Cute, Short and Romantic — A New Story for Y’all

On A Crowded Floor Cover 1.2-01

You may be aware, if you’ve been following my posts the last few months, that I’m into set dancing. Earlier in the summer this story of mine appeared in the Ireland-based magazine Set Dancing News. It’s called On a Crowded Floor and it’s about a young man who’s trying to court an Italian girl who doesn’t speak English. You can get it now on Amazon Kindle for just 0.99. It’s amusing, romantic, and since it’s just over 3000 words it won’t keep you up all night.

Enjoy!

A Life within a Life

There is a rhythm to the creative process.
I couldn’t tell you what it is because I still don’t know.
It changes, shifts, like a living thing. Going in some direction I didn’t expect. Most days I’m lucky to be on its heels.
What I do know is practice and study. That’s how I go on producing, almost invisibly, in the midst of living life. Writing line after line in a coffee shop, between poetry scribblers and newspaper readers, blenders churning, milk steaming in the background. Taking words that capture my attention and writing them down: “Yes, after an hour of keeping your hand moving, you will have several pages filled with words; but ultimately, you can’t fool yourself…somewhere along you have to break through.”
I start a routine and it works for about a week, five days, before my schedule shifts and changes yet again but that doesn’t matter.  After that week I know more than ever where I’m headed.  Breakthroughs happen regardless of change if you keep flexible, keep pushing forward however you may. Writing, creating—it’s not a conveyor belt. It’s a life within a life.
It works inside of and despite everything. This is neat because study, crafting—ideas—happen all the time. While you experience one thing you’re turning it over and learning how it fits into what you’re creating at the moment. It’s important to know this, and also to still work and produce steadily, on any schedule.
Writing is both flexible and inflexible.

A Chair with a View

I put on bicycling capris and fill my water bottle. I consider making coffee, taking a thermos out and rolling it between my hands. It’s hot today though. For once I don’t need extra heat. I’ll make coffee when I come back; I’ll need the energy for typing up the latest draft of a short story.

I carry my bike downstairs and ride across the lawn, across a short bridge and into the street. Down the New Berlin Trail, listening to a Nerdist interview with Pauly Shore. They’re talking about how fame ruins some people. How some people never grow up, evolve, find their center.  I ride past the golf course, turn right, go under the bridge. Cross another street, ride around the pond, past kids playing on the steps going into the water. It always smells like fish right there.

Beyond the pond lies a wide open lawn.  A gaggle of geese forage there for lunch. They walk slowly with their heads down, watching the grass, occasionally stabbing their beaks in. They look like a search party seeking a lost trinket.

I rest my bike against a tree beyond them and set up my camp chair. It’s nice having mobile seating. You get to pick the spot that way. The view.  The level of separation. The clean factor. Benches and picnic tables are too close to footpaths. Too close to stares and loud talkers.  I need distance.

Chair

People usually feel closer to me than they are. The closer they are, the louder their noise, the weight of their presence. It’s fine to be in among them, but not for very long. I have to pull away and absorb the experience, or it’s lost to me. Like smelling a strong smell too long or too often. The ability to sense it diminishes.

In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg talks about the restaurant atmosphere, how it provides just enough stimulation to keep you writing without your mind getting bored of all the silence.  To me, restaurants and coffee shops feel close and crowded and loud, even when they’re mostly empty.  I do have some favorites that are tolerably quiet: The Stone Creek Coffee store on Bluemound, or on 5th street across from the bus station, and (my favorite) the one in the Radio Milwaukee building with its many counters and tables and corners.  The best places, though, are parks. I take my camp chair and a water bottle and notebook and set up camp wherever seems good. Something about bringing your own chair to a public area makes people keep their distance. On a park bench you’re shared property. All kinds of people will come bother you, shout at you from the playground, sit alongside and ask you questions. But when you’re out in some spacious grassy area on your own chair, you’re in a boundary that people inherently sense and avoid. Plus you’re writing which strengthens the barrier.

After an hour or so, my thoughts and experiences stored on paper, freeing up space in my mind for new things, I pack up and ride home, back into the world, exchanging nods and smiles with people I pass.

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.