The Monkey in Menswear

“The darker blue looks good with your eyes.” Jenna, back from checking the handbag sale, held a tie up with both hands, draping it across the bridge of my nose.

“Thank you. They’re not usually worn that close to the eyes but if it gets us out of here—”

“There! That’s him!”

The tip of the tie whipped my ear as my wife spun to see what nut was yelling behind us.

“This gentleman?” from the security guard standing next to Old Yeller (okay, young yeller, but that doesn’t flow the same.)

“That’s him.”

The guard took a step back and measured the guy with his eyes.

“Him. Right there. In the suit I know he didn’t buy here because we don’t sell anything that sharp.”

Jenna did semaphore with the tie. “What did my husband do?”

… more … “The Monkey in Menswear”

Reserving Seats for the Critics

Ben Earwicker Garrison Photography, Boise, IDContinuing from yesterday:

Much is affected by the fact that I do not aspire to fame, and I don’t need my books to make my living for me.

Would I reject fame or fortune if they wandered into the corral? Not at all. I’m leaving the gate open in case they decide to wander by.

Vast difference between “fine if it happens” and relentless pursuit. I know the effort of book marketing; our primary business provides social media marketing services for authors, as in, we do it for a living. With a whole team and a slew of tools.

… more … “Reserving Seats for the Critics”

Inviting Critics to the Arena

I may not refer directly to information presented in Brené Brown’s 99U presentation but you may find it interesting anyway.

Not pizza
A food analogy. Always a good place to start:

Join Me for Pizza

Imagine I invited you over for my amazing homemade pizza. Everything from scratch. You are, of course, delighted.

You’ve mentioned my pizza to a couple friends and wonder if they might come along. I’m feeling expansive, so why not?

By 4:30 Saturday, it’s a disaster. The sauce isn’t thick enough. The toppings aren’t grilled properly. The crust doesn’t rise enough.

Which of these options makes the most sense to you?

… more … “Inviting Critics to the Arena”

Fortnight

  • 3-day convention in Tucson
  • 3-day drive
    1. Tucson AZ -> Tucumcari NM
    2. Tucumcari NM -> Kearny MO
    3. Kearny MO -> Cameron WI
  • 3 days with friends in Cameron, in a big old rambling farm house and a nameless puppy waiting to be given to our host’s granddaughter as a graduation gift (she named him Winston.)
  • 4 days house-sitting at a gorgeous home buried deep in the woods with 2 friendly cats and 1 that’s a bit cranky
  • 1 of those evenings out on the lake, seeing osprey, kingfishers, great blue herons, turtles, and a muskrat

Today:

… more … “Fortnight”

blow, wind!

blow, wind!
shatter leaves from the trees and slash them through my dream
pour them onto the road I cannot travel
smear them across the windows I cannot see

blow, wind!
tear the rain from the air and chase it from this place
dry the lies
and the hate and
upturn the funnel
empty the blackness till it whitens

blow, wind!
drag my heart from here to that place I belong
that place where I dreamt I was me,
myself,
and I—
where I dreamt I was myself
without dreaming

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/maple-leaf-1510431

Crummy Cake Communication

Country folk have odd recipes, but we always eat good.

My mom had two cakes she introduced us to when I was a kid. She called them Mayonnaise Cake and Tomato Soup Cake.

Yeah, that’s how we reacted, too. Allow me to expand: the mayonnaise is used as a substitute for eggs and oil in a chocolate cake with coffee in the batter. A thick, dense, moist explosion of coffee-chocolate flavor. Frosting would be pointless. Vanilla ice cream works. We’d stir them together, unknowingly creating a cookies and cream experience 30 years before anyone was selling it.

My father was most precise in his speech. It was from him that I learned to look for the right word, the difference, for instance, between “loping” and “trotting” or “thinking” and “pondering” and such shades of meaning which give depth and clarity to our communication.

(That’s called “setup” so you’ll wonder, as I relate this, where it comes into play.)

… more … “Crummy Cake Communication”

How Not to Hit Your Child With a Sledgehammer

Railroad ties make a good retaining wall. Heavy and thick, they’re impregnated with creosote so they’re nearly rot-proof. Peg them together with 3/8″ rebar and they’ll be there 20 years later (according to this picture. Neighborhood has sure run down since I lived there.)

The process is to lay down the first layer of ties, drill holes where the pins will go through, lay down the next layer, drill, and repeat. Somehow, I kept performing the miracle of drilling the holes exactly where they needed to be. Stupid confidence sometimes turns into wild good luck.

I’d finished the fronts of the walls, tied into the sides next to the steps. I do not remember why (trauma, perhaps) but as I neared the end, I asked my teenage son Tristan to come help.

“Here, hold this,” I said, with a 3-foot chunk of rebar placed in the top of the hole in the railroad tie.

… more … “How Not to Hit Your Child With a Sledgehammer”

My Naked Dylan Dream

We chatted for an hour about brownies. I would make a big batch and bring them to the gig.

At some point I got out of bed, still on the phone, opened the door, and walked through the next room toward the kitchen.

He was sitting, no clothes at all, on the bed by the window, sunrise streaming across the white sheets. He stopped talking as I walked through, but he didn’t look at me.

Before I got to the kitchen I woke up.

… more … “My Naked Dylan Dream”

Lemon Grove Killer Van

We worked in the back of a great big van, more like a delivery truck. Not as big as a moving van, but far bigger than a passenger vehicle. Workbenches, grinders, air and power tools of all kinds, bins of parts and whatnot. It was convenient for work, being totally mobile. For driving, not so much. The van was awkward, felt top-heavy, and it as a nightmare to back up. I could always hear stuff shifting, rattling, pinging as we hit bumps or turned corners.

After lunch at a new place one day I headed out the back exit of the parking lot.

There was no back exit.

… more … “Lemon Grove Killer Van”

Creative Trip Around the World

In this week’s 21st Century Creative podcast Mark McGuinness and guest Laurie Millotte discuss creating a global business. Laurie’s challenge to listeners was to create a round-the-world trip based on your creative desires. Here’s what I wrote:

Before Best Beloved and I spent a year traveling the US and Canada doing house sitting, we’d already built a location-independent business. As a result, we’ve already done a fair bit of traveling. But this week’s challenge has me thinking.

1. San Francisco. The entire city, but especially the waterfront and the trolleys, fire up my creativity. I’d want to start my trip with a total immersion in a city that has always inspired me.

… more … “Creative Trip Around the World”

How to Make Your Father Run a Red Light

We sat in the dark back seat, watching the digital clock (made of actual light bulbs) atop the bank in Chula Vista. It was a long red light. We’d seen the time change from 7:03 to 7:04 and all four of us started counting the seconds until it changed again.

Quietly, in the back seat: “57, 58, 59” and then, not quietly at all, the four of us shouting “Now!”

At that moment, the left turn light changed to green.

Dad stomped on the gas.

We weren’t in the left turn lane.

… more … “How to Make Your Father Run a Red Light”

Jake’s Next Step

Jake Calcutta and the Temporal LisleI printed out James’ notes on Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle.

Three pages of small font.

Much of it is rumination in the moment, notes taken as he read it. He had some concerns about this, that, and the other thing, and our usual difference of taste in certain areas.

Today’s task is to go through those notes and determine what needs attention, what could use a little nudge, and what I can leave as it is.

Assuming, after a quick scan, there are no gaping plot holes, the next step will be to write out the story I’ve already summarized for his review. I know, that sounds like oversimplification, but at this point, putting the words down is easy part. If I can maintain my old pace of 3,000 words a day I’ll have Jake’s story wrapped up in a month.

Let’s call it “by end of summer” just to be safe. And sane.

Merciless

We read in order to learn how to face life’s challenges.

A book without challenges teaches us nothing.

The greater odds our hero faces, the more we learn from their success (or, to be fair, failure.)

I’ll confess that the young boy in my current work in progress is me, and I’m using the book to work through some childhood difficulties I’ve never been able to shake; nothing world-shattering, just the usual pains of being different and trying to grow up.

… more … “Merciless”

The Other Joel Canfield

Joel D CanfieldOnce upon a time I thought my name was unique.

I was playing bass in a few bands and thought I’d see if anyone had ever posted anything about me online. Googled my name and “bass” and lo and behold, there’s some guy named Joel Canfield, a bass player somewhere in Michigan.

That’s the day I started using my middle initial D. (It’s for David, and no, I have no idea why my parents gave me two Hebrew Bible names, especially considering my siblings each have two Celtic names.) My introduction at business mixers was “If it doesn’t have the D it isn’t really me.” So, it’s Joel D Canfield, because I need the D but didn’t want the period because I’m an artist and I have my affectations and it’s my name fer cryin’ out loud.

But only with the D in it.

… more … “The Other Joel Canfield”

Reluctantly Crouched at the Starting Line

While Jake Calcutta is off getting a sanity check, my oldest work in progress is coming out of hiding.

I’ve written over 30,000 words of Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle, including a 1,000-word summary of the latter 2/3 of the story. It’s all in the hands of my fact-and-sanity checker to confirm that the story makes sense as I’ve planned it. Once James has confirmed there are no plot holes big enough to chuck a cat through, I will finish it up and send it out upon the waters.

While I’m hands off that story, I did an experiment to see which of my possible ideas I should start work on. Led by emotional events of the past six months I chose the coming-of-age story I started January 1st, 2010 (for the mathematically challenged, that’s 7 years, 4 months, 1 week, and 2 days ago.)

The blurb, for now:

… more … “Reluctantly Crouched at the Starting Line”

Fragility and the Geese

If you park your truck facing the sun and leave your beans and rice on the dashboard the Texas summer sun will warm it to eating temperature and melt the butter by lunchtime.

We’d heard the geese but couldn’t see them. Climbed down from the roof, dropped our tools somewhere they wouldn’t get hot, got our Mexican food from his truck and sat in the shade to eat.

I said something almost funny. Probably about as witty as “Duck, it’s the geese!” though it’s been so long I don’t remember.

… more … “Fragility and the Geese”

Cutting the Chase

I know, the phrase is cutting to the chase. But that’s not what’s happening.

Poor Jake Calcutta has been in and out of my top drawer a hundred times the past 6 months. I’ve printed bits and read them, highlighting and underlining. I’ve binder-clipped and folded and organized and shuffled. I’ve enlisted pre-alpha readers.

I’ve ignored it mercilessly for weeks at a time.

A third of the way through, Jake left me. Hid out somewhere in the wilderness of Whatcomesnext and no matter how I coaxed, he wouldn’t talk to me.

… more … “Cutting the Chase”

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Three days since I finished this excellent book, it’s still stuck in my head. You can read a more complete description at Amazon. Here’s mine:

Count Alexander Rostov is placed under house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow in 1922. For life. Because art loves constraints, telling a story within the confines of a single building helps make this both deep and broad. There’s an understanding of Soviet thinking I’ve rarely seen. In the sweep of more than three decades, the joys and pains of life take on a stoic Russian feel, especially in the author’s footnotes which tell us “don’t pay attention to this character, he’s not as important as the scene might suggest” or “sadly, this character, much as we’d love to see them again, leaves our story here and never returns.”

… more … “A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles”