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A Month into Winter

Not that the Phoenix valley has much of a winter, but this year was more wintery than the past two; December’s highest temp was 73º but the previous two years it was in the low 80s.

For the first time in 15 years, I’m not knee-deep in songwriting. I’ve participated in February Album-Writing Month since 2006, some years writing as many as 32 songs in a single month. I want to write at least one to celebrate my 15th FAWM, but I’m having a hard time dredging up the feeling.

I’m also 6 months or so behind on delivering the third Jake Calcutta story. And don’t get me started on the third Irish Adventure; poor Web Martin ended his second adventure on a low note and I’ve been meaning for years to lift his spirits with another chapter in his life.

The family band used to practice music 5 days a week. We’ve been up in the music room twice in five months. I’ve barely strummed my brand new 3/4-size Orangewood guitar. It’s beautiful, easy to play, great-sounding, and parked beside my desk. But, parked. In the same stand as my Blueridge tenor, the most wonderful musical instrument I’ve ever owned.

Moving my mother into assisted living absolutely trashed me physically and emotionally. Getting herself evicted in under 90 days because she’s so uncooperative was a gut-kick to Best Beloved and I after all the time, energy, and money we spent making it happen.

I usually ignore my age; I don’t celebrate birthdays, and the only reason I know my age most of the time is that it ends with the same number as the year. I haven’t been conscious of anything special about turning 60 the end of last month, but I have been feeling old, slow, a bit bleak.


Gratitude Journal

Last summer I started journaling my gratitude in earnest; three things, every day, I appreciated. My goal has been to come up with three new things every day, so after the initial ease of listing my wife and daughter, friends, food, shelter, spirituality, it became a bit more challenging. Not that I don’t have plenty to be thankful for, but focusing on the moment, what am I grateful for right now? as opposed to one time there was this good thing and I think I remember it.

With almost 600 entries so far, it runs the gamut from “vinegar” (I love cooking) to “the coolest spring since we’ve lived in Arizona” while passing through “no more finger wrap for my arthritic finger” and “finding the patch kit for Sue’s bike tire.”

I’ve also mentioned over 60 people by name, endless features of nature right outside our windows, and things I try not to take for granted like indoor plumbing, air conditioning, reliable internet access, and working from the comfort of our own living, especially the part about working with my Best Beloved.

Thinking our gratitude isn’t as effective as writing it down. Writing has power, for ourselves, and to share with others.


600 Short Sentences About Writing

I’m struggling through a book on writing with a title very much like the title above.

There are some real gems.

They are obscured by the style.

The entire book is composed of short sentences, sometimes fragments, sometimes intentionally split across two lines to appear as two short sentences when it is, in fact, one.

If this were fiction, I might find it avant garde.

Instead, I merely find it hard.


Binge In, Binge Out

In the past 75 days I’ve read 50 books. I’m up to a book a day during the past week.

For the first 6 weeks I was waiting for minor surgery on my right foot, and the past month, healing from it. Reading is a great way to pass the time when you can’t be on your feet, walking, biking, digging in the yard, all that. Better than watching soaps.

I’ve also been writing like mad. Finished the first draft of Love Runs Out. Outlined (and today, started) the second Jake Calcutta story.

More words in has always equaled more words out, for me.


900 Days

Tomorrow it will be 900 days since The Temporal Lisle came to me in a flash.

I suspect I’ve spent 800 of those days doing nothing but suffering over the struggle.

Though the battle with Resistance is never won, I have been writing steadily for weeks. There are 16 chapters left to write. That’s not much. Yesterday I realized I’d left a major character hanging in limbo; they walk offstage and simply disappear. It took four short chapters to resolve their story in a way that organically served the larger story, and I wrote it all in a single sitting.

Come November 3, 2018, the 3rd anniversary of the burst of creativity, this book will already be published and selling well.

And the next one ain’t gonna take three years.


This Story is Beneath You

A confused fan searches for one of my books
Almost two years ago I started my 6th novel. Plotting and planning, then writing like mad. Research, plot adjustments, pondering, and more writing like mad.

Somewhere along the way, it crashed.

More precisely, I crashed.

Flashback to Success

On November 11th of 2011 I released 6 books simultaneously. (11/11/11, get it?) In the previous 6 months I’d written (or compiled) 4 books and co-authored 2 more, all books about business philosophy and process.

I switched to fiction. Finally followed up my first Irish adventure novel with a second, then started another series, and a third.

It was like driving a Lamborghini steamroller.

Then, I got some professional advice.

Continue reading “This Story is Beneath You”


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.

Continue reading “Cutting the Chase”


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. ;)


Phil Brennan, Web Martin, and Jesse Donovan Walk Into A Bar

Joel D CanfieldYou’d think I’d know what to expect considering who I was meeting in the cheap dive downtown.

One at a time, sure.

I’d never sat down with the three of them, not all at once.

It’s enough to drive you to drink.

Or for those with other proclivities, to write.

Or maybe both.


Interview with Author Meg Wolfe: How Do You Write?

MegWolfe

After I’d read An Uncollected Death and An Unexamined Wife by Meg Wolfe, she let me pillage her brain for thoughts on how she pieced together the stories, the mysteries, the characters.

How long did it take to sort the plot details for book 1? Creating the bits of the mystery, I mean. A month? A year?

It took me sixteen months to write that first book—there were two two-month spells where I couldn’t do any writing because of health and family problems, but of course I kept stewing it over in my mind even when away from the computer. There was a lot of time spent on learning to plot, then changing from a four-part to a three-act structure, which “felt” better to me. I was also learning to use Scrivener.

I developed the characters along with the plot. It really is character-driven. What happened was that I had many, many strands of interrelated stories that I braided together, changing and tweaking details by working backwards, then forwards again. The last third, Act III, went really quickly, once I got the first two acts properly braided. The same thing happened in the second book, and in this third one, as well. The second book took me a little over eight months to write. This one has taken me ten–I had some health problems again during the summer which really slowed me down.

Why the French Resistance? Special existing knowledge on your part, or just interest?

Continue reading “Interview with Author Meg Wolfe: How Do You Write?”



Death-Defying Heart-Stopping Leap of Faith. With Blood.

After I thought this post all the way through by explaining it to Best Beloved I discovered that the scene I was thinking of doesn’t exist in the movie. But it must have happened, so I’m going to write as if it did. Let’s all suspend disbelief for a few , eh?

Who’s seen Kate and Leopold? Ah, excellent. If you haven’t, and you’re a hopeless romantic, go watch it. (If, on the other hand, you often find yourself using words like “derivative” and “predictable” after suffering through a romantic movie, please, don’t; or if you do, don’t talk to the rest of us about it, eh? Good.)

Short synopsis of some core concepts: Kate’s friend Stuart has discovered holes in time. He accidentally brings Leopold back from the 19th century. Kate and Leopold fall in love (you didn’t see that coming, did you?) and after Stuart sends Leopold back in time, they realize Kate must follow him.

Thing is, to do so, she must leap off the Brooklyn Bridge at precisely the right time and fall through a portal which will appear below her feet. Continue reading “Death-Defying Heart-Stopping Leap of Faith. With Blood.”


“There are only two possible dialog tags,” he said.

quotesPicture the scene:

You and a friend are having lunch by the water. Their phone rings. They chat for a moment, hang up, and turn to you and tell you it was Bob.

If you’re nosy, you ask a question.

“What did he . . . ” What?

Aver? Shout? Insist? Snarl?

Continue reading ““There are only two possible dialog tags,” he said.”


Two Kids Walk Into An Open Mic

Joel plays bassA handful of years ago we were regulars at open mic in a suburb of Sacramento. Some of the performers were excellent musicians and singers; real artists.

Some, not so much.

One night two young boys, the older probably 15 and the younger 10 or 11, came in with their electric guitars. They used a recorded rhythm section backing track and played along and sang.

From a purely musical perspective, they were not very good.

I had seen something, though.

Continue reading “Two Kids Walk Into An Open Mic”