Excuse my dust…

This week, the Wisconsin chapter of my life comes to an end.

A short interlude of driving will ensue (a chapter in itself when you drive all day and night in a moving van with two protesting cats) and then a new chapter begins in Austin, Texas.  I’m thrilled and anxiety filled and that’s about all I have to say at the moment.

To leave you with something of substance, as I stack boxes and step over cats tunneling beneath packing materials, here’s another teaser for The Defiant:

THE DEFIANT (3)

Defiant back cover

See you on the other side.

I Saw Her at the Riverwalk

There is no way to capture, in fullness, a very great day.
I try to, when I wake up on my birthday and see a warm June sky out my window and know it’s finally summer.  I try, as we walk out into the bright blue morning and drive into the Third Ward.  We park on a side street and pass people walking to work and go inside an elderly marble building to buy a dozen donuts from Holey Moley. I try to hold onto the moment, fix it all perfectly in my memory. I almost try too hard and anxiety creeps in.
Back off a little, I tell myself. Let today just be today.  Things will happen and you will enjoy them. That is all you need to do.
My breath comes back and I’m better.
We drive to Liz’s white house with the clover-filled yard and bounce on the steps at the back door waiting for her to let us in. We make coffee and tea and pour glasses of milk, eating the donuts. We post pictures and everyone is jealous.
We sit outside, celebratingGlorious donuts the first perfect day of the year and new patio furniture, Liz and me crisping in the sun, Jeremy cool in the shade.
We plan an excursion into Milwaukee and go to the Wisconsin Cheese Mart. We buy All The Cheese: brie and gouda and cheddar horseradish. Cheese with balsamic, cheese with chives.  Cheese flavored by itself.
We walk the Riverwalk, passing men in suits, women in business-casual lounging on patios that bulge out over the river.
We lose time in the Public Market, wandering from stall to stall. Looking (again) at (different) cheeses.  Discussing Wisconsin paraphernalia; long socks advertising COFFEE; the surprising recommendability of Harry Potter; mussels on the half-shell eaten raw. We show Liz the glories of flavored balsamic vinegar.
I Saw Her in the Library
I Saw Her in the Library – Print by Emily Winfield Martin
We buy a baguette and walk down the construction-ravaged street to Hot Pop, me carrying the baguette like an awkward stick and waving sheepishly to the lady at the counter. Welcome to Hot Pop, the gift shop of the Internet. Baguettes allowed.
I find there are a few prints left of I Saw Her in the Library. I’m delighted.  I carry one around the shop with me, wanting to get it but talking myself out of it at the last moment. Liz buys it for me, and I buy her a Totoro lens cleaning cloth.
Now it’s all our birthdays.

Updates and a free book

Fear the Hunted

So it’s been a busy year, and I want to update you on the status of my books.

As of this summer, my contract with Bluewood Publishing came to an end and I decided not to renew with them. There are many great tools and services available to authors that allow us to distribute electronically, and in print, to major bookstores like Barnes and Noble, as well as to public libraries, and it makes sense to take advantage of those services while having even more control over the quality and timing of my books.

I’m re-releasing FEAR THE HUNTED with new cover art this month. It’s live on Amazon right now as an ebook, with a print version soon following. Aside from the cover art, and a few minor formatting changes, the new edition will be the same as the first edition.

To celebrate the re-launch, I’m making FEAR THE HUNTED free today and tomorrow (July 14-15).

If you haven’t grabbed it yet, now is a great time to get it free or share it with a friend. If you read it and found it to your liking, please consider leaving a review on Amazon.

AMAZON
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0117SFPN0

Finally, I’ll be at Pewaukee Library tonight from 6-8:30 pm for the Wisconin Author Fair. If you’re in the area and can make it, I’d love to see you. I’ll have some copies of FEAR THE HUNTED with me and a teaser for my next book, THE DEFIANT, that’s coming soon.

THE DEFIANT
Illustration by Justin Schut

I’ll be posting some artwork and the back cover copy on my website and Facebook this week, and more teasers including some fantastic character illustrations by Justin Schut as we get closer to the book launch.

Thank you for your support the past few years. I can’t wait to get THE DEFIANT into your hands and hear what you think of it.

monogram 1

Jinn

Kindreds In Pursuit of a Life

cherry

I’m listening to The Nerdist podcast, chopping cauliflower for dinner. Chris Hardwick is interviewing Paul McCartney, and I can’t stop smiling: McCartney is so good. He is voice resonates and his ideas resonate and I love the way he sees the world, his work, the works of others. He reminds me of thoughts I’ve had about the creative process. That fame is better earned than instant. That it’s okay to practice a lot, invisibly, and work at a craft to make money.

I have to stop in the middle of chopping, leaving a mound of cauliflower on the cutting board, to find my pen and write down some new, wild ideas that come to me while he’s talking. Everything he says ultimately runs together in my memory and becomes just a single knowing:

I’m not alone.

I’m not the only one trying so hard, practicing so much. I’m doing the right thing. Paul and I are now old friends. Even though I come from a hardcore jazz family and didn’t happen to grow up listening to the Beatles. I respect McCartney and his music; he’s a kindred spirit (and, he’s still alive, which most of my kindreds are not).

I spread cauliflower florets on a baking sheet, slide it in the oven, and look for something else to chop because he’s still talking and I can’t turn him off, that would be rude.

Ultimately this interview will be saved on my computer along with other favorite interviews I’ll listen to again later, when I need reminding I’m not alone, need the courage to keep creating.

Most of these favorite interviews are not with writers. Almost none, in fact. There’s a sameness in discussions about writing. It often reduces the craft to a series of boxes to check, a religion of maintenance rather than an effort toward growth and innovation. A religion where we all start regurgitating the same thoughts, the same styles, and writing ceases to become an adventure. It becomes a duty, a cause of sideline interest and endless discussions about rules and methods.

I prefer to be inspired, and let the methods take care of themselves. I get inspiration from Pauly Shore, Sam Raimi, Jeff Bridges, Spoon, Guillermo del Torro, Hayo Miyazaki, Andy Serkis, Tom Cruise. By old, old fairy tales. By Hemingway’s memoirs (whose own style has been, sadly, turned into a religion of sorts). I get more from his inner thoughts than his writing. I love the snapshots he provides, telling of his process. Of standing over a fireplace peeling an orange when he couldn’t get a story going, of staring out his window and telling himself, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.”

These glimpses into the lives of other creators show me they did the same things I’m doing now, and that it’s not madness to stare ahead and murmur encouragement to myself. It’s alright to practice for a long time, invisibly. It’s alright to become famous some other way than overnight.

These are the people I try to surround myself with. I keep their thoughts close as I write my stories in pursuit of a life.

You Must Move Forward

There is no perfection.

I pull books off the shelves, stack them on the floor, shove the stacks out of the way with my foot when I need to sit down.

There is no perfection.

I run, outside, down sterile suburban streets that make boring straight lines to the horizon. I’d rather run on trails but today I’m stuck in civilization.

There is no perfect time, way things happen, arrangement of circumstances so everything is easy. Because that’s what I mean when I say ‘perfect.’ No obstacles, bumps, no struggle.

In reality, perfection never happens.  Cut through anyway, and do the thing you need to do.

There’s no easy way in–or out–of some situations. Things happen; you make choices and give big effort; it adds up to experience. The experience continues in you, helping you navigate in the midst of book piles and laundry piles and dirty sinks and long, boring runs and chaotic work schedules.

There is no perfection and that’s okay, I tell myself daily.  You are doing this for you. Because you love it and because it brings you a great deal of pleasure and because you know someday it will bring pleasure to others. Every time you cut through the chaos and write you’re confirming to yourself that you can, despite whatever is happening. Despite a pending move across the country. Despite work chaos. Despite all of life, for your own life’s sake. You must move forward and do what you need to do, period.

Chaos and Two Sweaters

“I just realized I don’t need to go to work for another hour,” Jeremy says to me one morning. “So I could have been without pants this whole time.”
I look at him, then down at myself and laugh. I’m wearing long pants and two sweaters.
It’s that kind of morning. Not cold, but not warm enough to reach me.
So here I sit on the balcony in the sun, writing. Wearing two sweaters, sweatpants and Jeremy’s aviators to take the edge off the page glare. One sweater is bright orange and the other red-and-blue striped. I must look a sight.
I’m finishing a story today. It needs a couple lines tweaked, some further editing, then off it goes to a magazine. True, these 3500 words took me over four months to write, but the real accomplishment here is that I’m finishing something at all.
I’m moving across the country in a few weeks, to a place I may or may not like culturally but sweaters won’t be necessary there which is frankly all I care about at this point. Between sorting books to keep or donate, organizing a quickly expanding ebook library, scanning mountains of old journals and notebooks, talking to apartment locators, filling out applications, and worrying about living for a stretch of time without a car (my blood pressure rises and one of the sweaters needs to come off so hey, worrying does accomplish something)—between all that I’m supposed to sit and focus and write.
Fates.
But I’m doing it, without exploding yet.
The sun now feels warmer and the second sweater comes off. I breathe for a moment and remember the sky and the birds and the ground—all still there. The chair holding me up. The pen in my hand. Chaos takes a step back. The books, the clothes to sort, the sink that still needs to be scrubbed, can all wait for a while. I’m writing now.

“Step through your resistances right now and write something great. Right now. This is a new moment.” ~Natalie Goldberg

The Saturday Night Scene

Some famous band is playing at The Rave. All the side streets are lined with cars. Young people cross the road in front of me, stand in tight groups beside their racy Hondas, turn and watch as I drive past. I note their faces: they are probably ten years younger than me but look that much older. I’m going to be social tonight, but not with anyone at The Rave. I park next door, at the Irish Cultural Center, where the Milwaukee Set Dance Club is hosting their monthly Irish set dance night.


Yep. This is my scene.

I walk into the aged, echoing room and stow my gloves and scarf and satchel on a folding chair, and change into my dancing shoes. Irish set dancing, a distant cousin to square dancing, has eight couples per set, several figures per dance, and each dance lasts twenty minutes or more. The three-piece band has us tapping our heels during their soundcheck, dancing before the night officially starts.

“Take off your jacket and stay a while,” someone says to me.

I shake my head. It’s finally spring but Wisconsin missed the memo. “Not until my hands are out of danger of frostbite.”

He pulls me out of my chair and we two-step a pseudo-waltz around the floor, dodging people who are standing still and talking. He always has stories to tell me while we dance. About the lady who made him feel like Fred Astaire on the dance floor but wouldn’t return his phone calls because “ladies don’t call men, it’s not proper.” About the time the caller said ‘pick up your lady and take her home,’ directing moves in the dance, but he literally picked up his partner and started carrying her out the door.

Everyone is in high spirits tonight. Because it’s spring. Because the band plays well and makes us dance harder. Because it’s set dancing and we don’t need another reason.

The sets are intricate and we all mess up a lot and none of us care. We try and we laugh a lot and we cheer when we get it right. We make light fun of the kids going to The Rave, that they don’t wear jackets or long pants when it’s still almost cold enough to snow. I shed my own jacket a while ago and there’s sweat trickling down the backs of my knees. I regret wearing jeans now…but I won’t when I walk to my car later.

Set dancing has an old romantic essence, like Sinatra and ballroom dancing and bow ties. It’s a little dangerous and sometimes confusing and takes some practice. Not everyone likes it, for those reasons. Modern social settings are confusing and dangerous too, but to me they lack the old charm and panache of Irish dancing, ballroom dancing, or just about any old-timey social dance. It’s an unusual thing for a young person to do, on purpose, on a Saturday night, but for me it’s perfect.