the truth about my old neighbor, my book, and my beer boot

Where to begin, man.  Really.  The last few weeks of my life have been a whirlwind.  And I don’t mean that in the girly, dramatic way I usually do.

I took a much needed vacation back to my hometown and stayed [relatively] at my grandmother’s house and hung out with my dad.  It was sort of like running and jumping into a river that you realize is moving much slower than you are.  It was relaxing when I finally got used to it.

But there were times when I just couldn’t grasp the concept of “chilling out.”

I’m supposed to be doing something!  I realized my job has left me with this million-mile-an-hour setting that I can’t combat even on vacation.

Fortunately, there were plenty of things to keep me distracted.

For one thing, I saw some friends that I hadn’t in quite awhile.  This little sabbatical I take every year is always filled with mini-reunions.  But this reunion was no “mini.”

If any of you knew me growing up, you know how epic this picture is:

Stop rubbing your eyes, all my high school friends, it’s real–that’s me and Lance.  If you’ve asked me about my childhood–or read my final essay for Nature Writing in college–you’d know that this guy is quite nearly the sole reason I survived.  I was an overweight, overprotected only child in a small town in a neighborhood that lacked any other kids.

I was doomed.

Lance was my hero, man.  My neighbor.  My big brother.  Sure, he picked on me.  Yes, I was afraid of his dog.  Did he constantly remind me I was a virgin?  Absolutely!  But he also watched out for me.  Knowing this guy opened doors for me in the cutthroat social hierarchy of high school–but it also taught me about loyalty.  This guy never gave up on me–about writing, about staying active, about doing rather than hiding.

Even though we lived in a small town, I lost track of Lance in high school.  I mean, I saw him in the hallway, or at sporting events.  Every once in awhile we got together for a movie or video games, but his path through high school was a little different than mine.  And after high school, well, our paths deviated completely.

I lost track of Shoe.  For roughly 10 years.

Every once in awhile I’d check Facebook to see if he’d finally signed up.  Or I’d run into him in the middle of a night out on the town, and the whole thing came back to me hazy, like a dream.

But a couple weeks ago, Lance’s sister–and mine, in a way–Ashley, brought us all together.  We met at Lance’s house; me from the North Shore and her from North Dakota.  Lance had ended up living across the street from my grandma.

In a way, we were neighbors again.

The years apart shaved away with a couple beers, a few shots, some Drinking Shuffleboard, and a little help from a Blow Gun and a Dart Board–don’t ask.

And as much as we’d grown up, Lance was still giving me pointers on how to hit the bull’s-eye.  Once a big brother, always a big brother.

The night ran well into the next morning and let me tell you something:  there’s no Walk of Shame that compares to stumbling into your grandma’s kitchen at 7:30 a.m. still drunk from Drinking Shuffleboard.

I didn’t see Lance the rest of my vacation–like I said, whirlwind–but I hope to again.  Soon.  Sooner than 10 years, at least.

Next on my list of events, was seeing my other “brother” Kell and his wife for a Post-Halloween Halloween Party.  As usual, I didn’t go in costume…but ended the night in one.

Kell went as popular SNL character, “Stefan.  I went as Kell.  My costume was so accurate that I was able to hook up with his wife!

Ugh, I’m kidding.  Grow up.

No, our posse saw a very subdued Mikel this year in that I was still partied out from the night before.  I wasn’t endlessly pouring shots and making bracelets out of empties and calling you a douche bag as per the norm.

It was a refreshing treat.

I guess that’s about it for the highlights of my vacation.  Besides my book deal.


Oh, yeah, hey–I guess there’s that.

As most of you know, I was in talks for a publishing deal for Coming of Mage, the manuscript I started last summer.  I’ve been surprisingly glib about it, though, since nothing was official and I’m terribly superstitious.

So consider this my official press release on the matter:

Not the actual cover. Maybe. But probably not. But could be, definitely. Not really. But, without a doubt: Possibly.

Coming of Mage.  June 2013.  North Star Press.  Real deal.

Actually, technically, THIS was my first press release:

Never has one of my statuses been so well-received.

But, yeah, it’s true.  I’m going to be a published author.  It’s awesome.  It’s an honor and it really doesn’t seem real yet.  When I signed the contract, it was like I was watching myself sign it from overhead, like a med student studying a live procedure.  It’s strange.  One second, you’re not an author…and the next–you are.

Coming of Mage isn’t the story I thought would be my first book–but I’m proud that it is.  That little story metamorphosed so many times in its short life and grew into something that I never thought it could be.  The story of Quinn, Emma, Tristan–and Ethan, I guess–started as a campy entry in a short story contest that I never actually submitted.  I couldn’t–I fell way too in love with the characters.  And the plot just took on a life of its own.  It’s really true what they say about characters in books–they are real, and the author is just reporting on their life.

Even when they’re all struggling wizards in the 80s.

I’m sure it’ll feel more real when my book is all bound and shiny and resting in my palm.  But for now, there’s still something surreal about it.  And I’m going to ride that feeling for awhile.

Even though I need to put together a Kickstarter to raise some start-up capital.  And I’m desperately trying to commission art, music, and film versions.  And I’m already behind on the sequel.

Which will happen.  Coming of Mage II [working title] will come to pass.  Mark my words.

I guess there’s worse problems to have, right?

What else, what else….oh right, I turned 29.

So I guess there’s that, then.

No, no, I mean as far as turning “Almost 30” goes, it was a lot of fun.  I rallied a small pack of troops and got royally buzzed at a Space Aliens family restaurant.  Won an orange shark.  Pretty successful considering it was a Wednesday night.

My girlfriend says I should stop making such a big deal out of my birthday, but I say, “If you plan it, they will come.”

And they will drink.  And they will order Space Onion Blossoms.  And they will win tickets by bopping automated creatures on the head.

And if I ever stop making an over-the-top big deal about myself, well, I just won’t be Mikel.

Other than that, I celebrated with all my usual staples:

Also, there may or may not have been a boot full of beer involved.

That’s the equivalent of 4 pints of Great Lakes Brewing’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter–consumed by me on the 36th anniversary of that famous ship’s sinking. Let’s just say there was another shipwreck that night. #toosoon

Look, I know what you’re all thinking:  INTERVENTION!  INTERVENTION!  But, relax, it’s not like I’m pouring boxed wine into empty soda cans.

That was my 26th b-day.

All in all, it was a pretty good little vacation.

I saw movies [Wreck-it Ralph and Pitch Perfect] but not enough.  I ate at restaurants that I normally can’t, but not enough.  Saw a lot of friends, but not enough.  Devoured Grandma’s lasagna, but not enough.  Also, Brett and I invented a new card game called “Random Hookups” but I can’t really explain you the intricacies right now.  Not with the patent pending.

Oh, and Barack Obama is president.  I don’t know if you guys heard.


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