Continuing Adventures Continue

Finished up my other novel, so I now have time to get back to this on-going story. I’ve uploaded chapter 3, it’s about the game Rock Ball! Check out chapters 1 – 3 here at “The Continuing Adventures of Byron & Bing”

I could also use some help from you Grammar Nazis out there. I’d like to open source the editing of this project. If you want to take a cruel cruel look at these pages and submit any edits you’d do, I’ll reward you handsomely… well, probably with a customized Lunch Note, and/or a “Thank You.”

I’ve also figured out how to insert pictures in with the text. This one features Rock Ball equipment.

Rock Ball Uniform

Here’s also an early design of the equipment…

Rock Ball Uniform 1.0

Rock Ball players quickly realized they couldn’t breath with their Bouncer on.


Writing Advice E-mail to Dan

I don’t have much reason to believe I know what I’m talking about when it comes to writing. However, almost a year ago now a friend of mine (Dan Van Dellen .. not to name drop or anything) asked me for some advice on writing a novel. I sent him this e-mail. Today, while cleaning out my email inbox (yes, I still have emails older than a year in my inbox. I’ve got one in there that’s going on six years old,… do something!) I found this e-mail exchange.

Since people don’t exchange letters anymore, this writerly advice would just disappear into electrons… and actually probably still will, but posting it here will keep it alive for a little longer anyway.

Oh, and the Ira Glass video I mention IS brilliant, and inspiring… you should watch it too. Here.

Anyway, here it goes:


Good to hear from you. Yes, the answer is as simple as you think, just do it. However, there are some bonus tips within that simple statement.
1. While it’s great that you’ve got an outline and notes, don’t feel tied to them. As the story progresses it may change. When you’re doing your first draft don’t worry at all if you stray from your outline… unless you’re OCD, then I have no idea why you’d be asking me for any kind of advice.
2. The first draft is the fun part, so let it be fun. I worked for 2 years on my first draft and it was a lot of fun (some days weren’t, but 90% of the time it was.) Currently I’m at the 2 year mark of the rewrite and it looks like it’s going to be another 3 – 6 months. In other words… the editing and rewriting are the hard part and the actual “work.”
3. Momentum is an amazing thing. I wouldn’t suggest a daily word goal (once again, unless you’re into that sort of thing.) I personally found that when I used a goal of a number of words a day I would tend to ad filler stuff that ended up getting eliminated from the final draft. Be that as it may, it did get me writing. Some sort of goal and rewards system to get the momentum going. That’s the most important part; Momentum. If you get enough of it, you’ll be writing for an hour and won’t even notice the time going by.
4. Definitely write for the first draft for one audience person… you. First draft, fuck everyone else’s opinions. Don’t even bother asking if it’s a good idea. Just do it for yourself. You’ll have plenty of time to try to please everyone else (impossible) in the rewrites.
5. Even if whatever you write absolutely sucks, remember that before you wrote it down it didn’t EXIST IN THE UNIVERSE AT ALL… that’s a fairly amazing idea that often keeps me moving.
If you haven’t seen this Ira Glass thing before, check it out. It’s like 1 1/2 minutes of brilliant help for beginning any art project.
I was going to make a video today discussing this topic, but had some technical problems. Hoping to do one tomorrow. If/when I do, I have you to thank… so, in advance, Thank you.
Let me know how it goes. The other thing I found that helped to no end was to have a fellow adventurer.
Oh, and one huge thing you could do for me, is to share/promote my web-site to anyone and everyone. My marketing is all just word of mouth right now. You’ve got a large mouth… use it.  www.eserkaln.com
Talk to you soon.

Hug Blog Day #14, #15, #16: Systems Falling Apart

I don’t quite know how this entry is going to end up. I’ve been falling behind on updating this blog. Day #14 was this past Sunday… it’s currently Thursday night. This experiment is falling apart quickly.

Sunday, went pumpkin patchin’ with the Kid. Got some Halloween decor, we’ll be carving them next week. Got my dose of Kid hugs. She’s been great about this. We haven’t talked as much about it since the first week. But, she’s pretty insistent on giving me some big quality hugs. She also gives hugs to the cat, who hates it, but she insists. It’s pretty funny actually.

Taught a small workshop for new performers, didn’t get hugs, but did get a group circle, arms around each other kinda thing. So, some human contact.

Then, I had a meeting with my Editor (I’ve been finishing up the final draft of a novel for months now.) We got in an argument, that quickly spiraled into me getting angry and firing him. Those of you who know me, know that I rarely get angry, but when I do… watch out! So, he got himself fired. And I got myself a night with a bottle of wine, and some grammar editing alone.

So. Hug Project is now in a downward spiral. As stated before, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays I interact with very few people. Monday, and Tuesday didn’t get any except the Kid hugs (don’t get me wrong, those are great and do sustain me, but they’re not enough for the Project.)

Here’s the thing… or a thing, I’ve noticed about myself in the past couple years. I am a very collaborative person. In the creative realm, but also in the interpersonal realm. I’m stating this poorly… Let me put it in the example of dating the ladies. In the past couple years I’ve had a bunch of dates with a bunch of different women. (not bragging… which will become painfully clear in a moment.) Usually, 2 – 3 dates. But, I hit a wall where I need to collaborate. That is to say, I need the other person to be as interested or enthusiastic about the project as I am. (In this current example the “project” is future dating.) I can’t know their perspective, because… well, because that’s how humans work. I only know from my perspective that it seems I am doing all the initiating. ….


At the start of this post I said I didn’t know how this entry was going to end up. Looks like it’s ended up with me rambling about my lack of ability to date women… and wallowing in self-pity. Which is a weird place for a Hug Blog to end up. The self-pity thing is really annoying to me, and I’m the one writing it. I can’t imagine how dull and annoying it is to a reader.

So, let’s just stop for a bit. …

Summary for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Hugs from Kid, and even then not the minimum of 5 a day. Fired my Editor. Can’t find a lady. Prone to self-pity spiraling.

Oh, I remember where I was going with the collaboration thing. I want to not always be pursuing Hugs for the project. I want more people pursing hugs from me. As Cheap Trick once said, “I want you to want me.” or something like that….

Weekend is coming up, let’s see if we can turn this around.



Hug Blog Day #13: New Friends

Saturday continued our Improv Festival with a visiting team from Purdue University, the Crazy Monkeys. This is not the first time that I’ve performed with people who are younger than me… Young enough that I’ve been performing improv professionally longer than they’ve been alive…. yeah.. let that sink in.

But, it is the first time that I’ve had a chance to perform with a group of people that age. It went great. One of best things about improvisation is that it’s like learning a second language. (A second secret language.) And so, we’re instantly able to work with people we’ve never met. Different ages, different upbringing, different accents… whatever. I haven’t yet had a chance to perform with someone who doesn’t speak English, but I bet we could do it. It’s all about looking at your fellow performer and reacting to how they’re feeling. It’s really less about words and more about how we show ourselves.

In Saturday’s show, I had the unique experience of starting a scene with Christina Buckley (one of the Crazy Monkeys). Without saying a word, we were on exactly the same page about who our characters were and the dynamic between us (suggestion was: Dining Room) We were a wealthy disconnected older married couple having an icy conversation over dinner. We even had the space visualized the same way (with a gigantic dining room table separating us.)  It’s a neat feeling to connect with someone you’ve just met in that way.

But, I digress from the Hug Blog…

After shows, the Crazy Monkeys had to get going pretty quickly. I got hugs from all of them. They don’t yet know about the Hug Blog or my daily quota needs. We were just new friends with a bonus connection that new friends don’t often get. I’m extremely happy to have met them.


Get a customized Lunch Note here.


Hug Blog Day #12: Old Friends and New

This Friday we had a visiting improv team from Madison (Monkey Business Institute) come visit us. Brad Knight, Dylan Brogan, Casem Abulughod, John Steeno, and Brandon Jensen. I’ve known these performers for years now. I’ve known Brad for half my life. We’ve been living parallel lives in many respects, and have mutual talent in improv and trust and love in each other.

The hugs I got from these people carry some extra weight in that I don’t see them as often, so it’s old friends meeting again which is always emotionally charged. Hugs were plenty. And after the shows we hung out together and talked and joked into the early morning hours. It was truly a night where I didn’t have the feeling of “I’ve been doing this so long, I’m burnt out and exhausted from performing.” I had the feeling of “I’ve been doing this so long and I feel a deeper bond with these people than with my actual family. They’ve become family.” And, it’s great fun to have “family” who are also the funniest people you know.

During the show, Ken Goltz as host that night, announced to the audience that I had this hug project going and everyone should hug me afterwards. We made a bit joke about it during the show. It was funny. After the show, I got maybe 4 – 8 hugs. Which is only about 10% of the audience, but compared to every other normal night of performing with ZERO hugs, it was quite a step up. Hugs from strangers/people I’ve just met, are not as effective as hugs from friends I’ve known for years. Is that just a feeling I impose on the hug? Or is it because both parties are more invested when you know each other?  Discuss>



Hug Blog Day #11: Becoming the Hug-Hub

Got more than the quota of hugs for the day. Recorded a podcast (in front of a live studio audience) and discussed this Hug Blog. On the topic of depression, I’ve found that I’m much less depressed than I am on average. I’ve also discovered that I have more *time*! I realized that I’ve previously wasted time being depressed. Time I would was staring at the computer screen doing something to waste my time or distract me from depression. These moments, at their worst, would involve me distracting myself, but also just delving deeper and deeper into depression. Getting teary eyed. Self-judgmental, etc. etc.

Don’t get me wrong. I still get depressed, or down or the blues or whatever you want to call it. But, it’s power over me is noticeably weaker.

I brought this up to the guy whose podcast I was on (Scott Roemaat… “Scott Ruins Your Podcast”) because I know Scott continues to struggle with depression. I told the audience to hug him after the show. Scott got 4 or 5 hugs. I hope it had a similar effect on him as it has on me. If you see or know Scott give him a hug.

He’s said, previously, that he DOES NOT like hugs. However, he took them all. I’m going to go with the idea that he doesn’t like them because he’s not used to them. There’s also the thing about hugs not actually solving depression, but they don’t make it worse, so I don’t see how they can harm.

After the show, a could of young ladies that I know swung by the bar. They were at an exciting lecture about race relations in the area and took the moment to come by the bar to get a hug from me. I absolutely LOVE that people would seek me out for a hug. I can’t go looking for all of them. C’mon people!

Anyway, it was Rachel Cohen and Jen Schanen. Rachel confessed to me that she’s a “superfan” of this blog. Which is …. it’s really cool.

Give hugs to Scott. Seek me out and give me a hug. Hug other people you know.



Hug Blog Day #10: Hug Styles

As the word has spread about this Hug Project, people have been approaching me more and more and initiating hugs. That’s been nice, but I hope it’s not just a passing fad.

Wednesdays – Saturdays I’ve been hitting way over the 5 hugs a day mark, so even with the lower counts on previous days, I think I’m averaging out to 5.

Had a discussion with Nik Corsten Wednesday night on Hug Method. I usually go with the angled hug. Right arm over the person’s shoulder, left arm around their side. If the person hugs back in a similar way we match up. Sometimes, if it’s a shorter person they’ll go with both arms under which changes up the dynamic, and then I end up with both arms over. However, I’ll still come in at an angle and adjust.

I’m tall, so rarely do I get the other person hugging over me. Or maybe it does happen often… I don’t know I hadn’t thought about it much before.

What does your Hug Style say about you? Perhaps it says something about the dynamic between the two people. What style hug do you do? Does it change from person to person? If you do the “Angled Hug” (one arm over shoulder other arm around side) do you lead with your left arm or right arm? Is that determined by which hand is dominate?

So many questions.


Hug Blog Day #8 and #9: Down with a sickness

I’ve had a cold the last couple days. No big deal, but I haven’t wanted to get “hug close” to people as much, so there’s less to report.

It’s been a Monday and Tuesday anyway, which are difficult days to get hugs. Did get the daughter hugs in there though. I don’t worry about her getting sick. My house is so small that it’s unavoidable that we’ll each get each other’s cold. Plus, it probably came from her any way… schools being petri dishes of cold and flu.

Unless it’s been from all the hugging I’ve been doing…. I hope not. That would put a serious dent in my experiment.

Got a “side hug” from my friend Chad. His daughter and mine are on the Middle School Volleyball team together. Side hugs are not as good as full hugs, but will do in a pinch.

I also learned a valuable lesson. Strangely, I became my own bad example in an improv workshop I was teaching. I was teaching a group of college kids (Theatre Appreciation class at St. Norbert College) some basic improv games. One of the big things I talk about is making connections with your fellow performers. Which includes, most importantly, eye contact.

We were standing in a circle and I was telling them about this blog and “Hug Therapy”  And, as I do when I start talking about it, I felt the need to demonstrate that it’s not a big deal to hug someone. I side hugged the girl standing next to me. Forgetting the other major lesson I had just been teaching for the past 3 hours! Eye contact! She was standing next to me, not looking and I just grabbed her.


She gave the immediate body language of “What the hell? Get off me! Stranger danger!”… etc. etc.

I apologized and told everyone to be sure you have permission before you hug. I could’ve saved it with more grace, but I think I saved it “okay”… well, anyway, no paperwork is being filed, so I must’ve saved it enough.

But, lesson learned. Eye contact is important.


Hug Blog Day #7 : I’m a bad scientist

Spent the day with my kid, so got in those bonus family hugs. Got one of her friends in on the project too. Kid hugs are good. Side note: don’t hug a kid if you don’t know them. I haven’t done this, but I feel it’s something that should be said. That’s why “high-fives” were invented.

Swung by the club to check in on things there. Got hugs from Allyson, CJ and Jacob.

Just one blog post back I had noted that I found it odd that other people weren’t hugging each other any more than they normally would. I kinda thought the idea would spread. Then I decided that I wasn’t going to bring it up and just keep observing. Well, it turns out I’m not the best of scientists when it comes to not interfering with the test results. I told them all it was odd they weren’t hugging too. Hugs all around. Everyone seemed happy with it.

Lesson (besides that I’m not a great scientist.) If happiness isn’t spreading by itself, sometimes it needs a shove.

Hug someone today.