I know, the phrase is cuttingtothe 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.
Turns out he doesn’t see the point of the elaborate chase through time I’d imagined from Day 1.
Turns out he’s right.
Jake Calcutta is willing to wait with the patience of an oak for his prey to appear. Once it does, though, there is no “elaborate chase through time.” There is a pounce and a capture, his nemesis wriggling in his grasp, helpless.
Not with a series of whimpers. With a bang. A whack thump crunch bang.
I’m coming out of a deep dark hole, Jake’s hand reaching down from the ledge to pull me up.
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.”
During our year-end sabbatical and post-mortem/planning episode, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to do all I can to separate my art from money matters. This past year related issues brought me closer to abandoning writing than anything ever has in the past.
I’m planning on writing like mad, but I’m planning on giving it all away. Take money, marketing, business out of the equation so I can create without feeling the obligation to give people “their money’s worth” which is a phrase I haven’t been able to get out of my head for years.
Artists who make a good living learn to separate these issues, the art and the business. Great thinkers I’ve followed like Mark McGuinness at Lateral Action, Hugh McLeod at Gaping Void, and Bob Dylan at everywhere, have all managed to do this at various levels. Maybe I’ll get there after while.
tl;dr — I’m taking a break from my online presence
I registered my first domain name in February of 1999. (It was spinhead.com, the one I use for my web design company and my primary email.) I’d already been designing websites for 4 years prior, and working with computers since I first went to work with my Dad sometime in 1976 or so.
For the past 20 years I’ve spent more and more time online.
And less and less time in the real world.
I’m trading the deceptive ease of online relationships for the messy complications of infinitely more satisfying connections in real life.
More time out in nature.
More time playing music.
More time with Best Beloved and our Little One.
More time sharing meals with friends. And taking my cooking from good cook to creative chef.
More time writing and studying the craft of writing, novels and music.
More time out in it and less time in my head.
Some Things to Note
If you know me in real life, you know how to get in touch. Do so, or wait till you see me later in the week.
Otherwise contact Sue (Sue@Spinhead.com or 715.296.0347) and she’ll know what to do.
Here’s what this is not about:
Nothing is wrong. Honest.
This is not a reaction, it’s an action. A choice based on deep thinking, meditation, and conversation with those I trust most.
It’s not about you. You didn’t offend or hurt me. Not now, probably not ever.
I’ll still be writing. A lot.
I don’t know when, or if, I’ll resume my previous online shenanigans, meaning posting everywhere, emailing like a dervish, living in social media. But don’t hold your breath.
P.S. from Sue – I fully support Joel in this decision. As his Chief Social Media Officer however, you’ll note that I’ll be managing his social media accounts on his behalf. So if you see his tweets or posts on his Facebook Author page, that’s me behind the scenes. 😉
and, overnight, fall
fall the leaves
fall the mercury
fall the crisp carpeting dead to begin the blanket
fall the snow another blanket to hide beneath
to lie beneath
what lies beneath
I searched for the word mercury to see if I’d posted this poem here before. I didn’t find it, but I found an amusing bit I wrote about the end of the universe, inspired one morning as I tried not to listen to the feed mill 100 yards up the street from our home in Wisconsin.
blue sky over a white house wind blows waving trees above a green yard where something doesn’t move doesn’t move at all until slowly slowly one arm reaches up to his head it’s a man is he hurt I can’t tell slowly he rolls on one side birds chatter in the tree then fly off to the wire between the telephone poles who has a telephone that needs wires anymore but that’s what we call them isn’t it he’s up on his knees now and I can’t tell if he’s hurt or drunk or decided to sleep under the stars except he’s not under the stars he’s under the tree in the green yard under the waving tree and the wind blows in the blue sky over a white house
The blue-grey clouds squished over the rooftops down the road as I warmed my hands on my mug of darker-than-clouds coffee. A good night’s sleep would have been nice, thank you very much, but no, I got to bed early, tossed like a fish till all hours, then awoke, twitching and wild-eyed, at 3:13am. I’m not superstitious, so twitching awake from a nightmare to my WalMart digital clock displaying the usual number of disasters followed by the unluckiest number didn’t bother me at all. Not one bit.
When it’s black night out here you can’t see the next house, a hundred yards up the road, unless Mort is going fishing and he’s up early. Otherwise, new moon like this, you see nothing but stars until the sun oozes up over the hills behind my cottage. Then, the stars are there one moment, gone in a blue-grey haze the next.
Except that was all in my imagination, of course, what with the thick dark cover of clouds. It would get lighter. It would not get sunny.
Matched my prospects for the day.
I swallowed the last of the lukewarm brew in my mug and went upstairs to shower, shave, and dress for my last day as an outsider.
You also get the first look at much of my writing, opportunities for even more free books, and the audio versions of my 1-Page Classics absolutely free (they’re 99¢ to the average citizen.)
So why aren’t you signed up?
Tell you what: give it a try. Sign up. Grab the 2 free books. Grab the free audio stuff. Read the next newsletter. If you aren’t thrilled to be involved, unsubscribe. Since I have written multiple articles for business folk about how great it is when casual or uninterested readers unsubscribe from a list they’re not excited about, you know I’m not going to be bothered by it.
Happy endings ahead on all fronts. This could have all become tragedy on various levels. You may know that comedy = tragedy + time. This means that the time you backed into the 100,000-gallon aquarium and flooded your new Cadillac can become a great story you tell over and over rather than something you never speak of again. In this case, all ended well, so feel free to laugh at my antics. Someone should.
Awoke to my phone ringing. I charge it in the living room, so there’s no way I was going to get the call. Sue tried to catch it but it stopped ringing.
Her phone rang seconds later. It was my mom, sounding pretty sick. She’d tried to get a doctor’s appointment the day before because she could barely breathe, but they didn’t have anything until today.
She said “I’ll try again tomorrow, if I live through the night.” My mother is famous for her positive perspective.
This morning she couldn’t breathe so she called to see if someone could take her to the emergency room.
Short and sweet: would you consider sharing my “books” page with a friend?
Just copy this link
and send it to them with something like Joel’s books are mysteries that are more about people than puzzles. Here’s his blog, and if you sign up for his newsletter you get TWO free books. How cool is that? Also, he sends you a personal, handwritten welcome note. Also he’s funny.
Or perhaps you’ll find your own wording.
More fans leads to more income as a writer which leads to more writing, which means, you guessed it, more books for you.
I try to keep this blog on the topic of my books, and not the business of selling them. This post is a long commentary on why I’m glad I went to Left Coast Crime in Phoenix, and why I won’t be going again. If that’s not exciting to you, I’ll see you Friday when I get back to some kind of blogging schedule.
As I noted earlier, the short version: glad I did it, wouldn’t do it again.
My first writing conference, so perhaps my expectations weren’t realistic. I was looking for either opportunities to make fans, or information about writing craft. Neither happened.
This conference is designed for fans to meet and listen to their favorite authors. They did give me a 20-minute session in a side room, attended by 3 people. Fun, but not productive.
Like every convention there were opportunities for people to drink and mingle. I spent the d&m time with my wife instead. (More on that below.)
I heard some interesting panels. But if I’d formulated specific questions and gone looking for the answers I would have found them on the Internet. There is always a certain undefinable emotional benefit to being surrounded by 300 authors and 400 mystery fans, but it’s not worth the $300 conference price to me. (I stayed with friends in Phoenix so I spent $70 in gas and parking rather than $555 for the “convention special” hotel rate.
In the space of two paragraphs, Spike’s coffee shop was invaded by nearly a dozen loud business-suit types. Half the tables were already in use. Partial use, he thought to himself. Eight quiet bodies, minding their own business, reading or people-watching as the crazies of downtown LA staggered by. They’d probably chosen this building to live in because of the coffee shop. Didn’t even have to cross the street for the full Fauxbucks experience. That had been Spike’s reasoning when he moved downtown from out in the east (read “smoggiest”) end of the San Fernando Valley.
It wasn’t really Spike’s coffee shop, other than that’s what he called it: “Why don’t we meet at my coffee shop?” But he’d sat there most mornings the past nine months, enough mornings to recognize all seven of the other faces in the pre-business-suit-invasion moments.
Now those faces were putting on sham smiles. Yes, of course, please, share my table, crowded isn’t it, yes they make an excellent nonfat soy latte; newspaper meaningfully rustled and raised enough to indicate intent without overt rudeness.
At least Camelhair Coat Dude wasn’t wearing a wool pinstripe like the two matching goofs who’d snagged a table by the door. Took Spike a moment to realize what the guy was asking; do you mind if I sit here? By then, he’d sat, and the question, and Spike’s understanding, were moot.