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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Not my first rodeo

In my heart of hearts, there's still a country boy that comes out from time to time. Nothing brings that out quite like visiting the old family ranch in eastern Nevada, or going to an honest-to-goodness rodeo.

One of the many things I love about my little town is the fact that it still has touches of "rural" sprinkled throughout its "suburban" trappings. People still ride horses down our streets. There are homes nearby that have a couple of acres of pasture land as their backyard. And our town still includes a PRCA-sanctioned rodeo as part of its annual town celebration.

 



I can't say I so much as touched a horse, the other Friday, though I would have loved to have climbed into the saddle again and gone for a jaunt around town. Watching them was as close as this faux-cowboy got.
 
I loved it anyway.
  

As things wrapped up, I took some time to lose myself in strawberry heaven. In all seriousness, the strawberries and cream dessert is practically the festival's mascot. And for the reasonable price they sell them at, you don't just stop at one cup, either.
 
 

 

 



Monday, July 15, 2013

Inherit the cats.

     It seem that having seven (almost eight) children in our home was just not quite adventurous for us; now, we have a pair of cats (which are considerably quieter than a pair of...  keets. *Rimshot*)
  
    There's something... warm and fuzzy about cats, though I know they tend to be "love or hate" pets.
 
    And so our family welcomes Beauty (the long-haired, tuxedo kitten) and Shinobi (the family let me pick the name; it was a victory for awesomeness!)
 
     It's the first time since I was eleven that I've ever had pets--and really ducks, baby chickens and goldfish don't count. So I guess this is my first time ever really owning a pet. Wish me luck. :)
 




Sunday, July 14, 2013

Love Spell is out!

In case the title didn't get the message across, here's a little word on my second novel:
 
LOVE SPELL! NOW AVAILABLE!

 You can find it now at

Soon to be available on
  • Apple
  • Baker and Taylor
  • Diesel
  • Kobo
  • Sony



What's it about? This:
 

Clint Christopherson’s love life is a running joke. When a crazed gypsy curses him with the best wish he could ever ask for, the punchline stops being funny. Now, even his barest touch drives girls mad for him. Desperate to reverse the curse, he turns to his last hope: an attractive private investigator who may be able to locate his missing gypsy. If only Clint knew who it was he just hired...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

It gets Real.

Freezing rain. Pelting hail. No coat, and shod in sandals. The sun drops behind the horizon, and lightning begins slicing the sky. Sounds like a fun time, right? Actually, it was.

Just two nights back, I seized the opportunity to take some of my kids to a pro-football  (*ahem* soccer ) game. It's the first I've been to since getting talked into attending a Bolton Wanderers match back in '96. We weren't supposed to have been at that game, so I had a hard time enjoying it for guilt.



This time, though, was a blast.













Picture this: fans perched on plastic seats, or standing all around the field, chanting, singing, cheering, and booing. Vendor hawk their wares in the stands and out in the concourse. The oppressive sky is schizophrenic, sometimes dumping on us, other times allowing a little peek at the sun in the most brilliant of ways.

The game was relatively staid, though the home team (Real Salt Lake) had scored early in the first half. Unfortunately, finding free parking meant that we were still slogging through the evening storm when the goal was made. The whole stadium went nuts, of course, and we could hear it a block away. Still, there's something enjoyable about being at an honest-to-goodness sporting event, especially when most of the crowd is decked out in team paraphernalia


I felt a bit underdressed in my polo shirt and Dockers. Oh, and the aforementioned sandals.


Near the end of our stay, when my frozen daughter insisted on leaving, I looked up toward the canopy, and watched the slowly falling rain drifting toward us. Eventually the winds pushed the rain into our faces, but it was like standing under a massive, slow motion waterfall--the visual was really stunning. I wish my camera could have captured it well. Eh.

My sons  ate it all up, though I did feel a bit bad for my cold, tired little girl, but hey--her mom had warned her to dress warm, instead of bringing a flimsy jacket and open-toed shoes. It was really her own fault. Still, no need to let her sit there and freeze, right? Suffice it to say, the boys weren't thrilled at the change of plans. Eh. They'll live.

For not having to spend a dime (other than gas), it was a remarkable little experience, and I'd dare say especially since we had to battle the elements to get into a position to cheer on our boys.

Go Real!




  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Geeking out!

That's not a term I use often, but when I see a teaser of a teaser like this... yeah. I geek out.

And yes, I'm way behind on blogging. More to follow. :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Draft done!

Just last post, I mentioned that another novel will be hitting the streets in the near future. Can I tell you how wonderful it was to finish that initial draft? I wanted to jump up and high five someone when I typed that last word out and thought, "Finished!"

Who needs drugs to get high?

This novel was a blast to write--just like previous stories have been. Though it took longer than expected to get through the draft, I had a great time watching things unfold. I shared it with my wife as I went along, and her help was invaluable in shaping events and characters. Likewise, her encouragement kept me pressing forward during times I'd rather not have.

The premise of this book is that a guy with no luck in love finds himself the recipient of one wish. He gets it. Then, he spend the entire book trying to get rid of it, so he can actually lead a normal life.

Above all, I absolutely loved the ending. It went more or less as I'd planned, but when I sat down to write it out, those few mornings ago, I just pretty much let go, and when I got done, I just sat there with this big, dumb grin on my face and thought, "Wow. I nailed that."

It felt great.

So now the real work begins. Editing and revisions, more editing and revisions, marketing, interviews, etc. Fun things in their own right, but still work. But hey, if you can love what you do, you're in a good place.

And man, do I love what I do.

Now, on to the next book.

What we are.

So last night, my wife and I find ourselves at one of those shindigs where people invite their friends and neighbors to come to something disguised as something enjoyable, and yet is actually a marketing presentation. We knew what was coming, and went anyway. Fortunately, it turned out to be rather educational, all things considered.

Before the main event got going, however, our good neighbor who invited us spent some time introducing us to some of the people who worked at the place that was giving the presentation. Not surprisingly, I got asked, "What do you do?" Pretty common question for a guy to ask another guy. My response was to talk about my day job.

My wife opened my eyes to what I should have said. "He's an author," she chimed in, "who also used to do some engineering."

It struck me that, here I am, in the early stages of doing the professional author thing, and I still haven't fully ingrained the idea in my head that, yes, I am an author, despite the fact that I'm published and selling, and that more books are on their way out the door (that's right--a new novel should be out in coming months; more on that in later entries).

Rather, I'm so accustomed to defining myself by what pays the bills rather than what else I am that it didn't occur to me to even consider answering the other guy's question the way my wife did.

And yet, she was more right than I was.

I think it's natural to define ourselves by the things that occupy the majority of our time or attention or--especially for modern men-- to define themselves by what they do to earn a living. Certainly, that's the intent behind the question, "What do you do?" Really, however, people are vastly more complex than their day jobs. Considering how often people change jobs--and even careers--in our times, it almost seems foolish to slab such fickle labels on ourselves. Yes, those labels are accurate, and yes, they work perfectly well to satisfy the question. But how much am I limiting myself by allowing myself to get stuck in the rut of believing who I am and "what I do" is a function of "which activity produces the largest paycheck"?

I'm not sure, really. But this is something I'd like to change about myself. Let's work on that.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Momentum


The one constant in life is change. At risk of sounding Darwinian (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), learning to adapt to that change is generally a wise course. Learning how to make something constant despite change has also been very useful, I've found.

For instance, a couple of weekends back, I attended a three-day writing symposium. I came home from days 2 and 3 on a total high from the experience, and was dead set on pressing forward with hardcore writing.

Putting that into practice has been a different story. And yet, it's just like any other habit, I suppose. If you really want it, you'll make time for it.

I really want to write.

So it would seem that momentum, while a great thing to have from an external source, actually relies much more on sheer force of will than circumstance.

Speaking of external momentum, just days ago I hit another high as I wrapped up the first draft of the novel I've been working on for the last couple of months. It felt great despite the fact that the real work has only just begun.

I've chosen to use that "high" as a springboard to launch my next novel--to hit the ground running. And you know what? It feels good to be producing more constantly. There really is a sense of accomplishment that comes from creating, and from pressing forward.

Three cheers for the ability to form (or break) habits.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Journaling, biases, and life in general.

After a much longer hiatus from this blog than I expected (not to mention some technical difficulties in the meantime), I return.

I spent a bit of time reading from the journal of Mircea Eliade, the Romanian scholar/novelist, just this evening. It reminded me of my earlier conviction to actually write more of my own story--the life I live, as mundane as it may seem.

Frankly, much of what Eliade says probably will only ever have much meaning to himself and to those who knew him and his circles personally. I suspect that will be the same with anything I blog about. And yet, what is so valuable about his journal is that it teaches me about him--as a person. The intimate glimpse into his interests, his passions, his life, and who/what he cared about say more than a mere chronicle of his activities ever would.

For this reason, I think I'd more likely prefer an autobiography than a biography of any given person. That said, I suspect that people who write autobiographical are often picking and choosing what they want to present, simply because they know they're painting a picture of themselves to the world. And yet, the opportunity still presents itself to see what picture it is they're attempting to paint. You can probably make some educated guesses about them from the things they choose to exclude as much as those they chose to include.

And so I tip my hand to the fact that I write according to my own biases. I often wish we'd get past the fact that biases are natural to all people, and not inherently bad. The idea that a human being could be "perfectly objective" is, in a measure, absurd. It's a nice ideal,  but it's just not reality. I think a more accurate  goal is to try to act with wisdom and discretion based on the best information we have, and do that despite unnecessary interference from biases.

I know this blog gets read by others (and, in time, I hope it gets read by a lot of others; I just need to start putting up the content, and making it worth reading), and so, dear reader, expect that my biases will come through in one way or another. Whether you agree or disagree, understand that we're all going to see the world just a little differently (perhaps, very differently). I hope I can provide a bit of perspective into the mind of another human being.

That said, life in general is still good. The wife has been riding the ups and downs of pregnancy (2nd trimester--it's the eye of the storm), but the older kids have helped me pick up the slack, doing more chores and what not. Granted, we bribe them with computer time (typically an hour a week), but in the words of women wiser than I (and who both had 8 children--they should know a few things), "Do what works." And right now, bribery works.

What's really interesting of late is  the momentum I've been building as a writer in general, especially in the midst of a pregnancy on top of everyday life. I avoided professional writing for years (despite my great desires) simply because life happens--and life isn't always conducive to being a professional writer, especially when you're newer on the scene, and still need to work a day job to make ends meet. And yet, the transformation (and it has been that) has been rather remarkable in the sense that it has taught me more about how to focus desires, make time for things I need to do, and generally just bring a dream to life that life wouldn't normally allow on to grow on its own.

Seriously, it's so much easier to just punch a time clock and let someone else pay you bi-weekly. For those of you who think that writing is a "get rich quick" thing, think again. Do not go into professional writing unless you're willing to give it your all (and that's not as easy as you think; I love what I do, and I'm still behind the curve in my efforts).

But I digress. The point I'm making is that right now is a time of real change in my life. If I'm to commit anything to memory, this would be one of the best times to write about. Daily living is still mundane as ever, but what's new? It's the time of my life as a whole that I think I really ought to record. My biases and perspectives on life are changing as I grow. The actual growth almost always seems minuscule at the moment, but I expect I'll look back on blog entries like this and think, "Wow! Look how far I've come!"

Or maybe just, "Geez... I was such a dork."

Either way, that's progress.

More later.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Cinderella Project: sample chapter



“Son? I need to tell you something.”
“Yeah, Dad?”
“Integrity is more important than pretty much anything. Even love.”
“Uh… what’s inte...griddy?”
“Integrity, son. It’s the mark of a true man to keep his promises no matter what. Be a man of his word. You learn that and you learn hard work and you’ll do just fine in life. And don’t let girls distract you from that.”
“But girls are gross, Dad.”
“Keep telling yourself that, kiddo. You’ll be alright.”

The first time I met Moiré De Lanthe, I was engaged to be married. Despite the rumors, even men have fairytales. This is my fairytale and it involves (as any good story does) the love of a woman.
It all started quite innocently. I was studying printouts of brainwave readings in the little corner of a sterile-looking room that I was allowed to call “my lab.” I suddenly noticed that I was alone and glanced up at the clock—8:36 p.m. The upshot to working a national holiday was that I had the lab completely to myself. I was surprised that my fiancée, Ella, hadn’t already phoned me twenty times to make sure I’d be home in time to make it to tonight’s fireworks. I was glad for the inattention, however; my eyes burned from staring at a computer screen for six hours and from reading Victorian romance novels for another five. Doctoral work was not supposed to involve this kind of eyestrain, was it?
I pretended to type out some final notes on what I’d found in the day’s research. It was precious little. Studies proceeding on schedule. Resolution still uncertain. Continue study.
Inevitably, however, I received a text from Ella and quickly texted back that I’d be wrapping things up soon. I carried on screening my notes for errors, finding none. Unfortunately, I found no signs of apparent progress either. I was no closer to resolving my issue than I had been when I started the research. Worse, there was a sense of something missing—something not easily nailed down.
And only three months to figure this all out. C’mon, Nick. Think.
The stated goal was to understand why supposedly “perfect love” could go tragically wrong. I wanted to know if there were obvious warning signs on the entrance ramp to the freeway of romance screaming, “Caution: dead end ahead!” The official literature always gave the usual, unsatisfying answers. I just knew there had to be something more, something deeper. My eyes drooped. There was no point in continuing tonight. I stood, stretched and walked over to The Chair for a moment’s rest to freshen me up before tonight’s festivities.
At the outset of my doctoral work, I’d salvaged an old dentist’s chair because of its odd, iconic coolness. It didn’t fit in my apartment, but in a stroke of genius, I realized it would work great in the lab. It became my official test chair. When I found it had… personality… I decided it needed a name. I wasn’t feeling terribly creative that day.
I settled into The Chair and carefully readied myself to lean back. Despite my repairs on The Chair, the old cautions were still there. Slowly, slowly I levered myself backwards until, at last, I was at just the right angle for comfort. Confident that it wasn’t going to eject me (again), I relaxed and peacefully closed my eyes. Five-minute siesta and then I’d head on out to Ella’s place to calm her down and watch the celebrations.
Nobody should ever unexpectedly surprise a grad student grabbing a nap. Before I knew it, I was on the floor in a heap, the knock on the door banging in my head. I was on my feet the next moment, regretting it as my head swam. I peered through my haze to see who else was crazy enough to have not escaped the psychology building before closing time. When my vision cleared, I noticed a slender young woman, a full head shorter than me. She looked like a supermodel ready to step into a board meeting of a Fortune 500 company. I suddenly felt awkwardly bedraggled and more than a little stupid knowing that there was no way she had missed my… accident. So much for some rest.
I turned on my best version of nonchalance as she stepped through the door. I paid no attention to her smooth, auburn hair pinned up just above the nape of her neck. I glanced at her ginger eyes only in furtive motions to eliminate any chance of staring. I utterly ignored the sweeping jawline beneath her perfect cheekbones. I was accustomed to having attractive women around—the campus was chock-full of them. No pretty face had ever distracted me from my love for Ella. I nearly jumped when my heart began to race as she started walking toward me.
Re-test element of surprise on response to stimuli.
“Doctor Cairn?” she asked politely.
“Please, just call me ‘Nick,’” I said calmly. “I’m not done with my dissertation yet.”
She smiled demurely. “Which is what I was hoping to hear. They told me I’d find you here; I’m sorry I had to come so late. And on a holiday no less.”
“It’s no problem. I was just about to wrap up for the night, though. Can I help you with something?”
“I’m your new undergraduate assistant.” She extended her hand.
I blinked and shook her hand. I hadn’t had an undergrad assistant in thirteen months, now. There were reasons for that.
“I… think you’re mistaken”—and I glanced at her ring finger—“Miss….”
“Moiré. De Lanthe, if you need to know for your records, but Moiré’s fine with me.”
“Well, yes, Miss De Lanthe—Moiré, sorry. But if you’re looking for an internship, I think you’ve come to the wrong place.”
“Then you’re not the one writing a dissertation entitled, ‘Human interrelations in romantic settings and neurophysical responses to prescribed stimuli’?” She held her gaze on me, neutral and steady. This woman obviously had at least some idea of what she was getting herself into.
I nodded. “Yes, that would be me. But are you certain I’m the one you want to be talking to?”
She gave me a thin, almost mocking grin and I made a mental note of my reaction. Heart rate increased in response to newcomer’s smile.
“I asked specifically to work with you.”
That got my eyebrows up. “You realize that the pay is just this side of nothing, right?”
She nodded.
“You also realize the hours are often long and that some of what we’re doing needs to be done very clinically in order to avoid charges of sexual assault, yes?”
She nodded again.
“Were you informed that you’re expected to study a large body of literature, listen to hours of romantic music and watch several days’ worth of romantic films as part of core research?”
She indicated she was aware.
“You are also aware that you’ll be on the front lines of some of the most bitter tales of failed relationships you’re ever likely to hear?”
A nod.
And you know that you’re not going to get any of the credit for this beyond, possibly, a small line item on a résumé and whatever experience you can garner, correct?”
She nodded again, more eagerly than I’d expect.
“You… really seem excited about this.”
Her smile widened. “Yes, I am. You’re the only one in your field doing anything like this at this school. In this state, actually. I was hoping to find a project that would stand out from the pack. Yours was by far the most interesting of the list.”
“Flattered, really,” I said dryly. I knew what the other projects on the list were.
She laughed lightly. I ignored my elevated pulse count. I wasn’t about to let myself end up as my own test subject. It was definitely time to get back to Ella. She’d be sure to cool me down.
“But like I said,” I said, managing a welcoming smile, “I’m wrapping up for the night. I’ve got the usual holiday plans. I’m sorry I can’t stay and chat more.”
“When do I start?” She moved closer and every hair on my neck stood up.
“A-are you taking any classes this summer?”
She nodded. “Psych two-forty, P.E. two-ten and P.A.S one-twelve.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“P.A.S.—Plant and Animal Sciences—one-twelve. It’s a floral design class,” she said.
“I see.” She was learning floral design. If I did hire this Moiré woman, I’d have to be sure not to discuss my impending wedding around her. Who knew what mayhem might ensue if she and Ella got together?
“Well, with Psych two-forty, you’ll be busy Monday through Friday for at least a couple hours a day. PE is never taxing. I’m… not sure how much time you’ll spend with your flowers, but if you’re going to work under me, I expect at least a twenty-hour week. I typically do six hours a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with an hour or two on Tuesday or Thursday.”
The clock read 8:40. Ella would be fuming at my tardiness. Just to get rid of the underclasswoman I said, “Show up here Friday if you really want this. Think you can handle that?”
She nodded once and shook my hand again. “It’ll be a privilege to work with you. I’ll see Friday afternoon at three-o-clock, right after one-twelve.”
“Right after one-twelve,” I agreed. With a last, very professional smile she was out the door. Without thinking, I peeked around the doorjamb and watched her until she disappeared around the corner. I could still smell her perfume.
“Brother,” I huffed, collapsing into a chair behind me and rubbing at my face. “What just happened there?”
First, the very fact that I had found her so very attractive had been more than a little disturbing. I’d always maintained a professional, clinical detachment around women in my lab. I extended that detachment to women in general as soon as I’d gotten engaged. Dad would be proud of me; he’d always taught me that commitment (especially to a spouse) was a true mark of character. I would ignore my unexpected physiological response to this random girl; it was just a fluke.
Second, a research assistant didn’t fit into the budget (even if I’d told her not to expect much). The psychology department had been making vague “promises” about shelling out more funds for about eight months now. Their definition of “promise” was obviously not the one in my dictionary.
Money aside, I neither wanted nor needed help. I rather enjoyed conducting my work alone without the bother of coordinating with an assistant. My first assistant was useful, but he quit when he left school to work in his father’s business. The next assistant…. I’ll be nice by saying nothing.
Pulling my mind back to the present, I yawned and blinked my way through the nightly wrap-up process, counting and re-counting my reasons why it would be a bad idea to have a new research assistant. After three failures to convince myself to turn her down I settled on the argument that I just didn’t need her even if she thought she needed me. Other doctoral students would give her a better experience and more than just petty change for her troubles. She could take her silky hair, her gripping eyes, her perfect teeth, her… wait… was I being distracted by a memory of a girl I’d barely met? Okay. That was it, period. Whenever Miss De… Lynn? DeLund? I was more fatigued than I’d realized. De… Lanthe—that was it. When she returned, I’d explain that she had caught me off guard and that I hadn’t been thinking straight. I’d apologize for the confusion, suggest other grad students she could work for and send her off with a professional handshake. Moiré De Lanthe wouldn’t even be a memory by the same time next week.
For some reason, I didn’t want to believe that.