My Blog

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”

My Music Website

After more than a decade writing music, I’m slowly putting all my demos online. There are more than 2 dozen already live at http://tunehenge.com (that’s out of 30 I wrote in February of this year, 2017.)

Eventually I plan to have all the demos worth listening to at tunehenge. Some of my demos are purely experimental or for my own fun. Trust me, you’re missing nothing. There are still more than 100 songs I’ve written and recorded rough demos for that’ll end up at tunehenge.

… more … “My Music Website”

2-for-1: Food, Family, Fear, and Whiskey Waffles

Hurry up, get in, let’s go. Two stops to make today.

Ladies first: Elizabeth Kaiser joins me in the post Food, Family, Fear. They’re connected, oh yes indeedy.

Then, my friend and editor and occasional drinking buddy Tom ‘BentGuy’ Bentley interviews me about my books, process, and tastes. And we talk waffles. And whiskey.

Inside My Brain: Phil B and Cheryl C Take a Scary Trip

Today’s stop on the tour is with Cheryl “Burnt Mountain” Campbell.

Cheryl is the hardest working author I’ve ever met. (And, in fact, we have met, when she drove from Maine to Wisconsin to meet the fam. I was touched and impressed. There was Strongbow Cider involved.)

Her books are good and getting better.

Her comments on my revealing psychological ramblings in the post just make it better.

Go. Read. Comment.

Detailed Review of A Still, Small Voice

Faith Blum has written a detailed review of the latest Phil Brennan book.

I would have preferred 5 stars. Her review, though, is done right: some opinion, but mostly, details that will help any reader decide whether it’s right for them.

Read and comment, eh?

Author Spotlight at AutoCrit

I’ve been a faithful user of AutoCrit ever since I first heard of it. In my opinion, the best automated editing and feedback tool an author can have.

Jocelyn from AutoCrit interviewed me about my long relationship with them and my writing process. Even if you’re not an author, there’s plenty there about Phil Brennan’s latest shenanigans.

Phil Brennan On Tour: A Still, Small Voice Blog Tour

Join friends and I this week on a tour round the web with Phil Brennan’s second story, A Still, Small Voice.

Today, Lia London uses the phrase “flamboyantly unassuming” which I find buoyantly amusing. Give her interview with me a read, and chat in the comments, eh?

Giving Readers Their Money’s Worth

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.

For now, anyone who signs up for my newsletter will get every novel I write, free, including those already published.

Pause

tl;dr — I’m taking a break from my online presence

Here’s why.

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. ;)

Better to be shot in a room full of people than in a dirty alley

The hand on my knee was firm. Then, it was crushing. Then, it started to slide the kneecap right off. Despite the pain, I didn’t cry out; in a bizarre comedic moment I wondered if the thing shoved against my ribs was called a ‘silencer’ for more than one reason.

Another survival tip for you, kiddies: no matter how funny you find yourself, don’t smile when the bad guys are interrogating you under physical duress. They don’t like it, and things go downhill fast.

Mr. Big (as in the leader) gestured vaguely toward the bathroom hallway Siobhan had gone down (where was she??) and Mr. ReallyBig the thug dragged me from the booth and shoved me ahead of him down the hallway toward a greasy door at the end.

I had a little more experience with being meekly led to the slaughter, and I wasn’t walking to my own funeral this time. Better to be shot in a room full of people than in a dirty alley (or maybe the alleys in Galway aren’t dirty; I didn’t remember) or down by the ocean where they’d never find you.

I say I had experience with the concept. I had none with the execution of it. I jerked away from Mr. ReallyBig and ran for the door. Which was locked. I think. I don’t know; it wouldn’t open.

The pain in the back of my head was amazing. At first I thought he’d shot me; then I realized he’d just slugged me with the gun. Not enough to knock me out; contrary to what you see in the movies, that takes more than a light tap. But enough to make me reconsider my flight and, instead, bend over with my head between my hands. I’m no tough guy, I’m an academic, remember?

This is an excerpt from Through the Fog. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon or just sign up for my newsletter and get it free.

A Little Step Before a Leap

The apartment was bigger than it looked in the photos online. Real estate must be cheaper in a small town than in the cities. I didn’t know. I’d never lived anywhere but one big city and apartments were even more expensive than renting a small house. It didn’t make any sense to me, but I guess if you’re willing to pay for the benefit of not having a lawn to mow, someone might as well take your money.

I also wasn’t used to having the super live offsite. Though she wasn’t the super, she was the apartment manager. Or owner. I should get that straight. She and her husband lived down the street in a nice little house by the lake.

“Right up the road if pipes burst or you lock yourself out,” Mrs. Wright had said. Mr. Wright was housebound so she had taken care of our business arrangements.

“Now, there’s lots of young men for neighbors, dear, but they’re polite and well-behaved or I wouldn’t have them. So you just make yourself at home.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Wright. I’m not worried about them.”

One eyebrow twitched, and she smiled.

“No, I supposed you’re not. I’m off, then.”

Maybe her intuition works better than mine. Maybe I was advertising more than I realized.

No young man was getting anywhere near me until my heart grew back in the hole left by the young man I’d just left forever.

This is an excerpt from next year’s romantic mystery Anacrusis.