, never getting past a single chapter or perhaps an outline. I even tried my hand at a couple of juvenile mysteries, but could never quote find the "hook" that made for a successful book.

Then along came my little girl, Heidi, and I decided to write some picture books based on her imagination. I did so, and submitted them to some publishers. One bit, but only enough to say they liked the stories but were looking for stories for slightly older kids. On the odd chance, I sent them a short mystery story I'd done, with a character named Camille who was based loosely on my own daughter.

Success! The editor wrote back and wanted to see the rest of the stories that would make up this collection of mysteries. I had to quickly write them! I put them together, sent them off and the rest, as they say, is history. Earlier this month a mille Miles, Private Eye, was published by LadyBee Publishing as an ebook.

Camille Miles is similar in concept to one of my favorite childhood series, Encyclopedia Brown. It features 10-year-old Camille, who runs a detective agency out of her tree house. The neighborhood kids bring her their mysteries and she solves them for a dollar a day (plus expenses). The book is aimed mostly at kids ages 7-11, and asks the reader to solve each mystery before the solution is revealed.

I've had good feedback, for the most part, although one person told me she felt the main villain of the stories--Camille's arch-nemesis Sarah--was too nasty.

I've enjoyed writing Camille's adventures, and hope to write more. If you read my stories, let me know what you think. And rate/review Camille Miles, Private Eye on Amazon and Smashwords and Goodreads!