“Break Your Heart” by Barenaked Ladies

GrouchoThis is the sixth in my “With Music” series, where I look back at some point in my life and a song that had an impact on me. The other entries included (with links to the posts) Ben Folds Five, Sheryl Crow, Beth Orton, Dean Martin, and The Verve.

I have always wished that I was smooth. There are many things I am in this world, and smooth is not one of them. Even today, when I try to say something like right out of a romantic movie my wife will roll her eyes. I just can’t pull it off.

The fact is before I was happily married, I was worse. I was a dating disaster with a smile. I was just a fast-talking, highly-judgmental and awkward disaster. I could be charming from time to time, sure (we all have our moments), but I could also be very frustrating. And, typically, if I could tell where the “story” was going in the relationship, I was already looking for the next thing.

In a way, I blame books.

They make love seem so complete, don’t they? A person falls in love, gets in a strong relationship and the story might as well end there, right? Life is complete! Now where is the epilogue?

So the problem with me in the single days is I would get bored, especially if a relationship got predictable. I liked to be surprised, feel like I was part of something outside the ordinary. I was the weird conundrum of wanting something stable but something crazy as well.

You know what the biggest turnoff for me was back in those old single days? Actually, liking me. I was the dating equivalent of that quote from Groucho Marx. You know the one: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” Well, that was me in dating. And when you are continuously seeking out people not interested in you, there is no possibility of happiness for anyone.

This is not a story about an embarrassing moment. This is a story about when I realized I wanted the embarrassing moments to end and the song that got me there. Continue reading

“Don’t Change Your Plans” by Ben Folds Five

Elf EarsMusic has always been very important to me. Many times when I look back at a time or a memory, a song will sneak in before an image. I thought it would be interesting to look back at people and moments by tapping into this quirk. This is the first in what I am thinking of calling my “With Music” series.

She had elf ears.

People confuse elf ears with vulcan ears, but that is just not fair. Vulcan ears (Spock) look out  of place for a reason; they are alien, different. The old Star Trek was filled with this. Want something to look alien? Accent something that we are not used to. But elf ears are different. They are an extension of nature, they embrace the face, accenting, like a playful cursive twist at the end of a letter. They can remind more of a vine slowing stretching just that little bit farther up.

I first saw her at a writing table. It was being held at a local museum and everyone else there isn’t worth mentioning or remembering. Cruel to say, I know, but by then I had attended enough writing tables (thanks to colleges and bookstores and libraries) so that people fell more into categories than something flesh and blood. There was the guy who wants to be Stephen King (a little creepy and always stares a little too much), the older woman wanting to write a nice romance (I always feel there is hidden heartbreak there), the angry youth (who may or may not share poetry, but would always share their annoyance through expressions), the man with the mustache who is writing a thriller (there is always a man with a mustache who is writing an action thriller) and etc., etc., etc.

Writing tables like that, including the one with the young woman with the elf ears, was one of the reasons I was moving to Los Angeles. I had attended a lot of them while living in Grand Rapids, hoping one would give me some kind of sign of what to do next in my life and writing career. Frankly, by then I had been waiting enough. That is what my life felt like up until that moment, one long wait.

I had waited through college, waited through part of grad school, and now waited while counting down to when I was to leave in December for the University of Southern California. Sunny Los Angeles… where I was certain all my writing dreams would come true and everyone would recognize me for the genius I was sure I was. Continue reading

Austen in Stealth: Introducing My New Novel A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM

A Jane Austen Daydream A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM is published by Madison Street Publishing and can be purchased in print and as an eBook for only $3.99 via amazon.com here.  

My wife doesn’t like to buy me presents.

This is not an anti-love or an anti-affection thing. No, not at all. This is because I am the King of Presents. Seriously, I could teach classes on the subject. I remember conversations, take notes, and buy things early when inspiration hits. And birthdays and Christmases, because of my mad skills, are filled with tears and exclamations of “How did you know?” or “How did you remember that?”

How did I remember that? I’m the King of Presents, that is how I remembered!

The fact is when it comes to receiving gifts, I try to make it easy for people. This goes back to a mistake by “Santa” when I was in fourth grade. I wanted a CD player, and by mistake the old man in red got me a tape deck. Since then, I keep a gift list up to date with ideas (which I forward to family members, including my wife, before every holiday) and I even highlight the stuff that means more to me that year (last year it was the new Indiana Jones blu-ray set). Yes, I go away happy with every holiday, but there are no tears, no surprises, and the exclamation is usually a nice “Thank you.”

It is one of the sacrifices of being the king.

Continue reading

My Online Literary Experiment: Time to Catch Up!

Feeling the ShowerPermanent Spring Showers is a new novel, but it is also an experiment… an experiment around creation, instinct, and a heck of a lot of literary luck.

To begin with, I grew up a fan of Charles Dickens, and one of the things he is well known for is how he wrote many of his novels, sharing them via his papers one chapter at a time; many times while still creating them. So to start, I wondered if I could do the same thing. That was the basis right there for my challenge.

Using an old screenplay I wrote years and years ago as the starting point, I first created 25 chapter titles. Those chapter titles now are the only direction I really have in the writing. See, the book is nothing like the screenplay, only a few scant remnants remain. (I can’t even remember the last time I have even opened up the screenplay file!) If having to guess, I would say only two plotlines remain, and only that many of the original characters are still like their former selves. Everything else is so sparkly new, and many times when I start a chapter, I have no idea where the characters are going to take me next. Thrilling and terrifying.

When I started it felt so wonderfully easy, with the first chapter oddly being the shortest one in the book. It was a lie! When the third chapter reached over 25 pages I realized I might be in a little bit of trouble. I wasn’t drowning, but I was enjoying the deep end of the pool a little too much, let me say that.

To help you, the readers, feel part of the process, I’ve also been creating occasional editorial updates on the experience. I like to think of them as fun little glimpses into the mind of a writer at work. They are full of contradictions, conflicting goals, and seem to carry through them the one underlining thought, “I don’t know what I am doing or where I am going, but this is strangely fun.”

And it has been a fun experience for me.

In 2013 I will be creating the last three chapters (plus one very short epilogue) for the novel. With the end so close I thought this might be a good time for readers to consider catching up or maybe starting for the first time. You can find all of the chapters here. I hope you will consider checking it out. Below, is a brief introduction to the book and the characters in it: Continue reading

Upon The Ground: Full Of Her

The next short story from my collection Upon The Ground is up at greenspotblue.com  This short story is called “Full of Her” and can be found here.

Here is a snippet from the beginning:

“Full of Her”

She was going to do it again.

He could read it in her eyes. He could read it in her hands as they moved awkwardly with the knife and fork at the table. God, he could read it in the air, her presence before she even walked up to the table. Before she sat down across from him and looked up at him with her eyes, he knew. Everything else was just waiting for the inevitable

She was going to do it again and the only question running through his mind was what approach would it be this time.

She put her fork back down on the table and looked up at him. “Joey,” she sighed. “You’re my best friend…”

It was approach number 12 again.

You can read the rest of the story here. I’ve also put up links to all of the other stories via the Upon The Ground page on this site.  Thanks for reading!