Sunday, June 29, 2014

Writers Unite!


I'm back from the Ninth Annual (my third) AllWriters' Retreat held near Glenview, Illinois. I've written about it before, but every year brings something new. I always return from this retreat exhausted, but grateful and inspired. This year is no different.

One of the bigger highlights of this particular retreat was the sheer amount of writing I got done. I figure I finished 24 pages, which by most writer's standpoint is probably pretty underwhelming. For me though, it was actually better than I anticipated. Furthermore, I was really satisfied with the quality of what I was writing. I've always said, I know when my writing (in this case, humor) is strong because I actually laugh out loud at times. I had complete pages that were like that, that I felt strongly about - that didn't feel forced. When the writing comes viscerally like that, it is really cool, and I can barely get it down fast enough.

I know it's a weird, geeky, writer thing, but it's fun. It makes some of those long, stare-off-into-space- moments-drawing-a-blank a little more bearable.

As usual another highlight was the people. There were the familiar old faces, friends from Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin and Colorado. These are the "core" group that make it every year, the stalwarts, the foundation. Good folks and amazing writers.

Then there were the new additions, students I may have met in passing or maybe not at all. They came from Minnesota, Ohio, NY and Illinois. Most were apprehensive at the start of the retreat, but by day 4 they were as comfortable as the rest of us. A couple of them read during the "showcase reading" and did really, really well. Good folks and new friends.

An unexpected highlight was the level of contact I made with some new people, along with reconnecting with those I knew well. There was a woman from Mora, Minnesota who was kind enough to say she'd send me contact information of a local bookstore in Cambridge, Minnesota as well as some possible media contacts. Another woman from Wisconsin enthusiastically gave me the names of two bookstores that feature signings and/or book groups in Spring Green and Richland Center, Wisconsin.

These two people have nothing to gain from helping me, yet they do. Call it "Midwestern Nice" or whatever, but mostly it's just the way the writing community rolls. Help others and they will help you. I was able to talk to a fellow author about my "Square" account and how it works. (One of those card swipers that you plug into your phone during book sales.") She was curious and I wanted to help. We just do those things for others.

Another example was when my writing instructor, Kathie, asked if wanted to be part of a "writing across genres" writers panel at the Southeast WI Festival of Books in September. Of course I said I would. Again, writers helping writers.

The whole weekend I saw it over and over again. While I tended to stay tucked away in my room writing - it's how I roll - I saw people pairing up in the community space talking over ideas, sharing advice and supporting one another. It's like the GIS Conference I go to every year, except for writers. Geeks sharing geeky things. Don't judge. It's amazing.

Between bouts of writing and networking, we did hours and hours of critiquing each others work. When you have 23 writers, your variety of subjects covers the whole spectrum:

Shape shifting wolves, immortal agents, multiple personality therapy patients. There were stories about drinkers, lovers, comatose golfers, radio operators with swimming issues, girls that can fly, and more. There were poems about books posing as lovers and missed connections with a twist.

In other words, you see and hear all kinds at this event. And every one of them has a story to tell, including me. My thanks, appreciation and gratitude go out to Kathie and Michael Giorgio for all their work again this year in setting things up. It was fabulous. And best of all...

I'm 24 pages closer to another book.

Blogging off...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Off The Grid In Illinois

Well, I am off to Techny Towers in Northern Illinois for the 9th Annual AllWriters' Retreat. It is a full four day retreat where we write during the day and critique in the evenings. As a result, this won't be a full blog post. The book release has me running at red-line most days, so this will be a good chance to slow down, focus on the next book and polish up some of my poetry for the coming collection.

Lots of news about the book at the moment:


  • I hit as high as #66 on the Amazon bestselling list for Teen/YA>eBook>Biographies. I'm not sure what this means, but it does mean I'm not 101. I also hit as high as #74 in Outdoors and Ecology for eBooks as well. This number changes hourly and likely means nothing, but hey, I can dream can't I?
  • I've sent a book in for review for a qualifying new writers award. It doesn't get judged announced until Fall/Winter, but kind of fun. Fingers are crossed.
  • My author interview with WUWM Radio is next Tuesday, July 1st. I'm super excited about the opportunity and will post a link to it when I have one.
  • I made the Ely, MN chamber of commerce's event listings for my signing in August. Hey, I'll take it!
  • MidWest Outdoors has offered to put a blurb in their magazine about my book in a coming issue.
So that's it. All exciting, all good. 

I'll be off the grid for a few days, so have a good weekend everyone. If you want to get a copy of Dirty Shirt, get it Here

http://www.electiopublishing.com/index.php/bookstore#!/~/product/category=4758361&id=37056858

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Coffee With Friends

I was joking about how yesterday was my Dirty Shirt Travelling Road Show. I had two book events in a single day and likened it to being in a band and touring around the country. A few of the comparisons were:

  • Like Kiss without the face makeup and pyrotechnics. On the road without Kerouac. That's me.
  • Like Springsteen without Clarence, Little Stevie and triple encores.
  • On tour like The Who, without groupies and guitar smashing.
  • Like Woodstock, without the mud, VW buses and Joe Cocker.
  • Like the Grateful dead, without beach balls, Jerry Garcia solos and the stoned naked guy running around.
It was like all of that and way more. It was a GREAT day. Perhaps I should clarify and say it was a GREAT afternoon. Because the morning was so incredibly underwhelming I can hardly describe it.

The morning event at Threshold Inc. was an "Author Showcase". Twenty authors were there signing books to no one but themselves, apparently. I managed to sell four books, three of them to friends who showed up. A couple of authors wanted to trade books, which is fairly assumptive if you ask me. Talk about feeling obligated. 

I did kinda enjoy speaking with the paranormal author with the fedora and neck beard. He's writing a book about  GoatMan, a creature who's half man/half goat. He's not sure if it's real or not, but many people have eye-witness accounts, supposedly. GoatMan, Flesh or Folklore was the title. You meet all kinds in this business.

So GoatMan guy had to be the highlight of the day. On one side of me was a former Doctor selling a book on his cure for tendinitis. The book was $45, and I think he might have sold one. On the other side was a woman who had a series of 6 self-published books, who also sold one and gave away six dollars worth of swag. 

It was one of the bigger non-event events that I've ever taken part in. But the GoatMan guy was cool. Needless to say, I will not be participating next year. 

The Cafe De Arts event on the other hand was SPECTACULAR! By the time I was introduced by Kathie Giorgio, director of AllWriters' Workshop and Workplace, the place was packed. Standing room only.
After I signed a few books, Kathie gave one of the most flattering introductions I've ever had. She described my first experience with coming to AllWriters' and then went on to lay out some of my accomplishments over the years. I am never comfortable in the spotlight, so hearing this made me squirm a bit. At the same time, I was so grateful for the complimentary way she went about it. She is an amazing instructor and helps her students succeed in any way she can.

When she was finished I gave my thanks to all who helped me get the book to where it is today. Then I did readings from three different spots in the book, one on the Malibu car, one on portaging and one on toileting in the BWCA. I always dread standing in front of a crowd, but I always seem to do okay, so I think I need to get over it. 

When I was done reading came the fun part. I got to talk to and sign books for many, many good friends. Old friends and new. People that helped me get here and people who just are happy to see me achieve something I worked so hard for. I've said it before but having a book published is right up there after my marriage to Donna, the birth of my two kids and a job in GIS that I love. I realize it is an overused term these days, but I am brutally aware that I am a blessed man. And I thank each and every one of you for being a part of my story. Hopefully this is the start of many books, and if it is, I look forward to doing it with you all again someday.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

http://nickkonkle.bandcamp.com/album/flowers
SnowCap Weber
On a side note, the day was finished off at the Steaming Cup where my friend Nick Konkle (aka SnowCap Weber) played a gig from 7-9. He was excellent as always; Like Neil Young without Crazy Horse. Check out his CD, Flowers. It's great.

It was a perfect ending to a great afternoon.

Blogging off...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Liftoff!

Well, it's happened. Dirty Shirt released on Tuesday and I am a for-real, legit (some would argue this :-) true-blue Author with a capital 'A'. Everything before the book was just done by an author with a small 'a'. (This is just my opinion, so take it for what it is.)

 The book release at Purple Door Ice Cream went very well, due in large part to all of the preparation that went into it. The owners, Steve and Lauren were gracious enough to offer the use of the space in the hopes that the audience would try some of their ice cream. I think pretty much everyone that came bought at least a dish of ice cream and many partook of the Boundary Waters S'more Sundae. I didn't get to try the sundae until after the signing, but let me tell you, it was worth the wait. Heavenly. Thank you Purple Door!

Attendance was pretty good for the event, especially given that it was on a Tuesday night. Because of the setup and the fact that the store was open to the public, there was no real "traditional" way to run the signing. They typically run with three parts, an introduction, an author reading and a book signing. We had to improvise and sell books as people arrived. Then, those that hung around for a while were able to hear a short reading at about 7:15. The reading went okay, a bit noisy at times, but not a big deal. I was grateful to have such a nice, new, hip venue to speak at, that it didn't even bother me. Besides it kept me cognizant of my reading time, a gift to the people listening. LOL.

My favorite part of the whole evening was just shooting the breeze with my readers. Most were friends or family and most were just interested in things like the cover, the writing and publishing process, and how I was taking it all. All I can say is I wish I had time to sit with each of them and talk for a while. I am just so incredibly grateful that people are willing to travel to an event like this to get my book. I hope you all realize that. Furthermore, I hope I can support you in a similar way someday. What are we called to in this life if not to be there for people?

I get to do it all again twice this Saturday at Cafe De Arts and Threshold Incorporated, and am looking forward to talking to a lot more of you. I hope many of the Waukesha, Milwaukee and West Bend folks can make it out to one of these events.

And so after all of the preparation, the emails, the social networking, the bookmarks, business cards, fliers, phone calls, contracts, UPS shipments, tweets, Office Depot runs, vendor coordination, sweat, prayers, gallons of coffee, needless worry and total and complete obsession, it is finally happening. The fun part is finally here. And I plan to ride the fun train as long as I can. I invite you to come along with me.

So, be sure and pack light, get a good compass and tune up the car. It's gonna be a GREAT RIDE!


Blogging off...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dirty Shirt Character Peek: Issue 12 - Hunter

This is it. The final installment of the Dirty Shirt character peeks. The book releases in just two days and I cannot wait. I had my first signing test-run with family today, signing books for Mom, sister and sister in-law and nieces. It was a good dry run for Tuesday, working out the signing kinks.

The final character I'd like to give a peek into is my nephew, Hunter. He is Tom's eldest and took part on two of the trips mentioned in the book. He has been there probably a dozen times however, so might be considered a Boundary Waters sage, at least for the young age of 16.
Hunter (on left) and Nick, 2012

Like Alison and Sarah before him, Hunter grew up with a fishing rod in his hands. He has a journal that keeps track of the biggest fish he's caught of each species. He's a fishing fanatic. His father raised him and his sister by carting them along on fishing, hunting and camping trips his whole life. Like your typical fisherman, he is quick to tell you the story of his big fish often as soon as you get finished telling him your story. He's been fishing in several states, including Alaska and Florida as well as Canada.

Recently he's taken to deer hunting and has bagged two deer on a couple of occasions. He hunts with bow, shotgun and rifle. He's happiest in a tree stand, a cornfield, swamp or on a lake somewhere. He rarely complains about tough conditions because he knows his dad doesn't have time for whiners. He loves it enough that he doesn't want to mess with the chance at not being invited next time.

On top of his love of the outdoors, he keeps in shape by running. He's a good student in High School and gets along great with all of his cousins. One of the things I liked about having him around camp in the BWCA was his ability and willingness to do what needed to be done around camp. Whether it was gathering firewood, pumping water through the filter for drinking, or cleaning fish, Hunter was there. He knows that camping is a group effort.

It is my hope that one day when each of them is old enough, the cousins will all take a trip of their own up to the BWCA. If they do, I have no doubt that Hunter will be the one they turn to when it comes to setting up camp, charting a course, etc. It's best to pass some of those duties on to the person who's done it the most. And that would be Hunter.

So there you have it. An almost-complete rundown of all the characters in Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir. It has been a lot of fun sketching each one out. We all have our quirks and warts and idiosyncrasies, but we share a common thread, a love for the mystical attraction of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

To find out more about this attraction well, you'll just have to get the book. I'm hoping on or after June 17th, that you'll do just that.

Blogging off...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Closing A Chapter

Today was the last day of school. Even bigger than that, it was Sarah's last day of High School. She graduates on Saturday. Preparations have been in the works for months and now we're down to the final few details. (pant, pant, pant). It's been a whirlwind around here getting ready, but in two days we celebrate Sarah.

At the risk of blathering on like a proud daddy, I can't say enough about the young woman she's become. When she was younger I thought to myself, we are going to have our hands full when she gets to high school. This was mostly because of her independent "I do it" attitude. I thought she'd buck us all the way, pushing windows on curfew, sassing, slamming doors, all the things you hear stories about.

Boy was I wrong.

Her presence in our house provides a sense of love, it puts us all at ease a bit more than when she's gone. (Well, maybe not ease in Ben's case). She has a wonderful sense of humor and "gets" Donna's and my jokes and nuances. She has a deep faith that will carry her far and a servant heart.She is an introvert at heart, but can turn on her charm in a crowd rather well. Like Donna and I, she has a small circle of friends, but they mean the world to her. That's a notorious introvert trait. She also has more boy friends than girl friends. Part of that is that she's a try-hard and has no time for nonsense and cattiness. She doesn't care much what others think and doesn't run with the popular crowd because it's not her style.

These next couple of months will be cherished. Every time I see her now, (which is rarer with each day, in part because of work, boyfriend, and friends) I just take time to enjoy her presence. Talking about the crazy customer at Pick N Save, or the school project she worked on, or what's new with her soon-to-be U of MN roommate.

I cling to these moments because I know they're numbered, seventy four to be exact. In seventy four days she'll be under a different roof, with different rules, eating dinner with different people. Meanwhile our table will have an empty chair, unless Chester takes it as he is known to do, and there will be a little less rattle and hum in the house every day.

Oh sure, there'll be endless texting, skype and bus trips home, but as anyone who's gone away to college knows, everything changes there. You do not come home the same person. She'll come back and declare, with relative certainty, that her parents are crazy. And she'll mostly be right.

But then she'll leave again, and return to making her own life - as she should. I would not trade my college days for anything, even though I lived at home and commuted to work. I was still learning, I had a decent paying job and made some lifelong friends along the way.

That is my prayer for her. A good experience that changes and shapes her for even more good. I think we've done a good job laying the foundation, now it's up to her to pave her way, make decisions, good and bad, and become everything we've hoped.

I have no fear she will do exactly that.

I love you Sarah Jessica, now and forever!

Blogging off...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dirty Shirt Character Peek: Issue 11 - Alison

There are eight days until Dirty Shirt hits the streets, so I'm winding down my character peeks. This week's peek is my beautiful niece Alison. She is my brother Rob's eldest daughter and is very close to all of her cousins, but especially close to Sarah, my daughter who's a year older. The two of them grew up together and are now both in their final years of high school.

Alison (near) and Sarah at the fishing contest.
Like Sarah, Alison was raised by her dad with a fishing rod in her hand. She loves to fish. One of the cutest fishing pictures around was taken when her and Sarah were taking part in a kids fishing contest in Hackensack, Minnesota when they were about 4 and 5 years old. It was a zany event that put too many kids and parents onto a large fishing pier and at the signal given by the organizers the kids were to start fishing. Prizes were given to all contestants, but those with the greatest number of fish got better prizes. To prove that you caught the fish though, the parents had to take the fish over to one of the judges and show it. The fish would be recorded and then thrown back.


There is no honor system in the fishing world.

Alison is a trooper when it comes to all things camping. She rarely complains and sees each trip for what it is, and that's usually quality time with her cousins. Last spring when we went trout fishing in southern Minnesota, she fished her heart out, and didn't manage to catch anything. She didn't let it bother her because, again, she was able to do it with Sarah, Ben, Hunter and Jocelyn - her cousins.

She has been on two Boundary Waters trips with us and again, no complaints. The bugs on the 2012 trip were ferocious, but she just donned a head net and dealt with it. She caught some fish and managed to have a pretty good time laughing with Sarah along the way.


If I had to point out Alison's most endearing trait, I'd have to say it's her ability to laugh at herself. She is a lot like me that way. With both of us, it is not a self-esteem issue but rather our innate ability to make lemons out of lemonade and not take ourselves too seriously. I tend to distance myself from people who are incapable of doing it. I think it's a quality I got from my mother and it's what makes Dirty Shirt so unique, in my opinion. A couple of my favorite authors do it with great skill. It endears the reader, in some respect. Often times they think "Oh, I've done that! I know just how he feels." It's certainly nothing I'm ashamed of.

So that's a peek at her in a nutshell. There's a couple of good Alison stories in Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir, but if you want to hear about them, well, you'll have to get the book.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Gratitude

With the book release just 12 days away, I am starting to feel the need to recognize those who have helped me get to this point in my writing career. (Some of these thanks appear in the Acknowledgements of the book). Part of what spurred this need was getting to see my Dirty Shirt Book Trailer in its final form for the first time. I think it turned out amazing. Better than I even hoped. If you haven't had the chance to see it, I've posted it here and recommend giving it a look...or two...or three.

When it was sent to me I thought about all the work that went into it, and not just me, but three good friends of mine. This project was hatched in the basement of one of them and from the ashes it rose into it's final form. The making of it - everything from the writing of it, to the narration, music, video and closed captioning - was a lot of fun for all of us. Each of the guys has said that they had a good time collaborating with each other on it. And while it's not the biggest part of the whole book launch, it's one of the more visible ones and it came out really well.

And so I'll start by thanking Nick Konkle (music and audio mixing), Bill Lee, (voice-over narration), and Brandon Brown (video). These guys did things I can't do and they make me look better that I am. So thank you guys. The laughter at the end of the video sums up how hard it was to work with you. Let's do it again on the next book!

That said, I have to thank my wife, Donna first. She has had to put up with me over the last four years as I struggled to find my voice and was wacko about sharing my work with her. It's one of my quirks and I'm getting better at it. Thank you for supporting my mid-life right turn.

Kathie Giorgio and Shannon Jackson Arnold are to be thanked for inspiring me to write, rewrite, think about writing, write more, and most of all to believe in my gift. Kathie especially has been the fuel behind Dirty Shirt, and her and her studio saw it to fruition. I've said it before but I'll say it again; no Kathie, no book. So thank you two ladies.

Michael Giorgio (her husband) deserves a great deal of thanks as well. He is a gifted grammarian (great word) and again, his attention to detail makes me look better than I am. So, thanks Michael.

Summer Hanford who is a writing machine, working on her 3rd novel, has been invaluable in helping me with submitting, marketing, and editing my book. She's my first go-to for questions about what is involved in the process. Thank you a thousand times Summer!

The Wednesday and Thursday night AllWriters' gang helped me from week to week with their critiques and encouragement. Bad coffee, cheese balls, chocolate and occasionally, Rumchata, fuels this group. Like Kathie, no AllWriters' gang, no book. They range from a woman in her 80's trying to figure out how to put down on paper something she's compelled to do, to some young twenty somethings. Thank you all present and past students. You are the best.

My mom. She has been my biggest cheerleader, proudly telling everyone, including the checkout clerks at the grocery store, that her son wrote a book. Thanks Mom!

My brothers deserve some accolades for allowing me to write something so personal and expose a little of our lives together. They were helpful with fact checking and any humor in the book directed at them is strictly in fun. I love them and can't wait to camp with them again. Thanks brothers!

The publishers at eLectio Publishing. They believed in my work, helped me see it to completion, and were rockstars to work with. I hope I can work with them again in the future. They are good people. Thank you, Jesse and Christopher.

Deb Tetzlaff deserves thanks for her undying support and mostly for giving me my title. She is so fun to work with and will have her own book soon, of that I'm certain. Thanks Deb!

To my sisters Pat and Jane. For cheering me on, and for being such good sports about their lack of ink in this particular book. More of them in book two. They are the best sisters a person could have and I thank God for them everyday. Thanks sisters!

To you readers. You are the ones who say "I love your blog" or, "I love your writing". You've no idea what that means to a writer. All I can say in return is Thank You. (And tell your friends, of course!)

To anyone I might have forgotten. Thank you. (How's that for covering thine own?)

And finally, I want to thank God for the great gift he has given me. I've known I wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, I just never took it seriously enough. (It took a phone call to Shannon telling me to "take a class and find out what you want from your writing.")  My faith is first and foremost in my life and I owe thanks to God for putting these great people in my life as well as the gift of words. Thank you Lord!

Blogging off...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dirty Shirt Book Giveaway Contest!!!

My wife's Dirty Shirt
Me in my Dirty Shirt, 1990.
In anticipation of the release of Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir, my publisher and I are holding a book giveaway! All that you need to do to enter is tweet a picture of your dirty shirt with the hashtag
#thisismydirtyshirt

When the contest ends we will pick a random winner and they will receive a free signed copy of my book.

The only requirement is a Twitter account to tweet the picture from. When the winner is picked they will be contacted and the book will be shipped to them.

Contest ends on the release date: 6/17/2014. Thanks to eLectio Publishing for providing the prize!

Good luck, and if you haven't checked out the Dirty Shirt book trailer, click the link below. It's epic.



Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dirty Shirt Character Peek: Issue 10 - Tom

The Dirty Shirt book release is a little more than two weeks away, and the character peeks continue. This week we take a look at my oldest brother Tom. I don't want to give away too much about the book, but I can say that Tom once made a statement to me that became the inspiration for the title, Dirty Shirt. Look for it early on in the book. It's funny because, when I read the statement in writing class, one of my colleagues said "That's it! That's the title of your book, right there!" I eventually pared the whole statement down to just the two words, but Tom was the source.

Tom is the eldest of us seven kids. For most of our lives, he served as the male role model for all of us. We had a huge house, and the upkeep was fairly constant. As a result, Tom was charged with fixing things around the house when mom needed it. Because he had no one to turn to for guidance on this, he was left to figure it out on his own. He did pretty well with a Skil drill and a table saw. Along the way, he managed to pass some of these skills to us younger boys.

L-R   Rob, Me, Paul and Tom (Lake Mille Lacs)
Perhaps the biggest legacy Tom passed on to us kids was a love of the outdoors. It was instilled in him by our dad in part, and he did his best to make sure we got exposed to it as well. I remember for my first communion (or maybe it was my confirmation, who knows?) he gave me my first tackle box. It was a small green one and he'd stocked it with some basic tackle for me, hooks, sinkers and some bobbers. It was what started the obsession, and I've been fishing ever since.

Another memorable experience was when Tom took all three of us younger boys overnight camping by himself. I'm not sure what inspired him to take us, but we piled into his Ford Galaxie 500 beater and headed up to Interstate State Park. It was a late October trip which I remember because the morning we woke up there was a dusting of snow on the ground. I don't recall much else significant happening on the trip, but I do know it meant a lot to me to be camping with all of my brothers, even if for one night. He was about 19 years old at the time, so it was pretty cool that he would care enough to include us in any trip with him, let alone one with no other adults.

I've said it before on this forum that I credit Tom for giving me my sense of humor. While I was often the butt of his jokes and pranks, he also was quick of wit and had a knack for seeing the humor in some of our camping and fishing adventures.

Tom was always the family scholar. He has a Masters in Wildlife Management as well as a MBA from Carlson School of Management. He has held many positions in outdoor careers and currently is the DNR Commissioner under Governor Dayton in Minnesota. He has a passion for all things nature and enjoys showing other the benefits of an outdoor lifestyle. On both of our trips in 2009 and 2012 to the Boundary Waters, he was the main instigator and coordinator. It was important to him that our kids and their cousins spend time together fishing, hunting, camping and canoeing. What was passed to him he passes on.
BWCA 2009 (Tom on Right)

So that's a bit about Tom. He is a central character especially in the later stages of the book. He just texted me yesterday to say he was going up to the BWCA next weekend and wanted see if there was a chance we'd get up together this year with our kids. I'm a tad busy this summer, but I am making a point to get up there with our teenagers in 2015.

For more about Tom and his wicked sense of humor, you'll just have to read the book.

Blogging off...