Merry Christmas

poorly wrapped Christmas gift

Merry Christmas friends. I hope you had many gifts wrapped with love, if not skill. The picture above is the only gift I attempted to wrap myself this year. It’s a little something for my wife, and it’s a great conversation piece! When Libby saw it she laughed, kissed me, and said, “I love you.”

Have yourself some seasonal cheer, and if you missed it, check out this Christmas story I wrote for a little holiday entertainment. See you all next year!

 

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Personal Update

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When I accepted the opportunity to have Descriptions of Heaven published by Harvard Square Editions (rejecting two other small press publishers who wanted the rights to print the manuscript) I set aside a new novel I was working on at the time. I set it aside so I could devote my full attention to, at first, editing my debut and, later, marketing my book.

After Descriptions of Heaven came out, I wrote the first drafts to half a dozen short stories or so. As I like to say, all these story ideas were backed up, blocking the creative pipeline. That pipeline is a little clearer now, and I’ve begun work on my novel-in-progress again.

I’ve been working on the novel in the new library. The old library was one of the small bedrooms and did have the advantage of a small balcony where one could enjoy a book and a view. However, long-term plans finally reached fruition when my best friend, Mike Convery, moved in. I believe he owns more books than I do. So, Libby and I moved out of our large bedroom and into a smaller room, which had until then functioned as an office. I rather like our new space. It’s cozy and, for some reason, I sleep much better there (my love of tight spaces perhaps?). There’s an entrance to an attic bedroom too from the new library. Since Libs and I gave the room over to a communal space, it opened that bedroom up for her sister to move into last month, just in time for Abby to begin her first year of college classes here in Sioux City.

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My writing desk is now located in the library since there’s now no dedicated office space. I must say I don’t mind writing while surrounded by all our books (sans those piled in our respective bedrooms, plus a sole bookcase—built by my great grandfather—that sits in the living room, filled with matching hardcover classics).

As some of you know, I spent most of my summer writing at the Blue Cafe. I will admit, between sorting and shelving books, vacationing with an artist friend in Virginia, and a belated honeymoon with my wife, I did not make it much to the cafe during the months of July and August.
Sept7writingdeskAnd, as you can see, my desk is lined with post-it notes. They’re organized and essential to have for reference while writing my novel. I simply cannot take all the notes with me to the cafe. If I wrote my first draft on a computer rather than by hand (the pile of paper on the left is the hand-written manuscript) I could use the sticky notes function. However, there’s another reason that I must write here at the desk: the cafe is open only three hours during the day. Yes, I spent most of my summer writing short stories during a measly three hours. With so little time actually writing, I found myself editing at home, reading on the porch, and going on frequent walks and picnics with my new wife—all time spent well in my opinion.

But now it’s crunch time. I’m back to writing from morning until early afternoon, usually six hours (including a short lunch). The first thing I am doing is reading through what I’ve written. I have about seven chapters typed up. I’m now reading through those chapters, doing light editing as I go. At the time of composing this blog, I’m in the middle of chapter 4.

Ah, but what about those short stories? Will they be seeing themselves in print soon?
To answer that question, I’ll say that I still plan to go to the Blue Cafe once a week. You’ll find me there on Thursdays (the only weekday Mike works, which leaves me a little too lonely—I work best in a “studio setting” with the presence of others nearby). At the cafe I intend to work on my short fiction and other non-novel writing, submitting it and editing it, maybe even writing new stories should the impulse to compose be strong enough.

Some days I will also spend time on other writing-related work. But not every day. As much as I like the fantasy of a hermetic life of writing, my reality is that I have a lot more in my life to fill up my time. I write, yes, but I also do most of the household cooking, take on the major cleaning projects, keep the houseplants alive, and am essential to shopping excursions. I am a bit of a den mother—even the new members of the household have that figured out already.

I’d rather my plate be emptied of some of these duties (essentially the cleaning, as I do love cooking), that way I’d have more time for reading and studying. But, really, I don’t have any concrete complaints. My new roommates have picked up some of the chores. My cooking is now appreciated by more than just Libby and myself. I’ve found I have plenty of time for great conversations with Mike that only supplement my enjoyment of art and books. Somewhere along the line about an hour a day has opened up for me to begin studying Latin again—which is a joy for me because I’m not a natural when it comes to languages, and I love the mental challenge.

So things are going well. They’re going great. I have more time than ever to work, learn, and play. My house is full of people I love. My blind dog has more sets of hands to pet her than ever before. And my next novel is well under way.
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Blue Cafe – Photos

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On May 18th I did a reading and book signing at Sioux City’s Blue Cafe. The owner, Gia Emory, told me that we packed the house.

0518TenieshaTeniesha Kessler was our featured poet, giving us a variety of poemswild, weird, and wonderful.

One of my best friends in the world, Chris Larson, provided us with some classy piano jazz both before and after the reading portion of the evening.

0518RandalthruFlowersWhile Chris played his tunes for us, I got to sit on stage and sign books.

I read stories, poems, and even a bit of creative non-fiction about my blind little pooch, Missy.

0518bookreading
Of course I read from Descriptions of Heaven too.

Sara, one of my oldest friends going way back to our elementary school days, was awesome enough to drive several hours just to see me read. #FanGirl  😀 0518EmoryStudio
Blue Cafe also houses the music studio of Ron Emory from T.S.O.L. He couldn’t make it to the show, grieving the death of his good friend, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave. I did see Ron earlier in the day and was able to wish him an early “happy birthday.” (Cool fact: we share a May 20th birthday).

0518LibsAndI
My wife Libby and I having our photo taken after the show.

We were also celebrating my birthday that night. Gia surprised the patrons with free cake I had her make for the occasion. Afterward, some of us went out for drinks at the nearby Diving Elk. My gorgeous wife got herself an old fashion, and I had a couple of tasty dark beers in celebration.