I’ve learned from experience that whenever my wife says, “Goodbye,” it’s best not to ask, “Where are you going?” or, “When will you be back?” because the answer will inevitably be, “I already told! Weren’t you listening?” and my answer, if I’m honest, will inevitably be, “No, no I was not.” Hence the comings and goings of my wife are mysterious. I wonder what she does out there with her other life. Perhaps she’s just running errands. Or perhaps she’s witch or a mob boss. I’ll never know.
I made this meme for last year’s Utah’s Biggest Liar contest, at which time, Aspen did not steal Ariah’s title of reigning champion, nor did Ariah retain her title. However, at last night’s contest, Aspen did win first place, and Ariah took second place and the Audience Choice Award. I took second place in the adult division. It appears that we are a family of liars. I have trained my daughters in the subtle arts of deceit, and I expect great things from them.
It was the most intense contest I’ve been a part of. All of the stories were hilarious and the storytellers brilliant. I’d never performed for an audience that laughed so loud and on cue. Altogether the experience was addicting. If you missed it, you should definitely consider coming next year.
Afterward, judge and national storyteller Bill Lepp (who concluded the event with another hilarious performance) told me that his two daughters also won the Liars contest back in his native West Virginia, where he won five times. He said they pressure his wife to join the contest, as she’s the only one missing out on the fun. Likewise, he told my wife Teresa that now she’ll be expected to step up her game. My hope is that by posting this online, others will pressure Teresa to compete next year. So if you’d like to hear Teresa tell some whoppers, please say so in the comments.
It’s that time again, when my family competes for the honor of being Utah’s Biggest Liar. My six year-year-old Aspen, my nine-year-old Ariah, and myself are all finalists. I worked with my daughters to take their ideas and spin them into tall tales. We’ve been workshopping their stories at home, and we’re ready to perform. Aspen will be telling about the time she was abducted by a hawk. Ariah will be telling about the time she and George Washington waged a war against bad eating habits, and I’ll be telling about the time I stole Sylvester Stallone’s Filet Mignon.
To my understanding, Aspen was the youngest-ever storyteller to perform at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. Ariah has taken home two first place awards, two second place awards, and a bunch of Audience Choice Awards from the Utath’s Biggest Liar contest. I’ve taken home two second place awards and several Audience Choice awards. The plus side to all this is that we’re always awarded more tickets than we know what to do with for the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival (pretty much our favorite time of the year). Thus it’s always been in our financial advantage to compete :-). Though it’s not about the awards. We just like storytelling and, especially, lying. It’s also fun to rub shoulders with so many other talented performers and to enjoy an evening on laughing till it hurts.
Anyway, so if you want to come see us tonight in Orem, UT, the youth contest starts at 5:30, and the adult contest starts at 7:00. This time should be especially epic, as the contest will end with a performance from national storyteller Bill Lepp, one of the funniest men alive. More details here.
Last month I held an album art contest for my project VALHALLA – A NORDIC ROCK OPERA. The hosting site, 99designs.com, predicted about 30 designs. We got over a hundred! The concept of the album excited the imaginations of many artists, and there were some phenomenal designs to choose from. While it was hard to choose just one, this design seemed the best fit for the album.
It’s been over a year since the conception of this project. Though I haven’t met a single goal as far as deadlines, it’s still been an incredible ride. I collaborated with family and friends to write, compose, record, and produce some fantastic music. I got to meet and work with many talented musicians. Together we entertained many audiences (with our most recent concert last month). I’ve networked with a supportive community and generous benefactors. I’ve pre-sold many albums and learned a lot about the music industry. And, of course, I’ve fallen in love with all things viking. Recently, at a writer’s conference, I was honored to share my learning on a panel about Norse mythology.
The setbacks and delays have been resolved, and for the past several weeks, I’ve been working with our producer just about every night to finalize the album. With hundreds — maybe thousands — of vocal and instrument tracks and an ongoing struggle to polish and balance it all, I’ve learned that art truly cannot be rushed. That being said, I can say with confidence that we’ll be done before Fenrir the wolf catches up with the sun, issuing in the great day of Ragnarok. In fact, I believe we’re down to a couple weeks left of work, so I’m committing to March 31st as the official release date. So hold on to your helmets. It’s time to get this ship sailing!
I scheduled my last post for midnight, but apparently my server is running on British time, so the announcement went out seven hours too early! Sorry, but the free download won’t be available until midnight (MST) time.
Teresa and I have been following a number of new years resolutions, such as eating only whole foods, exercising more, and taking our music more seriously. Specifically, we’re hoping to perform a concert every month. Today will be our first one for the year. It’s in Provo, it’s free, and there will be food. We would love it if you could come.
Find deliverance from the dismal, deathly dearth on winter with a free evening of magical, marvelous music by award-winning husband and wife duo, the great and glorious Gashlers. They’ll pull out the old cello, guitar, and banjo to flabbergast your faculties with frabjous fantasies. Recommended for hearty humans of all ages. Refreshments provided. See the Facebook event.
I started a side business called StockMusicKing.com, selling all the music I’ve created over the years for plays, movies, concerts, and games. If you make films, videos, video games, or productions that need high quality, royalty free stock music, you need look no further. Once you’ve purchased a license, you can use the tracks for whatever you want without limits. You’ll also be eligible for free updates when I add more music to the library.
You can download my entire library for a very reasonable price. Plus, by reading my blog, you hereby qualify as a member of my fan club, so I’m going to give you a sweet deal. Use the coupon code “halfoffbaby” to get 50% off. Check it out, and please spread the word:
Tonight is the night. Come to the Provo Library for pizza, to win cool stuff, to hear us and some of the best artists in Utah Valley (Monica Moore Smith, Paint the Woods, and Church on Sunday), and to hear previews of our awesome, new musical. Check out the Facebook event to learn more: https://www.facebook.com/events/1861179814159071/
Minimum wage. What a beautiful phrase. It meant that there was only one direction for me: up, toward maximum wage. Although my job – sorting books at the city library – was tedious and mind-numbing, something a machine would someday do better, I considered myself lucky to be surrounded by a sea of literary masterpieces. Hugo, Dickens, Steinbeck, Pinkwater. Someday, I knew, the glorious books I would write would also pass through the hands of minimum-waged admirers.
My official job title was a “page.” I’m pretty sure this was borrowed from feudal order, intended to break my spirit by reminding me of my place a slave, but I didn’t mind, not when I got to handle works of art like The Fluffy Bunny.
The pictures, a mixed medium of pen and ink and water colors, were, in themselves, Caldecott worthy. But what really moved me was the story. In fact, I read it so many times, I knew it by heart.
The fluffy bunny lives in a hole. The outside world is big and scary, but the fluffy bunny decides to be brave. He smells the flowers. He hears the birds. He feels the sunlight. The fluffy bunny is glad he left his hole.
So I wasn’t actually supposed to be reading on the job, and sometimes I got in trouble with my supervisor. In fact, after my third warning, I kind of got fired. Which was devastating, because the library was my home away from home. While I was an employee, I didn’t have to pay any fines, which meant I could hold on to The Fluffy Bunny for as long as I liked, which I did. But now, two years overdue, I had to return it.
But as fate would have it, I was on my way to the book drop when something beautiful caught my eye, and my heart skipped a beat. She was wearing a red apron and a metal name tag. Miss Teresa. I guess you could say I stalked her, but we don’t like to use that term in love stories. I admired her from a distance. It turned out that she worked in the children’s section as a storyteller. She and her coworker would lay out a blanket, ring a bell, and little tykes would gather around for stories and puppet shows. I knew I was meant to be there when, at the end of the show, Teresa announced that the library was looking to hire another storyteller.
I didn’t hesitate. I filled out the application and got an interview the very next day. (Thankfully, the children’s department didn’t communicate with the circulation department.) I told my prospective supervisor, Bertha, everything she wanted to hear, about how much I love books and children and how I’m very good at choosing age-appropriate material and would never dream of breaking the fourth wall. And, well, they must have been really desperate, because soon I was dawning my own red apron with my own metal name tag. No longer a lowly page, I was now Mister Steve, making a whopping ten dollars per hour.
The best part was cramming into the tiny puppet stage next to Teresa, playing out fantasies with furry creatures on hour hands. For those magical moments, time seemed to slow down and, never mind the plethora of fussy children, there was only us. And Bob. Mister Bob was the other storyteller, and he also had a thing for Teresa. Mister Bob was tall, dark, and handsome. Mister Bob didn’t like me, and I didn’t like Mister Bob. When we played pat-a-cake, he went out of his way to make sure that he was the one clapping Teresa’s hands. When we played Ring Around the Rosy, he preferred to break the circle rather than hold my hand. It wasn’t even a ring.
Once the three of us were performing a puppet show of Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf (Mister Bob) had just locked Little Red (Teresa) in the closet when the hunter (yours truly) came in to save the day. Only Mister Bob surprised us with an alternate ending. The wolf bit the hunter’s jugular vein and pronounced him dead. Mister Bob then informed the audience that the wolf and Little Red were married and lived happily ever after. Afterward, I complained to Bertha about this scandalous adulteration of a children’s classic, but she just informed me that Mister Bob was the senior storyteller and therefore was allowed more creative liberty than others … namely me.
As if Mister Bob’s uncouth storytelling wasn’t bad enough, he constantly violated the rules, talking too loud and bringing food and drink into the library. To cover up his crimes, he would stuff his junk food into the puppets, further cementing his role as the only one who could play the Big Bad Wolf or Papa bear, because the rest of us didn’t want to get melted chocolate on our fingers.
But I wasn’t afraid of Mister Bob. At the first chance, I asked Miss Teresa out on a date. I impressed her with a candle-lit picnic, and together we swung in my homemade hammock. Unfortunately, the ropes couldn’t hold the weight of the two of us, and when we slammed against my concrete patio, Miss Teresa sort of broke her tail bone. Another time we went skiing in the mountains, holding hands while flying over white powder. It was heaven. For me at least. I regret that this was Miss Teresa’s first time on the slopes, and I was a very bad ski instructor. When, the next day, she showed up at work wearing a leg brace and covered in bruises, I overhead Mister Bob say, “If you keep going out with this guy, you’ll end up dead.”
The next day at work, Mister Bob had another surprise. When it was time to pull the magic bunny out of the hat, instead of introducing the letter of the day, the bunny was holding a bouquet of flowers for Miss Teresa. This was getting serious, and I knew I had to act fast. So, not too many story times had passed before I had a surprise of my own. Planted within the paws of the magic bunny, hidden within the magic hat, was a little, green box, and within the little green box was a twenty-four caret gold … coated … engagement ring. I was on a student budget. Though the ring did have a one-hundred percent genuine cubic zirconium.
As we approached the end of story time, my heart began to pound. The only thing remaining before the entrance of the magic bunny was the puppet show. I was Pinocchio, Teresa was the fairy, and Mister Bob was the whale. All was going well. It looked as if Pinocchio was going to escape from the whale and achieve his dream of becoming a real boy, until, to everyone’s horror, the whale bit off Pinocchio’s head. For me, that was the last straw. “Why, Mister Bob!?” I cried, and in the act of throwing up my arms, I accidentally knocked over the puppet stage, which, upon hitting the floor, snapped in half.
Of course, Bertha was standing in the background, her arms folded. Murdering Pinocchio was one thing, but breaking the fourth wall – literally – in front of a hundred traumatized children … well … let’s just say I knew that this would be my last story time. In the corner of my eye, I could see Mister Bob’s devilish green. He must have known I was planning something big, and I’d fallen for his bait.
But there was still time. “Don’t worry, children,” I said, “the fairy cured Pinocchio’s head problem, and everyone lived happily ever after. And now it’s time for a visit from the Magic Bunny.” Before Mister Bob could intervene, I pulled out the top hat, stuffed my hand into the puppet, and, with the help of the children, spoke the well-known incantation. “Magic bunny, please come out.”
And he did. With the little green box on display, I fell to one knee. “Miss Teresa,” I said, “will you –”
That was when Mister Bob, staring at me, put on the alligator puppet and, with a single chomp, devoured all five of the finger puppet monkeys, a subtle way of saying, “I will kill you.” Did I mention that Mister Bob was bigger and stronger than me? Anyway, I stuttered, and Mister Bob took full advantage of the opportunity. He fell to one knee, took Miss Teresa by the hand and said, “Will you marry me?”
“Oh,” said a shocked Miss Teresa. Then she turned to me. “But what did you want to ask me, Mister Steve?”
“Um … will you …”
And then, just to drive the point home, Mister Bob picked up Pinocchio’s severed head and crushed it with is free hand.
“Will you …” I continued, “… marry Mister Bob?”
Miss Teresa looked between the two of us. Perhaps she thought Mister Bob was her only chance. Perhaps Bob had also threatened to crush her skull, but whatever the reason, she said yes, and my life was over. Mister Bob then proceeded to put my engagement ring on Miss Teresa’s finger, and the audience cheered. Meanwhile, I walked to the employee’s work room and threw off my apron and name tag. Before Bertha could fire me, I quit.
And then it was back to my lonely path. On my way out of the library, a sensor was tripped, an alarm went off, and the security guard asked to see what was inside my backpack. The Fluffy Bunny. Wow. They’d canceled my employee status really fast, and no longer was I exempt from paying fines. Though it broke my heart, I had to return the book.
But when I put my hand into the book drop, I just couldn’t let go. Suddenly I felt something tugging from below. “Sir,” said a voice from the other side of the wall – the woman who had taken my old job – “please let go of the book.”
“I can’t,” I said. And so the tug-of-war ensued. In the end, she won, pulling me right through the book drop.
“What are you doing, sir?” she asked as I was carried across the conveyor belt.
“I don’t even known anymore,” I said. When I got to the end of the conveyor belt, another page took a look at the book in my hand and said, “This book is severely damaged. It needs to be discarded.”
“No,” I said, “I love this book.” And so another tug-of-war ensued, and, in the end, she won, pushing both the book and me down the garbage shoot.
I landed in a dumpster in the parking garage, finding myself nicely sequestered among the newspapers, soda cans, hamburger wrappers, and stinky diapers. I was happy to resign myself to fate until I realized that there was something alive in there. “Hello?” I said.
“Hey,” returned a gruff voice. And then, rising out of the trash, covered in banana peels and melted ice cream, was the dirtiest man I’ve ever seen. It was Harry, the town bum. “How’d you end up down here?” he asked.
I replied, “I lost the girl I love to the man I hate.”
Harry nodded knowingly. “That’s how I got down here too.”
“I used to sort books back in the day.”
“I loved a librarian named Beatrice. But she left me for George the janitor, whom she left for Mister Darcy. Now she’s an old maid, and I’m a bum. I shouldn’t have known you can’t marry a librarian. But once you give your heart to the library, it will never leave. That’s why I’m here.”
“Well,” I said, “at least we have each other.”
“I don’t think so, kid. This is my dumpster. Go win your girl back.”
“I tried, but he’s a big, bad wolf.”
“Learn from Little Red Riding Hood. When the wolf eats you up, cut yourself back out.”
“That’s not how the story goes. The wolf locked Little Red in the closest, and then the hunter saved her.”
“Son, you’ve obviously been the victim of watered down storytelling. The true Grimm’s fairy tale involves scissors and plenty of blood.”
I couldn’t believe it. The children’s department had been using me to spread propaganda. Thinking of Mister Bob, the ultimate tool, further adulterating the classics with completely unnecessary violence, as opposed to the proper, culturally-celebrated violence, my blood began to boil. “Thank you, Harry,” I said. “It’s time for the library to see just how Grimm I can be.”
The next day, at story time, Miss Teresa and Mister Bob were behind the puppet stage. Papa bear (Mister Bob) was in the process of devouring Goldilocks, when I stepped in. “That’s not how the story goes,” I said.
“Oh, Mister Steve,” said Papa Bear. “You’re not supposed to be here.” Then in a more hushed voice: “Quick, Teresa. Call security.”
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” I said, drawing closer to the puppet stage.
“Why not?” asked Papa Bear.
“Did you ever hear about the five little ducks that went out to play? When the mama duck said quack, quack, quack, not one of them came back.”
“Yes, I know the rhyme.” Papa bear was growing impatient.
“I’m not finished. When the daddy duck said quack, quack, quack, the five little ducks came waddling back. You can’t hide what you’ve been doing forever, Mister Bob. The show is over.”
At that, Mister Bob was so angry that he threw Papa Bear right at me, a truly terrifying sight. For a moment I panicked when I saw those terrible teeth and claws springing toward me. But then, inspired by my love for Miss Teresa, I pulled out my knife and and flung it. Time seemed to slow down as every child took in the gruesome sight. And then, just before Papa bear devoured me, the knife tore open his belly, exposing torrents of fluff, candy bars and a can of soda.
A gasp fell over the audience. “Yes,” I said. “Mister Bob has been hiding food and drink in the library.” And at that, a horrified Mister Bob came out from behind the puppet stage. He threw off his apron and name tag and ran right out of the library, never to return.
As the scandalized crowd went their way, Bertha approached me. “That was not age-appropriate, Mister Steve.”
“Yes,” I admitted, “but very true to the original folktales, and that makes it all right.”
“It looks like we’ll be needing a new storyteller. Would you like to come back?”
“Done and done.” I then approached Miss Teresa. “So … that ring you’re wearing is actually mine. Will you marry me instead of Bob?”
“Okay,” said Teresa, because I didn’t have enough time in this story to develop her personality. And that, children, is how I met your mother and how I became a storyteller. And the moral is, no matter what Harry the bum said, librarians are hot. You should totally marry one. Thank you.