Sunday, March 30, 2014

Character Peek: Episode I - Pat

With the release of Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir a mere 79 days away, I thought I'd give some sneak peeks at some of the characters in the book. I won't go into much situational detail as far as what is in the book, I'll leave that for you to read when it comes out, but rather I'll try to outline the role they played in my life and how it relates to them helping shape the book.

Because the story starts out with a section on friends, I'll talk a little bit about a friend of mine named Pat.

Growing up, Pat was probably my best friend. Oh I had other very close friends, but Pat and I were just a bit tighter. He has a wicked sense of humor and I always gravitated to him for that reason. We were also both over 6'4", skinny and never good enough at sports to be a starter or on the varsity. We had similar musical tastes - at the time it was Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, The Cars, and of course our mutual favorite George Thorogood.

We had some crazy good laughs, Pat and I. One of his trademarks that later became "our" trademark were wrap-around sunglasses. Pat and I always had a pair on hand for that moment of super-cool, should it arise. We frequently wore them at night in certain situations, thinking it created a mystique about us. I'm sure it did, but not the kind of mystique we were looking for.

But that was also the beauty of Pat and I. In some senses we were a parody of cool. While we aspired to be it, we also saw the superficiality of it and so kind of mocked it or at least what it stood for. Pat always said if you were "acting cool," you probably weren't cool at all.

All I know is that it's hard not to be cool in those glasses>>>^^^

Pat and I both loved the open road. Our thing in college was to take spontaneous trips to St. Cloud, an hour away from the cities, on a moments notice. We went in search of a thrill or a good time, and almost always got one or the other. Pat had a thing for VW beetles and we'd pretzel ourselves into them, turn on his sorely underpowered mono AM radio and head northwest.

His VW's were usually so badly rusted on the floorboard that you had to step on the frame and/or the transmission hump when you got in, at the risk of stepping through the floor. As you might imagine, they could be a bit drafty in winter as well. We both saw any car as a means to get to the next good time. That's all vehicles have ever been to me. Again, the parody of people obsessed with their cars is turned on it's head by Pat, a guy who could care less the image a vehicle projects. I seriously could write a book about our travels in Pat's vehicles. Ask me about his Datsun sometime. Serious movie rights potential.

Pat came from a big Catholic family, like me. We went to the same grade school, high school, and part of college together. (In an aside, I keep thinking of crazy stories about him as I write this, stories that make me laugh, stories that I will remember in my rocking chair, we were crazy fun and it was his fault. LOL) Pat never quite felt as drawn to traditional college education as me, so while I finished up at the U of MN, he moved to Tulsa, OK and went to Bible College. He is an ordained minister and a chaplain for the St. Paul Police force.

I still credit Pat for bringing me to faith. We attended a Christian rally in 1982 that changed my life. He was like a brother to me through the process, calling me out, challenging me and making me a better person. It is a gift that I can never really thank him enough for. My faith is the most important thing in my life, so, thanks Pat.

So, in a nutshell, Pat is the complete good guy. A man of integrity with a wicked sense of humor. A family man, with a heart for people as a chaplain on the police force. It was in the basement of his house that we first planned the disastrous BWCA trip our senior year in high school. I took more than one camping trip with Pat back in the day and frankly, I'd take another one tomorrow if we could.

Here he is when we were 19 or so and, yes, he has his shirt on backwards. Fashion parody.

Next Sunday I'll introduce another character from Dirty Shirt.

Blogging off...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Social Mania

We were joking in writing class last night about how Facebook posts seemed to have dropped off lately. I even went as far as to jokingly say "Facebook is no fun anymore." Most people laughed because they all know it's not true. Facebook, while not for everyone, is alive and well. I think that there are slow, low post periods and heavy posting spells as well. Furthermore, I don't think Facebook is doing itself any favors by changing their interface every 6 months, to say nothing of the constant fiddling with security settings. I suspect it will only be a matter of time before we're typing into a small little box and 3/4 of the screen is ads.

In my dealings with Facebook, Twitter and my blog over the past few days, I came to realize the breadth of different people I've met because of social media in one form or another.

Blog

Perhaps the most recent contact was with a friend from across the street when I was in high school. This guy had seen my brother on TV - he's the DNR Commissioner for Minnesota - and it got him to wondering what ever happened to me. Like most people would do, he Googled my name and came upon my blog. He felt compelled to write and we've reconnected. It turns out his daughter was in my niece's wedding and I never knew it. This is a friend I've been out of touch with for 28 years and we picked up right where we left off, for the most part.


Facebook 

This has been the biggest source of reconnection for me. I've re-met friends from grade school, high school, college and beyond. While most are just friends "in passing" I'm okay with that. Like any circle of friends, there will be "close" friends and not-so close friends or acquaintances.

Some of the cooler people that I've enjoyed following are a few friends from grade school. Again, I was out of touch with these people for 28+ years and suddenly, there they were. Some were bald like me, others fatter versions of they're young selves, but all were essentially the same as I remember them. They had grown into their potential, raised a family, or sometimes not, but they're still good people. We cheer for each other, pray for our families, pets, injuries and jobs.

Twitter

Twitter is only a recent endeavor of mine and I'm still trying to figure out what's good and bad about it. I'll confess, I've gotten used to the longer post format of Facebook. Sometimes I'll look at a tweet that's more special characters and tiny urls than I can comprehend. I have little patience for it, but I have come to find some value.

One of the clearest examples was a fellow author on eLectio Publishing. I met this woman through Twitter when she followed me. I then followed her back and asked her a question about our publisher. We have since connected through Facebook, Twitter and email and have become first-time author confidants.

I have followed suit with a couple of other fellow authors on Twitter the same way. In that respect it's been invaluable. If you take away the three hundred posts a day I scroll through that are slush, there is some value there.

LinkedIn 

While I really haven't figured out a good use of LinkedIn either, I have had a few interactions with people from the GIS industry, and there are some decent conversations in some of the groups.

So despite not being everyone's cup of tea, for the most part the social media thing has been good to me. I'm thankful for my friends, followers and contacts, yourselves included. It is good to have a strong network of friends, and this seems to help. So thank you for that.

Blogging off...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A View From The Passenger Seat

My fifteen year-old son starts his Drivers Training this week. He has to take three weeks of classes at two hours a class. Then he needs 20 hours of behind the wheel (10 BTW and 10 observing). This is both an exciting and frightening time for me. While I am excited that he will soon be able to drive himself to see his friends and to various social events, I have to confess I'm a bit terrified at having to train him. I guess I did it with Sarah, so I can do it for him, but that doesn't make me want to.

I'll never forget the first time I took Sarah out driving in the abandoned WalMart parking lot. We pretty much went in circles for a half an hour and things were fairly calm. There was that one moment however when I told her to turn left and she took that to mean "turn kinda lazily to the left...whenever you want, no big hurry..."

To further endanger the two of us, she hadn't really dropped her speed during the non-turn, the lackadaisical turn, the roundabout turn, so we were headed directly toward a curb that led to a cyclone fence that surrounded a stormwater detention pond. I felt compelled, (yes, I'll use that term) to grab the steering wheel and yank it to the left, thereby saving us from at a minimum jumping a curb and perhaps even as much as conducting an underwater vehicular rescue in five feet of stormwater.

Luckily she hit the brakes shortly after I wrested the steering wheel from her control and we came to a safe stop. "What are you doing, dad?" she asked.

"I said turn left. Most of the time left means REALLY left." I replied. I didn't want to belabor the point by mentioning that rarely does it mean the kind of left she was executing. I also then pointed out the curb, fence and pond that we were heading towards. She took note and didn't make the mistake again.

These are teachable moments. Anxiously teachable moments. One every parent has experience, including my mom. I know I gave her a good scare during a high speed pass at the cabin when I was 16.

And she wasn't the only one. When I was in high school our instructor's name was Ed Altier. We called him Driver Ed, because that's what high school kids do. Kind of funny actually. Another name we gave him though was "sweaty Eddie," because he used to sweat profusely, often pitting out his short sleeve dress shirts, and partly because he was a nervous wreck.

Can't blame him for that, considering the battlefield that is a Driver Ed instructor's life. I'd be a bundle of nerves too. I had a friend who parallel parked the instructors brand new Plymouth K Car a little too close to the curb. The instructor admonished him by saying "You just ruined a $50 hub cab!"  The cost of doing business, I guess.

Anyway, during my six behind the wheel sessions Mr. Altier had to hit the "chicken brake" as we call it no less than 3 of those six times. By my calculations, that's a 50% mortality rate, right there. He might have saved three virtual lives. The whole experience was not terribly confidence building for me. When the lessons were over he said, rightfully so, "Well, you need A LOT more practice."

It turns out he was right. I've been practicing ever since, and my family still says I'm not ready for my license yet. I always said I didn't know I was a bad driver until I got married. Well, now that I have two teens and a wife telling me all of my driving faults, it's kind of fun to set them off intentionally, which I confess I do on occasion. It puts the fun into driving.

And so in short order I'll be back in the passenger seat again, gripping it with clenched fingers, stepping on my imaginary chicken brake and putting my spiritual life in order. I'll be there calmly issuing commands;

"Signal left here, check your mirrors, turn left. No, not right, left. Your other left, man, turn, turn, GIMME THAT WHEEL! Left I said!"

I'm certain I'll live through it, but prayers are always appreciated.

Blogging off...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Smell Of Fear

My first accepted fiction piece is finally online. Phantom Camp is a story about a Zombie Sasquatch which just about says it all right there. The whole tale of the tale is weird, how it came about, why I chose to write about it, what inspired it, etc.

I've talked about it before, but what inspired it was my son reading the Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead while we were camping in the BWCA in 2012. I asked my nephew what he thought about a Zombie Sasquatch story. He thought it was a great idea, and I figured with zombies being all the rage, that it was a safe bet. So, when I got home I wrote it.

This was a stretch for me for a couple of reasons. First of all, fiction isn't my first love. I write nonfiction. Secondly, I don't write horror. About all I had going for me was a love for camping and the BWCA.

But I wrote it, nonetheless. It was fun, but I have to confess, I actually creeped myself out a few times while writing it. I don't know if that's because it was good writing or because I'm just a big chicken. I don't particularly like horror movies or being scared. Some people get a charge out of it, but I'm not one of them. Ask my kids. One of their favorite things to do is stand right outside the bathroom door so that when I open it they can freak me out. And they do. And I yell at them to stop doing it. And they do it again a week later.

My wife joins in on the fun on occasion, usually when I least expect it. She does it because she likes to see a very tall man cower in fear over nothing. I usually laugh when it's all over, but at the time, I ain't laughing.

I scared easily as a kid too. I remember being forbidden to watch Hitchcock's The Birds  because it was deemed too scary for kids (and I think it was rated R anyways). Well, later as an adult I watched it and understood why. It was creepy scary.

Then there was the time I thought I'd watch The Exorcist by myself in my bedroom when I was 19 or so. Lets just say I don't think I got past the third commercial break before I said "Well, that's enough of that!"  I think I have an overactive imagination or something.

I've never liked haunted houses at Halloween. (or Halloween itself, for that matter.) The one time I went to one, I ended up using my little brother (from the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program) as a human shield when things jumped out at me. Now, I'm pretty sure when I signed on the dotted line for the BB program, using the child to shield myself from zombies was not part of the deal. But I can't help myself.

I think the more trusting and innocent and naive you are, the easier you scare. I think I'm all three of these to a certain extent, so, as a result, I'm a big scaredy cat. I know it, and I'm okay with it.

All of this leads me to think that I won't be writing a lot more horror in the near future. Of course, there might be room for a Zombie Loch Ness Monster, or maybe Zombie Paul Bunyan. Hmmm...

Blogging off...

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Whack At The Blog Hop

Author Jim Landwehr

This is the continuation of my blog hop set up by Author Mindy Mymudes and her friend Author Lynda Cox . In the hop, each Author is to answer four questions and pass the blog on to three or four author friends. These friends then answer the same four questions a week later, thereby sending the blog on an infinite loop, or so it goes.

Below are my answers the interview questions.




What am I working on?  Actually, a number of things. From a marketing standpoint, I am working on getting the word out about my forthcoming book, Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir, due to be released by eLectio Publishing on June 17th, 2014. Marketing and publicity is a lot of work, but I consider myself lucky to be finally doing the legwork of book promotion. It is a good problem to have! My major writing focus at the moment is getting much of my poetry critiqued, cleaned up and edited. I intend to launch a collection of poetry on the heels of Dirty Shirt and want to have it ready to go when the time comes. And finally, from a submission standpoint, I continue to submit 2-3 works per week to various magazines. In the next few weeks I have publications coming out on the Tattooed Poets Project and the Free ZombieFiction Blog. Exciting times are these!

How does my work differ from others of its genre? I think the elements that stand out in my writing the most is a combination I call “humor with heart.” I try and use situational humor, sarcasm and dialogue to hook the reader in, and then hit them in the heartstrings with an emotional twist at the end. It’s a tough thing to write well, but can be an effective technique. The cool thing about it is its appeal to both those seeking humor and those looking for human interest.

Why do I write what I do? I have always loved writing about real things, real people, and real situations. Some people would say that memoirists and nonfiction writers don’t have the imaginations or creativity of fiction writers, to which I wholeheartedly disagree. I would argue that we have a different way of processing what we’ve seen and experienced than non-writers who may have experienced the same thing. It’s hard to explain, but I feel there’s a reason that certain situations and events are seared into our minds with great clarity sometimes. It’s getting them out and on to the page in an understandable and entertaining format that makes me love what I do. It’s also worth noting that it’s not that I can’t write fiction - I have and will do more fiction writing – it’s just not my first choice. I think we need to be true to ourselves and what we’re good at.


How does my writing process work?  I recently blogged about this. Some writers have a real routine or are ultra-disciplined about when and  where they write. I find that life keeps getting in the way of that, so I write when I can find time. Most often it’s in my favorite chair in the living room, oftentimes listening to quiet music while I write. I’ve also developed a habit of going to write in local coffee shops and the library. Both of those external venues seem to stir up creative thoughts that I can’t get in my living room. I can’t really explain why, but sometimes I need a bit of ambient noise. Most of all though, I write when I can, where I can.

Because this is a blog-hop, let me introduce a few more author/bloggers who have become friends since my book was accepted. Their blogs and books are worth checking out:

Bart J. Gilbertson is the author of the Pookotz Sisters Mystery Series.  Although he was born in Wisconsin, he spent most of his youth and later years in the rocky mountain state of Idaho.  He has been all over the northwest and it is his love for the lush green state of Oregon that inspired the setting for Pleasant Lake and its inhabitants. His blog is at: http://bjgilbertson2.wix.com/bartjgilbertson#!blog/c29d

Allison Brooks Schley is a Wisconsin Sound Beginnings Birth-to Three Consultant and a teacher of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children. Allison has written two children's books Forever Friends and Dexter Saves the Day. She was invited to speak about hearing loss on The Morning Blend television talk show in August, 2012. 

Katharine Newell Brown is a mother of two (with a third one on the way) and writes flash fiction and short stories. Her work has been published in The Peel literary magazine and Lascaux Flash Fiction. She has aspirations for publishing a short story collection in the near future. Her blog is located at: http://katharineannebrown.com/


Christy Decker is a mother of four, (with a fifth one on the way) a Navy veteran, a runner and a writer whose first book Absolved is being published on eLectio Publishing on April 8th. Her blog is found at:
http://myonedayisnow.blogspot.com/

These are all new friends and good people. Support them by reading their books or following their blogs.

Blogging off...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Reality Check

It is becoming stunningly clear to me that we are about to throw our first bird out of the nest in the next six months. I can't like this. I don't have to like this. She's not supposed to be old enough to make her own decisions. I need her to be dependent on us for a few more years, is that so wrong?

I have a couple of younger friends with multiple kids under the age of five in their house. They don't complain too much, because they love their kids. At the same time, I know exactly what they're going through. Part of me misses it. The little bodies, the goofy personalities, the bedtime stories - OMG I miss the bedtime stories - the trips to the park, dinnertime messy faces, swimming with them, and having them pass out on my shoulder. I miss that part.


We are in for an adjustment and, as I see it, it will take six months to prepare for that. Even though she is working or at school or hanging with her friends much more than she is around the house, I will miss having her around. She is part of the dynamic of the family.

When I was doing the Mr. Mom thing on Friday nights while Donna was waitressing or during the week when she was hawking Pampered Chef cookware, there were some great moments with both of the kids. One that will always stand out was when I put in the Trisha Yearwood song "Under the Rainbow" and the two of them would start to dance. I have it on video somewhere and let me tell you it is preciously hilarious.
At the songs peak, Trisha says "Under the Rainbow" and Sarah would form a rainbow with her hands and feet (picture the downward facing dog yoga pose) and Ben would crawl under the rainbow. Once in a while Ben got so caught up in his own shimmying and shaking that he'd miss the cue and Sarah would admonish him and say "Ben...you need to go under da rainbow."

How do you get from that to seeing her for no more than 45 minutes today between work and homework and bedtime?

How does 18 months turn into 18 years?

Oh, and I need to ask her forgiveness every day for the Chicken Nuggets. I am so, so sorry about the Chicken Nuggets. Your mother and I were in survival mode. We weren't thinking straight. Since we came out of our fog, I think we've hammered home the point and neither of our kids will ever eat another one.

But before long, she'll be gone. Oh, she'll come home in summer, but it won't be the same. She'll surrender her big room to Ben's smaller room. She'll be transient and even more grown up, and independent to the point of distraction. She'll have less time and patience for us, and want to spend more time with her friends that she's left behind. It'll be different for sure. And I can't like that.

We'll have to try and do our best to shoot our kids into the world like arrows, as mentioned by Khalil Gibran, but it'll be hard. Furthermore, we'll have to re-learn how to live with each other - and Ben.

If it wasn't for all of these changes, I'd be fine with change.

So instead, for the moment, I'll have to rely on look-backs like the video below. This was made when I was trying to get them to say hello to their grandma and papa. It about sums up the energy and goofiness of the time, and it is a time I will always cherish.



Blogging off...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Coming To Terms

I am not a poet. 

I've beat this saying to death. I've joked about it and denied three times my loyalties to Ginsberg, Keats, and Brautigan. People occasionally refer to me as a poet and it always catches me off guard, like they're saying I have a goiter or saying I don't look like I'm 52 (I do). It took me long enough to convince myself I was a writer, and even longer to call myself one.

I think I have label issues.

It has something to do with my perception of masculinity, which I realize is totally stupid. Totally. But that's what some of the hangup is.

I had a great discussion with a friend and his wife over dinner a couple of weeks ago. He mentioned that some primitive cultures believe there are actually 5 genders: Masculine, Masculine-Feminine, Neutral, Feminine, and Feminine Masculine. Masculine Feminine included men who had feminine qualities about them like compassion, social needs/skills that are more like women than men, artistic types and the like. Feminine-Masculine would be women who also have male tendencies, including competitiveness, sports, and other things.

This was kind of mind bending to me. When I boldly proclaimed that I would fit into the Masculine category, my friend just kind of laughed. "No, you're definitely Masculine-Feminine." He went on to say that most men would probably fit into this category if you really thought about it. I told him I fish, camp, love the outdoors, love sports, etc. But, when I thought about it a little more objectively, I jokingly said that any man that writes poetry is probably immediately classifiable as Masculine-Feminine. You can't do one without being the other. My friend laughed and agreed.

I need to get over these issues.

It brought to light how people perceive me. The label I give myself sometimes is different than what people think. I've become more comfortable with not caring what people think. (Part of this comes with being over 50, and is not always a good quality, mind you.) I have always enjoyed reading poetry, in part because it is writing in it's purest form. Simple, concise, and beautiful.

When I first started hearing it spoken and seeing it written in my writing workshop, I was intrigued. What would it take to write like that? Could I ever write like Mario, and Krisina, and Alita, and Karo, and Kris, and Johanna, and, Kathy and more recently, Katharine and Ellen? Their styles were as different as the dozens of writing genres out there today. Some were concrete and real, others were flowery and surreal, some funny and some numbingly sad.

I've come a long way, with the help of friends.

But mostly, it was Mario's influence who got me to "go there" and try my hand at it. The first few were not very good, but with some work, one of them came out good enough to be accepted by Verse Wisconsin. I can say without a doubt that this short poem being accepted served to spur both my interest in writing more and better poetry and, more importantly perhaps, the interest in SUBMITTING my work. While writing is great, and it can be therapeutic, it's another thing altogether to get it out to the world. Since that first poem, publication has taken on a new focus for me. I still write for love of it, and I want to continue to improve, but I also have a new goal in mind. To get it seen. I seem to be having decent success with it, which might be telling me something.

I've actually set a goal for my next published book to be a poetry collection. Over the past 4 years or so, I've built quite a collection, and would really like to get all of them compiled into a book. I intend to talk to my publisher about these intentions once my Dirty Shirt book is done. It will be a nice transition into book 3. It'll stretch me and I feel like it's where I want to go next. It's a little like Clapton the rock star wanting to do a strictly blues album.

At one point, I was actually going to have every chapter of Dirty Shirt start with a poem. I kaboshed that idea about 8 poems into it, because I was having a hard time with flow. (And they weren't terribly good.) The good side of that is I now have some abandoned BWCA poems that I don't know what to do with. So I'll leave you with a poem.

Because I am a poet.


The Brothers Four                                        by Jim Landwehr
Four of us bound by family and blood
Raised by a mother with love and prayers
As different as we are and aren’t
We share a passion for woods and water
Like those of the generation before and after
We set out together to canoe and fish
Because one day we will be one less
                                                            And one less
                                                            And one less

                                                                        And one less



Blogging off...


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Authors, Friends and Their Books: A Blog Hop



This is an interview blog-hop with an author/friend of mine. Her book George Knows is written from the perspective of a Basset Hound. She's also an expert dog trainer. I love her writing style and how she gets into the head of a dog. Check it out and find out what she's working on! Then, on March 17th, check back and see my answers to these same questions.


Thanks,

- Jim


This is a ‘My Writing Process Blog Thingy’


I am doing this under duress. Lynda Cox’s Dog suggested I do this; lyndajcox.blogspot.com
You’d think it’s easy to write. You need a pen, a pencil, and paper. Or maybe one of those computer thingies. Except, I’m a dog. I don’t have fingers and thumb to hold things or use a keyboard. I also can’t talk. So the first thing I had to do was find a Peep that was receptive to my creativity. The Lady With The Fingers wasn’t my first choice. In fact, I think she was about 732 or so down the list.
See, she raises English Springers, a breed that are dumb as rocks. I mean, they’ll do anything for food. Seriously, right? What sort of creature will do something foolish like carry a dumbbell for no reason. But, there you go, I made due.
I was asked a few foolish questions for this blog, but if it helps Peeps to find my book, I’ll do it.
1. What am I working on? Currently, Tillie’s Tale. The silly pup didn’t follow her instincts and ended up haunted by a poultry ghost. Not good.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? Get real. How many basset hounds, particularly brilliant familiars, do you know that write middle grade urban fantasy. Actually, how many dogs write anything for that matter. I’m unique.
3) Why do I write what I do? It’s said to write what you know. I know about me. My adventures are interesting. How many dogs find human bones that lead to discovering a dragon, save a park, and his BoyPup?
4) How does my writing process work? That’s the hard part. The Lady With The Fingers is pretty good at reading dog language. I think, she picks it up through our link, and watches the story. Sometimes she’s wrong, then I pee on her leg.
Is that enough?
I’m passing this foolishness on to http://www.writerjimlandwehr.com
Jim Landwehr lives and works in Waukesha, WI. He enjoys writing creative non-fiction, poetry and fiction. His book, Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir, will Jimbe released on June 17th, 2014. The book is a humorous account of his travels to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota with friends, brothers and his children over the last 25 years.

Bryan Fields

By day, I’m a mild-mannered IT tech; by night, a writer who spends too much time in online games. I grew up reading classical authors such as Verne, Burroughs, Wells, Haggard, and Lovecraft, often in conjunction with large doses of Monty Python, Wild Wild West, andHee-Haw.  My current influences include 946211_10201362574055472_1796615661_sDr. WhoGirl Genius, andAn Idiot Abroad.
I live in Denver with my wife Noelle and daughter Alissa. The three of us can often be found prowling around Istaria, Wizard City, and the wilds of Azeroth.  I also makes occasional side jaunts to scavenge bits of ancient technology in the radioactive ruins of the Grand Canyon Province.

1133392_orig
Becoming a published author is a lifetime dream come true. As a child, I subjected friends and family to my “KellyMark” greeting cards (“When you care enough to make the very best.”), poetry, homemade magazines, and short stories. In high school, my short story, “If Only to Escape” was published in the local paper, and I won a writing contest for my children’s story, “Televisella.” In college, my creative writing tapered off, but I still managed to write the occasional review for The Marquette UniversityTribune. Once I graduated, I mixed creative writing with business writing, and I’ve held positions in Advertising, Marketing, and Instructional Design/eLearning Development.
Kelly's book Never Forgotten will be released in mid-June! 


Today, I am busy writing the next book in Meara’s story. When I’m not writing, I’m reading, hanging out with my husband and two kids, or playing with our Whoodle puppy.
Drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you!

The Peeps will be doing their thing March 17th

Sunday, March 9, 2014

From Formula To Five Guys


I went to the Wisconsin Sportsshow with Ben this past weekend. It's kind of become a new tradition with us. He liked it so much last year that I made it a point to get tickets in advance of it this year. It's held at State Fair Park and is the heaven of all things outdoors.

Before the sportshow, we went out for burgers at 5 Guys in Brookfield. Ben has been on a quest for finding the ultimate burger and got a gift card from his cousin for Christmas. While we ate we talked about the muzak that was on in the restaurant. It was Nirvana and we joked about how you can never tell what Kurt Cobain is saying and while all the Nirvana songs are good, many of them sound the same, just different grunge lyrics.

While we were eating and talking, it struck me as really nice being able to relate to him as more of an adult than a kid at this point. In past years, going for burgers with him usually meant, a burger for me, those godawful chicken nuggets for him and the overriding subject was which toy would be in his happy meal. Let this serve as a warning shot to those of you with small ones. They grow up awfully fast.

That, and stay away from the chicken nuggets.

I guess that's two warning shots.

The days of diaper studies, mixing formula, (what do you mean we're OUT of formula? It's 8:00 on a Sunday night, and we're out of formula?) searching for lost nuks, ear infections, naps, temper tantrums and runny noses are behind me, for sure. These teens are different creatures, loveable in different ways, and the moments of connection and dialog, outside of the craziness that we call day-to-day life, mean more to me every day.

After we ate, we drove down to the sportshow and went in. Like last year we stopped at the motorcycles and four wheelers and dreamed a little. We both agreed this (photo) is the kind of motorcycle we would like if we could get one. Not too laid back, and not a crotch-rocket.

We joked about how it would be nice to just come to the show with $25,000 and say "I'll take the 4 wheeler and the boat." Then we spun into a crazy sequence about how we would ask if the 4 wheeler had gas in it and a hitch, and if it did, we'd hook the boat up to it and crash it through the doors and drive away.

In other words, we were just a couple of stupid kids talking and joking. (Of course I'm a much older kid.) That was what I liked. We didn't have to buy anything to have fun. Just being there, dreaming and laughing was worth the price of admission.

As we wandered around the show, we gravitated toward entirely different things. I always drifted toward the fishing displays and the resort brochure tables. Ben tended to veer toward the archery, air-soft guns and hunting knives. Both of us enjoyed the boats and took a good look at the armored military Humvee. (We didn't linger there as the recruiters were close by and starting to hover.) Then we ambled over and shot some BB's (Dad won 46-41) and then on to watch the dog retrieving for a bit.

And so while our interests were different, it doesn't dilute the beauty of being together, father and son, talking about "guy stuff". It's something I clearly need to do more of. The thing I discovered about teens in my three years of middle school ministry is that most of all, teens just want to be listened to. They want to be respected, valued and listened to. So that's what I tried to do.

And I had a great time doing it with a young man I'm proud to call my son.

Blogging off...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Calling My Bluff

Throwback Thursdays seem to be all the rage lately, so I thought I'd devote a post to it. Pick a photo that means something, one that is over 20 years old and speak to it. So here goes.

This picture was taken on the bluffs of the Mississippi river in about 1989. My nephew Nick took it while the three of us were perched on a cliff near a man made cave. If you're familiar with the Mississippi River near St. Paul, this was taken in Hidden Falls Park on River Blvd.

It is a beautiful shot for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the weathered sandstone formations in the background. I used to love exploring these sandstone cave formations with my brothers back in the 70's. We packed a lunch, hopped on our bikes and rode the three miles down Summit Avenue to "the river" for some carp fishing, cliff climbing and adventure. Fueled by PB&J and a quart of grape Kool Aid in our red Kool Aid canteen, we made a day of the trip, packing all of our gear in our Kool Aid backpack (do you see a theme here?) and hitting the road. Mom was at work and after clearing our timeline with our sisters, we were free. It's a wonder no one ever drowned, fell to their death off the high bluffs, or got run over on their bikes on the way. Lord had mercy.

The picture was taken on one of Donna's first trips home in the summer. We were hopelessly in love, as the picture dictates pretty well, I think. I never like saying things like "it was the happiest time of my life" because I think that shortchanges the rest of your life, but this was certainly a very happy time. There was something different about her that made the thought of marriage seem completely comfortable. Mom said she could tell Donna was different in the way I talked about her.

My brother Paul put it best at our wedding champagne toast when he said that he knew she was the one when over a mug of coffee in the BWCA in 1988, he asked me, "So what about this Donna girl? What's the deal?" What tipped him off was when I said "I don't wanna talk about it." He said he knew then that I was in deep.

Other things I love about the picture include that I think it's one of the better pictures of me smiling ever. If you know me, I don't emote terribly well - at least on the outside. I can be having an absolute blast and doing nothing more than showing that thin-lipped, Swedish, straight mouthed non-grin, like I do in most every picture ever taken. This one however, you can almost detect the happiness.

I also love the way Donna is draped around me, and her look of happiness shines through clearly. I love that it's summer and warm enough to not have to wear a shirt. (It might never get that warm again, it seems.)

And the hair. I love that I have hair in this picture. It's been a while.

When this was taken, I had an '83 Ford Escort and Donna had an '83 Chevette. We lived in an apartment and everything we had would likely fit in my garage today. It goes to show you that you don't need much to be truly happy. In fact, sometimes less makes you happier. As long as you have each other, you can be happy. With less stuff, you can focus on your partner more. Luckily, I can say that I am as happy today with the woman in that picture as I was 26 years ago.

At the same time, I think I would be as happy with her if we were still living in an apartment and driving a crappy compact. That's the sign of a strong marriage. One where if you stripped away all the trappings and all you have is each other, would you be happy?

I say yes.

Blogging off...

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Right To Write

Occasionally I get questions like, "Where do you write? or "What is your process like?" These are good questions from people curious what sorts of disciplines separate someone who likes to write from someone who doesn't.

There is certainly no universal answer for all writers. Some choose to write every day with religious fervor, whether they feel inspired or not. Other choose to write at certain hours of the day, in certain rooms. Still others need music or coffee shop noise to get their writing done.

In addition to place, there is the writing medium to consider as well. There are some old-school writers who believe that the only way to harness their best work is by using pen and paper and good old cursive handwriting. One writer I know does her first draft work strictly on pen and paper. Her reasoning is that when she goes to transcribe the work using a computer, she actually does her first edit at that time. While it seems like a lot of work to write something and then type it, I see the advantage and sometimes wonder if I shouldn't go back to it. There's something to be said for the stream of consciousness that happens with pen and paper that may not happen under the glow of the computer screen. (I'm not saying it doesn't happen, just that it's different.)

I'm guessing that perhaps the majority in this day and age use a computer or laptop to get their thoughts down. With the advantage of spell check, cut and paste, and the ability to write almost anywhere (indoors) with a laptop, some find it easier to work strictly digital - nothing wrong with that approach either.

So what methods do I use and when do I write?

The answer is, it depends.

In the days before I had a laptop, I used to write my stories out longhand and then transcribe them using the
desktop. What you see here is a an example of what that looks like. Ain't it beautiful? You see every scar, pimple and wart on the original transcript without my ability to hide any of it. This was how much of the Dirty Shirt book was written - at least the early first drafts. If I had hoarder tendencies, I would squirrel away these pages in hopes that someday when I'm finishing up my tenth book, I would come across these pages with fond remembrances of my early techniques and scrawlings. Sort of like coming across the original words to "Help" by the Beatles on the back of a bar napkin or something.

While I used to write the "hard way," now I do almost all of my writing on the laptop. This gives me freedom to do it in the comfort of my living room, often times with one or more other family members in the same room with me. We never have the TV on, so it is kind of a detached attachment for all of us. My wife does a lot of her work from her laptop across the room from me and as pathetic as it may sound, it is how we roll. It is together time, and we frequently interrupt each other to talk or joke about something we've seen or heard. To us it's no stranger than sitting together watching some stupid sitcom, and at least we're getting something done.

So while I write almost every day, my one sacred indulgence is a two hour window on a Saturday. This is when I go to a local coffee shop and get my most productive work done. I've become dependent and protective of those hours, sort of like going to work, without going to work. I need to be there. I want to be there. If I'm denied it, I get resentful. It's part of the reason I work like a dog in the morning hours around the house, so that I can get a couple hours away to pen my thoughts.

One of the few remaining outlets that I use longhand writing for is in my kids' journal. I started journaling
major events and memorable occasions with both of my kids when they were born. It was my plan to give them the journals when they went away to college, but am rethinking that now again, since Sarah is about ready to embark on that. I don't think I'm ready to stop and admit that she's leaving. So until I do, I'll keep plugging away at this book - still what I consider to be my most important works, when all is said and done.

That in a nutshell is when and how I do it. Between all of those methods and routines, as well as this blog, I keep myself sharp. With all of it, some pieces are better than others, but all of it needs to happen.

It is part of who I am.

Blogging off...