Family, the ocean, seashells, and time

We're in Maine for the weekend, visiting with family ... it's lovely and chilly, sometimes uncomfortably so.

Growth rings on a clamshell make me think ...
the accretion of habit and love and grudge and duty and customs,
we don't, maybe can't, see them after a while;
they're just the shell that protects, or at least encircles, family.

I went for a run this morning, at six ...
my son followed me, literally, nearly two hours later.

We're both running these days, each for his own reasons ...
me not to die before I'm done (with what? with everything), him to 'get in shape' (whatever that means).

Mine is the footprint on the right, I may be digging in more, pushing harder ...
I only hope the paths I leave him in this world are straight and true and lead to worthwhile places.

Water was trapped in the heights when the tide swept out overnight.
In the cold light of morning it can be seen pulsing/bleeding out of the beach I'm running across.

Time is the water,
the grains of sand are you and me and jobs and TV and dinner and new shoes ....

We're moved and shaped and arranged by forces we can't really control or understand ...
the patterns are only visible from a distance, a perspective, we cannot obtain.

Some sand is washed out to sea, some makes the beach, some is dry, some wet ....
I generally/genuinely don't see my place in the patterns.
I resent being a grain of sand in a bigger picture.
I'm arrogant enough to think I may be the irritant making a pearl in an oyster ...
arrogant enough, even, to think that might be a good thing.

I imagine that I can feel understanding lurking out there ... just over the horizon.



I often feel as though I'm running ... running away from things, running just to keep up with everyone else, and sometimes (when I'm at my best) running towards something.

Normally, for me, running is a metaphor. 

I don't generally like running for exercise, and people my size cause upset when seen running ... people generally assume something is chasing me, and they start running too. 

I have been known to cause stampedes.

Starting this weekend though, I began to actually run, to improve my health and wind and strength and speed ... not a difficult task given my starting point.

I'm using an iPhone app that mixes an interactive storyline with my music to hold my interest and keep me going ... this helps because I find running to be both boring and painful otherwise.

It's been fun so far, and I'm hoping that I can push through the initial sofa-slug and ouchy-thighs stage with the help of zombies that want to eat my tasty, tasty brains.

I'm a big fan of zombies in films and stories, and my running program and I are relying on that love and fear and fascination to keep me running ... that and beat-tastic music that keeps me moving during my own personal chase scenes.

It's not entirely unlike this ... (note: you only need to watch the first 15 seconds or so to get the idea)


The reason for my inclusion of this post in my blog is that I'm running ... running towards a slightly different me:

  • a me that can climb stairs without huffing and puffing as though I'm trying to blow someone's house down
  • a me that lives long enough to write down all the stories banging around in my head
  • a me who can be more comfortable sitting down to write for hours at a time without getting a sore back
  • and, of course, a me that can easily outrun a hungry horde of medula-munching zombies in the inevitable zombocalypse

It's been slow going in the first few days, but I want to keep going for the above reasons ... as well as one other, unexpected benefit.

When I get back from a run, collapsing into my comfy reading chair with a cold drink, I find my exercise-oxygenated brain full of new ideas for stories and/or approaches to the stories I'm already working on. 

The combination of exertion and sweating and breathing hard and running to exhaustion seems to create a new/different type of creative sweet spot, at least for me.

I'm going to keep running, for a variety of reasons, and towards a variety of things.




Kickstarter-ing My Next Novel

I'm using Kickstarter to help crowdfund my next novel, and am about halfway to my fundraising goal with two weeks left; I thought this would be a good time/chance to talk a bit about Kickstarter, and my Kickstarter campaign in particular.

Kickstarter is being used by lots of independent authors to help fund their writing in much the same way that advances used from publishing houses used to work; the big difference is that readers and patrons of the arts get to choose which writers and projects to fund, and to fund them directly, instead of through the proxy of a huge multinational.

My Kickstarter Campaign
I'm a teacher during the school year, and write my novels during the summer. I'm asking for people to pledge money to help me secure the same cabin that I used for my summer writing session last year because I was incredibly productive and inspired during the week that I spent there last summer; I would love to repeat that experience again this summer while writing my next novel.

What I get out of this:
If my project on Kickstarter is funded, I'll get enough money to pay for the writing retreat, and have a fantastic week in a peaceful and secluded cabin writing my next novel.

What you get out of this:
If you fund my project on Kickstarter, you get the satisfaction of supporting a writer doing his thing, BUT you also get a variety of more tangible 'Thank You Gifts' from me, commensurate with the level at which you choose to participate. Some of the lower levels simply involve my looping you in on my progress while at the writing retreat, others include signed copies of the new book (or all of my books), and it goes up from there.

The big point is that you're not giving me money and getting nothing but the satisfaction of supporting an author while he 'auths', you're giving me money and getting some great thank you gifts and getting the satisfaction of supporting an author while he 'auths'.

I'm intrigued ... how can I find out more about this fascinating concept?
I'm glad you asked. To find out more about the Kickstarter in general, and/or my project in particular, you should click on one of the numerous links in this blog entry and explore the information provided on the Kickstarter website.

My project page is loaded with useful information about the writing retreat, great pictures of the cabin, descriptions of the various levels of thank you gifts, and even an informative (and thankfully quite short) video explaining everything about everything in just under 3 minutes.




They Love ....

We found them (or they found us)
in times of need;
we needed fur-children and they needed homes.

It doesn't work perfectly, but it works;
all of our lives are better with all of us in them.

We love them and they love us, certainly ... with certainty;
the miraculous thing is the other love, the unexpected love.

Puck and Miles love each other ... incredibly, impressively, inspiringly

They are broken dogs, but perhaps, broken in the same ways;
their phobias and other issues dovetail rather than grate.

The world chewed them up and spit them out,
and ultimately found them wanting, but unwanted.

At the end of the line, maybe beyond the end,
they found us, and more importantly, each other,

Their lot in life is to live with, and love, each other ... and that's a lot.


Change ....

I can hear it jingling deep in a pocket of possibilities ...
opportunities out there, somewhere, just over the horizon,
and the key to them in my hand, or pocket.

The world seems brighter and sharper and more mine with change in my pocket ...
Captain, not passenger, not crew, on my life's journey once again.

I can't quite see around the next twist in the trail, over top of the hill I'm climbing ...
you have to trust your feet will find their way, the way they're supposed to,
and in the jingling promise that change makes.

The only rule is that you get to choose the slot, the leap, the path ...
and have to live with the results.


Thoughts about crowdfunding my writing with Kickstarter

It's that time of year again ... my latest novel, Between the Carries, is doing well both in terms of sales and reviews (this despite my being a bit lax in terms of marketing/promotion this time around), and although I'm keeping myself busy with some other writing projects (most notably my serial fiction project, "Watcher in the Woods"), I can feel the pull of the next novel.

This summer, once school lets out, I'll be writing the fourth novel in the Tyler Cunningham Adirondack Mystery series. I've already got a good feeling about many aspects of the storyline and characters and conflicts/resolutions, and am looking forward to getting back into my annual summertime writing sprint.

For those who don't know much about my process, I've 'gone' to Camp NaNoWriMo for the last three summers, which basically involves committing to a month-long writing sprint which helps me produce a finished rough draft of my novel. It may not work for everyone, but I have been successful for the last three years, writing 80-100 thousand words during one of the summer months.

Last year I treated myself to a writing retreat during one of the weeks of 'Camp', which otherwise doesn't involve going anywhere but home, to write at my kitchen table. I found a small cabin in the woods that I could afford to rent for the final week of my writing, and was able to shed the distractions of writing at home, and had a phenomenal week of writing.

The cabin was plain, simple even, without running water, but it was perfect for me, and I was able to reach a new level of creative output in my writing during my time there.

I wrote for hours at a stretch, didn't worry about the dogs or phonecalls or mail or bills or anything but writing. I had a couple of days of writing 8-10 thousand words, and also wrote some beautiful scenes that carried through essentially untouched to the final draft ... both things I'd never managed before in my writing.

My hope for this summer is to crowdfund a similar writing retreat during my writing sprint, to help me reach that level of creative productivity again when working on my next novel. I'm going to be asking for your help to do this ... through Kickstarter.

The idea is basically this: I'll be asking people to give me some money to help me write the best book I can, and in exchange for that help, I'll be giving them various premiums/gifts (based on the level or magnitude of their help).

People who help me will both:

  1. be helping a writer refine and improve his craft and final product
  2. get their choice of thank you gifts, based on their donations

Premiums will probably range from thank you letters and a mention in the new book and daily/weekly updates to signed books or collections or bookclub sets to previously unreleased stories and poems to author appearances or tours of parts of the Adirondacks described in my books ... all depending on the amount that people pledge.

My thinking on this is that I can use Kickstarter to crowdfund a writing advance, that will support my securing the same (or a substantially similar) writing retreat, which has proven to help me produce better writing.  Where big publishing houses used to fund/support authors writing, the future, or at least my future, may be individuals (be they fans or just patrons of the Arts) voting with their wallets.

I've got a proven track record of success as a writer, and people will both be able to see exactly what I spend their 'advance' on, and get a great thank you at the tail-end of the process in the form of the premium of their choice.

I promise that I will not spend the money raised in my Kickstarter to install a whisky dispenser!




Not Quiteness

My son Ben and I have been away together on vacation, exploring the Four Corners region, for a bit more than a week.

He's changed so much since that first night I held him in the hospital, a time when we were also alone, together. 

He's slowly becoming the man he'll be, rattling the bars of childhood, and gently/respectfully growing away/apart from me and his mother.


You were a handful that first night ... just.
I held you and you held me, with those tiny fingers of yours.

I worried needlessly/foolishly/dramatically  that your mother had died in the other room, that we'd be alone, and I'd screw you up; she was fine, and we've screwed you up, all of us together, like everyone does.

At first you were nothing but poop and noise and warmth and need; I could manage all of those.

As you grew and changed, so did your needs ... those changes challenged and frightened, me. I couldn't satisfy them with a bottle or bandaid or a hug, although I tried.

I wanted and tried and failed to protect you from sadness and injury and disappointment in the first years of your life ... it's a parent's, or at least my, curse. Nothing grows strong in a vacuum, though, and luckily or not, the world got past me and at you, and you're on your way ... wherever.

I had some idea that babies became people, but resisted the notion that it would (could) happen to you. You say things, have thoughts and desires, like and dislike food/sports/animals that never would have occurred to me ... it freaks me right out.

I still see myself and your mother in you, but every day there's more of someone else as well.

You're your own being now and I'm terrified that someday he won't need, maybe won't even like, me.

You're not Jamie, not Gail, not a mashup ... you're something new.

New to me, new to the world you're moving through, and most especially, entirely, new to you.

It's awesome. It's terrifying. It's relentless.

The world's never seen anything like you, and I have no doubt that although it's tough being the only Ben some days, I know you're on the right (and only) trail to whoever you'll end up. 

You're on the edge/cusp/cliff/shore of who/what you'll be ... not quite me, not quite you, becoming something/someone new.

I'm suspended on the knife's edge of not wanting you to change and frantically feeling for the remote, so I can fast-forward to future-you. 

I loved you then, I love you now, I'll love you when you shoot past your current not quiteness into ...


Insolation, Insulation, Isolation, Inspiration

One of Winter's semi-penultimate gasps covered everything with inches of snow:
the mud of Warmth's first stretchings after long sleep,
evergreen needles and bare birch branches,
dog-pee roadsigns and tiny, timid, animal tracks,
rough ruts from all-weather tires, frozen like canyons out west.

The quiet in the early morning woods during is palpable,
I could palp, or palpate, it if I had a free hand; I don't,
because the dogs are taking me for a walk, or it may be the other way around.

I push my hearing up and out and away from me,
listening for anything not covered or softened by the snow.

A crow's flight between the tops of the trees brings a soft whooshing to our ears.

A meringue of snow from some overloaded branch whispers as it comes to land in front of us.

The dogs' soft pads squeak as they dance over the new, dry, snow.

The loudest thing my ears find to grab is the dull hum of a transformer on a pole far away; 

I feel hugged by the soundlessness,
stunned and enervated by the space it offers me,
 to speak, to sing, to think quiet or riotous thoughts.

I could be the last man on Earth,
alone with snow and cold and dogs and the promise of space and peace and quiet.

I don't know where the ideas, the dreams, come from ... 
out of the new-fallen snow, like springtails, just seeming to appear, 
or emboldened by the stillness, made brave, even foolhardy, and finally breaking cover.

The dogs and my brain bound and bounce, 
sniffing and snuffling at the snow and sky and silence,
who knows what they, or I, will find ,
to taste and savor and bring home,
or spit out and bury under white nothing

 ... in any case, it's a nice way to spend a quiet morning.


5 Protagonists Currently Living in My Head

At the moment I'm sharing my brain with 5 protagonists, each of them selfishly most interested in their own story, and each shouting for primacy when I have time to do some writing. 

I spend a lot of time and energy placating them with promises about a weekend away, quality time 'later', and love notes (memos to myself with ideas really, but you get the idea).

I often feel like a neglectful father, not having sufficient time to spend with any of them, but definitely showing favoritism for a couple.

First is Tyler Cunningham, the protagonist of four previous books, Here Be Monsters, Caretakers, Between the Carries, and The Weaving. I feel as though I know him the best, and as my first born he has been with me the longest. We've already started work on the next novel, and he gets jealous and nervous when I spend too much time (any time, really) with the others.

Next up is Ari Sigrunson, the lead character in my serial fiction project, "Watcher in the Woods". Ari seems a bit more laid back and content to tell me his story a nugget at a time, which works out well for a weekly release schedule.

Two protagonists that I know less well, but have moved into small attic apartments in my head have to do with two novellas I'm waiting to write. One is a YA Fantasy story, filled with magic and weird beasties and pitiless evil. The other is a zombie story told from (what I hope is) a fresh angle/perspective. I don't know when I'll get the chance to let these two out to play, but they keep talking with me, and each other, about Tyler and Ari getting all of the fun.

The last and latest protagonist to have set up shop in my skull is Mortimer Beane, the man who wants to replace Tyler Cunningham as the subject of my future novels. Mort lives in Lake Clear, New York, a retired teacher, and just wants to plod through the last decade or two of a boring life in peace, with his dogs. He just came to live with me a week or so ago, but I can feel his story (stories) taking shape already.

I love writing, love all of the characters, love listening to their stores, and hope to have a chance to let them out and share them with the world.




Wednesday Thinking ....

I sometimes feel sorry for myself when some aspect of life feels difficult or challenging, and then I try to remember how lucky I am. 

I'm loved and healthy and do important work with great people (students and teachers and staff). I live in a house that keeps the cold out (mostly), and haven't been significantly hungry or thirsty or sick in my entire life. My friends and family tolerate or understand or support my particular flavor of crazy. 

 I read an article early this morning about Stephen Hawking, and, as always, am stunned by this man's life and achievements. He was diagnosed with ALS at age 21, given two years to live, and just recently celebrated his 73rd birthday surrounded by family and friends and after a life of unparalleled genius and contributions to the world.

This is my favorite picture of Dr. Hawking. In 2007, he went up in a modified 727 that went through a series of parabolic arcs designed to provide brief periods of weightlessness. Professor Hawking has always dreamed of going into space, and this opportunity got him closer than most people ever get (my fingers are crossed for a future space flight for him). 

 Dr. Hawking's level of awesomeness has nothing at all to do with my occasionally needing a "waaa-mbulance", except to serve as a reminder to me to snap out of it and move forward, in search of my own awesomeness.