Saturday 26 August 2023

Goodbye and hello.

Hello and welcome, reader.

It’s a big news post today, and it’s all good, too. At least, that’s my story. And, as usual, you can count on me to stick to it.

Here we go.

Believe it or not, some have accused me of sharing too little of myself throughout my career in the arts. By now, claims of arms-length and arrogant are old hat. They’re no less ill-informed now than ever, either.

I’m not sure, but this might be the first time I’ve addressed it publicly.

This blog has been fun, for me, that way, too. And with it soon going the way of the Dodo bird, sharing my reply here seemed right.

But don’t panic. Because the launch of a new website will include a place for these verbose rambles among the mostly private corners of my mind. While not widely read, these notes feature an assortment of thoughts and ideas among the nearest and dearest to me.

They’re surely of more help to me than you, too.

So, before going off on the latest, thanks for almost nine years of dropping by to indulge in my brand of literary weirdness. It’s been my pleasure to share it, and I hope you’ve found some laughs here, now, and then, to go with the few notes on craft and my ravings about our world.

Thank you for supporting me and this online aspect of my literary art. Your support means far more to me than I could ever say, and I’m forever grateful for it.

Once again, I digress.

But keep reading, and I’ll soon tell you where to find me and my new online home.

Though, at such times, it’s worth recalling I’m a rank sentimentalist. This despite the amoral Captain Louis Renault being my great hero of the silver screen.

By the way, if any of that’s news, you’ve not paid close enough attention to my words. And I can’t help you with that.

What I can do is say, again, that only in fiction may we reveal the facts of our lives here. Because it’s those responsible for keeping things together who write history. And the truth doesn’t just hurt, it’s often too much of a nightmare for most of us to face.

For proof of that statement, check out the current culture wars raging worldwide.

Because, like life itself, the historic facts of our existence are both vicious and ugly. It’s certainly been that way for me. And you’ll count me among the surprised if it hasn’t been much the same for you. Life’s job, after all, is recycling you and me to make way for a new version.

Neither our comfort with, nor awareness of, the process is for it a concern. C’est la vie, reader.

I recommend making the most of it. For as long as you can. And no matter what you do, or how things work out, make every shot your best. Later, you’ll be glad you did. You now have my written word on that, and I’m pleased to give it, too.

Because life is what you make it. Nothing more, and not one thing less, either. And in case you wonder, that’s the voice of experience.

Anyway, I’ve likely told you how I love my work, and many times, too. The truth is, I doubt there’d be much risk in betting you’re sick of hearing about it by now.

Well, here’s more big news. Most times, it’s me who needs the reminder.

That’s right, usually, it’s me who doesn’t get it. Though I don’t know why. Maybe because working so long to realize one’s dreams makes accepting they’ve come true even more scary than if they hadn’t. I’m still not sure, despite going through it a few times. But something has surely kept me from acknowledging many of them along the way.

And that’s a damned shame.

Thanks to everyone for being here, and there, too, and for helping make so many of mine come true. It’s been all that, and a ham sandwich besides, and I’ve loved every bite. I’ve given you the best of what I’ve had, and still dream most of doing better.

So, I hope you stick around to see what I’ve got planned for next.

Did I mention how, for me, being good isn’t good enough? Well, if not, there you go. It’s another harsh fact with which I’ve grown too familiar.

Because here, like it must be with every writer or artist anywhere else, I imagine, I too, seek only the great. The natural side-effect, of course, is regarding all else as some type of failure.

And nothing could be further from the truth.

See, my folks raised me to abhor bragging and distrust braggarts. Not only that, but I see little point to pontificating, and less in blabbing about myself.

Nowadays, despite many calling it marketing, it seems to me the world is overflowing with people telling you how great they are. I’d just as soon not be one more of them.

But many people sacrificed so I could take my shots at it, and I need most to honor their faith in me and my talents. No matter either my own, or the world’s judgement of my efforts, it’s to those who believed in me I owe what I’ve become. And it’s to them I dedicate all the works I’ve been so lucky to complete, and everything I hope to do before I leave.

Though, as usual, I won’t be naming any names in public. Because they know who they are, and I respect their right to privacy.

To my teachers and mentors, without whom I would be nothing. From the earliest to those who remain with me to this day, guiding and suggesting, reminding and encouraging, it’s for them.

To my early compadres, all the long-lost brothers of a less-renowned road. Whether sweating in the saddle, or bruising it out in a boxing gym, humping road cases, or hanging steel, it’s for them.

To my Harwill bandmates, who shared countless miles of a never-ending highway. Through times fat and lean, from the honky-tonks to the recording studio, it’s for them.

To the shareholders of Solitary Press, whose steadfast support keeps the road from ending, for me. Despite my ongoing reluctance and modest success, it’s for them.

To the readers, and the listeners, too, each and all. Everything I’ve done is for you. Whenever you should find it, I hope most you discover something there to make your days and nights more bearable.

See, without those people, and you, reader, I would never have had the chance to be who I became, or do what I did, and I know it, and I’m grateful to each of them, and to you, too. I’m also now aware that in my reluctant quest for greatness, I’ve most often failed to acknowledge those supporting it. And by doing so, I’ve disrespected not only myself, but the sacrifices which made those good works possible.

That I must not let stand.

It’s important to know, then, that while not always pleased, I’m proud enough of the writing I’ve done, and the music I’ve made, too. Not only that, but I’m wholly committed to it. And I wouldn’t ask for your help, either making it or making it known, if my commitment wasn’t absolute.

Each time, it’s the best I can do.

To those who helped, along the way and in the here-and-now, it’s important to know more than my undying gratitude is yours. I need you to know that I believe in myself, and the work I do, too. And that I won’t quit, no matter how things go.

Win, lose, or draw.

I made a promise when I was a boy, to remember, and to write down what happened, so I could show people who came later how it was when I passed this way. I did so because what I found in books written by people who lived through their own nightmares before me, and shared them, helped me survive my own.

So, that’s what I did.

Now, I may have said here, a time or even two, how I think life is a process of change. I hope at some point in the past, I’ve also told you how I believe the important thing to ask is how, and not why, we’re all here.

Well, if not, there you go.

For me, despite my discomfort with many of the strange facts made plain by quantum mechanics, the classic theory of cause and effect still rules. And, while the universe’s fate looks destined at a macro level, uncertainty, in the form of choice, or what we call free will, appears to govern our micro reality here on earth.

In short, I am responsible for me.

Likewise, you’re in charge, and accountable, for you.

Ain’t life grand? And did I lately mention how one of my favorite things is the way adding a word about science will kill most conversations? Along with all types of debate? It’s priceless.

Go ahead, try it sometime.

Okay, now that I’ve again made things as clear as mud, it’s time (at last!) for sharing the big news.

I’m launching a new author website! That’s right, after publishing seven novels, and before the eighth, an ‘official’ author site is on the way. So, starting in early September, my new online home is at the namesake URL below here.

I hope you’ll visit and spread the word about the new site, too. Because it’s the first of many changes coming to this writer’s life, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you.

For those on the world’s shortest mailing list, I’ll email when the new site is up and running. To those who aren’t, but want to be, you can send a note with the subject line ‘Add Me’ to the address listed with my profile here.

See you there.

Now, for what should be the last time, thank you for being here. And thanks for sharing this final post with anyone you think might like to read it.

-          TFP

             August 26, 2023


Saturday 22 July 2023

Rest easy.

      Hello and welcome, reader.

At peaceful Pajama Flats, it’s so far been a languid summer. Despite the now and again smoke from lingering but distant wildfires. 

My latest period of restoration continues. Buckle up, and let’s see if I’m any less squirrelly than the last time out. Here we go.

I want to blame the seasonal nature of farming, but it's likely sports that started the training camp mentality that still governs my habits. Because, you know, each of them had one, and I played hockey and baseball early, and football through high school. Then, boxing and its regular series of eight-week regimes, starting in the amateurs, further ingrained it.

So, when later forced to adapt to project based work in first the blue, and then white collared worlds, it proved easy enough to manage. Likewise, my long career as a touring music artist further exploited the same early training. As does my life as a novelist, today.

Anyway, that's my story. When or if asked about my taste for nowadays staying close to home, after a lifetime of near unbroken travel, I mean. Much of my life’s work, of course, exploited the capacity for putting on a thousand-yard-stare. While chasing ends claimed to be found only along some never-ending highway.

I know, too, that doing my thing often looks like canine fornication. But really, I’ve spent most of my time either in or out of training for something. As, likewise, nowadays I spend most of it, training to write novels.

If you’ve wondered, the answer is yes. The blog is part of the training. And much like keeping fit, its long-term effects are often overlooked. Because life is a whole experience, where nothing happens to one without impact to all.

And from the style in which every writer lives come the pages on which they must write.

Lucky for me, life as a novelist exploits the love for solitude needed to handle the routine boredom of my early adventures. Because writing novels is a lot like life on the road.

That is, it's months of daily boredom followed by too few hours of extreme excitement. After years of unknown practice.

Something like that, anyway. And in each case, a few months working at it leaves a man needing a long rest.

For all that, writing novels is easily the most satisfying of my pursuits. Though, like anything else, there's a price to pay for success.

With music, it was non-stop touring and recording for years on end. While with novels, it's even more time spent alone. Again, for years. This time, while dissecting one's grasp of reality.

Of course, in print, one is denied not only movement, but the feedback of a live audience so vital to music's visceral appeal.

C'est la vie.

Did I mention how I'm known to be a serious pita when at work? At various times, the derogatory term of 'Princess' has been applied to me and my behavior. Even when going well, it can make me plenty cranky, too. Big fun to be around, I'm told.

For those new to the local shorthand, ‘pita’ is code for pain-in-the-ass, here.

By now, a lifetime of writing has convinced me that being alone is vital to the process. In fact, I think it could be the most important part of being a writer. That's the truth of my recluse’s life. I believe keeping a certain distance between me and the world is best for the writing.

And everything done before was to give me the chance to do this now. It was a simple dream. Each day, I'm extremely grateful to live it.

Of course, I think of it as work, and approach it that way, too. I always have. Though doing my best, every time, on either the page or the stage, to make art.

Also, my health nowadays makes travel mostly a pita, for me, too. By car, I'm limited to an hour or so. With no guarantee of being ready to go on arrival. While my distaste for flying is such that I will no longer do it, unless given sums of money, none will pay to see either me or Harwill. Add my diet and herbal meds to the mix, and one gets how traveling isn’t worth the trouble.

Not only that, but keeping the overhead down eases life on a writer’s wages. Just don’t get the wrong idea, because I’m no hermit, and that’s a fact, too. My private life is not only rich, but as satisfying as a man could imagine.

Why, just a few weeks back, a brother from another mother was out to visit. He’s ten years behind me, but also well traveled. And like always, it was good to hang out and pick a few tunes. We wiled away some hours, playing our favorites old and new, and talked of now and then missing the stage. Because like any pair of shore-bound but once wandering pirates, we both sometimes miss the sea.

And, if pressed, it’s likely we’d both admit to missing the treasure. But it wasn’t long before we shared a smile of mutual knowledge.

This life deal is about phases, and finding different stages, and we both know that.

All the same, not long after he left, I caught myself thinking about how many people I've already seen for the last time. Then, I wondered if such thoughts are common to old folks.

After that, I thought about the untold bacteria spread among the countless neurons most of us think of as the self. And the ongoing research that daily changes what we think of as reality. Which shortly led to ideas made for people with minds beyond my paygrade.

Like relativity, the spacetime continuum, and things made possible only by quantum mechanics.

Such thoughts are too maudlin for me. And not just because I’m an ignoramus, either. Though I won’t deny being far too ignorant to do the math needed to manage those ideas.

I don’t write code, either, though I was long ago trained in the basics of it. As usual, I won’t deny the rather pedestrian limits of my grey matter in keeping me from that.

Anyway, while impressed by such things, learning to do them myself held little appeal. As the world turned, that’s a damned shame, too. Because there’s gold aplenty in them thar’ hills.

Let’s call it a road not taken. And once again, C’est la vie.

From here, it often looks like this writing stuff has mostly ever sought to keep me from a life of wealth and privilege. Of the material type, that is.

But rest your concerns, reader. For there are surely treasures found among these countless words that live in no other place. And to their writer, they’re worth far more than gold. Nor have I written truer words than those, and that’s a fact.

By now, I’ve learned such things are rare. And perhaps even so fine they exceed the power of words to describe them. Though I cannot yet say, for sure.

Meantime, there’s more to do.

For me, that means more time alone. Because in-between is when it happens. The hours at the keyboard, like those once spent in a studio, are transcribing. Those in-between times are when things get made. Here, as near as I can tell, that’s how it works.

Of course, I could be wrong, too. I mean, all I’ve got to show for doing things this way are the results. For better and worse, they speak for themselves. And just between us, beyond a few simple methods, I don’t really know either where it comes from or how it gets done.

I never have.

As near as I can tell, it’s innate. And I’ve always thought of it as a kind of magic. Though, true enough, over the years, I’ve built methods and learned ways to encourage it to show up. I’ve learned to be ready for work when it gets here, too. By now, it looks to many like I’m in control of what some call a talent. Lucky for me, I know better.

It’s a fire. And my job is to keep it burning.

See, I’ve always known I was a writer. I learned to read while quite young, and at once felt the world speak to me through the words printed on a page. Likewise, song lyrics ever tugged at my heart, perhaps even more than on my ears. And so, since boyhood, I’ve heeded the call. To learn and practice. To grow and change. To try, and to try again. Only after many years was the true nature of writing at last revealed.

All good writing is rewriting. From concept, through assembly, to finished product, this simple truth holds. All good writing is rewriting.

Just as, for a writer, there should be few limits on anything else. I include methods on that list of else’s, by the way, and not just experience.

But most important, is the rewriting.

Here, the three draft method takes three passes to make a first draft. And the same amount to write a second. Plus, the same again to ready a third one for editing.

And much like an athlete training for a season, or a songwriter going on tour, a writer needs to be in peak form to do their best work. As only by sticking to a dull routine of daily practice can any of them eventually reveal the true limit of their talents.

Though, as with all things, they must accept and deal with the effects of random chance. Otherwise known as luck.

For there are no sure things.

Daily training readies each of them, as much as possible however, for the known tasks common to their pursuits. From there, it’s a matter of staying the course. For only then can what stands in the way become it.

Even here, training rules apply.

I think it’s a good habit for a writer to write often, too. If not daily, then at least five or six times per week. And it doesn’t have to be much. Because even a few words are enough to keep one’s writing muscles in shape.

Not only that, but it’s as easy to pick up a good habit as a bad one.

Again, for me, since the long-ago days of my youth, despite injury and illness, fitness training is a much-loved routine.

And just in case it’s not clear, what you’re reading here is me not writing. Thus, my editor’s pencil isn’t so sharp. Nor the constraints too strictly applied.

But, and for many years before I was a working writer, I wrote notes to myself. Sometimes, they amounted to the next day’s to-do lists. At others, they included a sentence or a verse. As time went on, a few paragraphs joined my list of private accounts.

Nowadays, because it’s my livelihood, I’ve plenty of reasons to write. So, on most days, you’ll find me at the keyboard. But on many others, I make notes with the smartphone. Not only when I’m working on a manuscript, or a magazine column, or as a writing coach, either. Because as much as I love writing, I need all the practice I can get.

Though most of what I write is seen by none but me.

In those ways, if in few others, I’m like every writer who’s ever lived.

And it turns out old Papa Hemingway was right about one thing, and that’s for sure. Every writer should know it, too. Because if you claim to want to write about life, you’ve got to live it first.

That’s all.

With writing, you can rest easy, because aside from that, everything else is horseshit.

Thanks for being here. And for sharing this with anyone you think might like to read it.

-                   TFP

       July 22, 2023

Monday 3 July 2023

What happens next.

     Hello and welcome, reader.

It’s good to be here. And I hope you enjoy reading today’s musings as much or more than I did writing them for you. Here we go.

Though I’ve had far more than my share of it, I’m always surprised by how quickly time passes when one is having fun. And as I’ve been writing fiction, I didn’t notice how long a while had passed since my last post here, either.

That’s mostly because, when writing a manuscript, I try my best to live the story along with its characters. And that makes me even weirder than otherwise. Which, on its own, is plenty weird enough for many people, and far too much for most others. Or so I’ve been told.

Now, near enough to three months since Things I Can’t Change came out, the rush of early success has moved on to the next batch of new books released on Amazon. And though pleased to have made it to #3 in Canada among new releases, I’m a wee bit disappointed, too.

And maybe at last convinced that traditional publishing is the better way to go.

Ten or so years ago, when planning to leave Harwill and the music business behind, I spent a few years shopping for an agent. I also queried a half dozen small publishers who were then open to direct submits.

Though I can’t remember the exact number, I wrote and sent many dozens of query emails. Most of them went without reply. But I searched both far and wide. I spent about three years doing it. Sadly, for me, the few replies were much the same. Though often commended for the quality of my prose, the common response was that my stuff was unlikely to sell in great enough quantities to make publishing it worthwhile.

But as usual, I persisted, and even got to make a few pitches, as I tried to make things happen the traditional way.

Of course, next to the rejections came a few compliments, along with suggested changes to make my first novel more saleable. Things like, set it on Mars, or add a few zombies, or better yet, make the hero a vampire. All of which, no surprise, I found unpalatable.

An unnamed agent suggested indie publishing.

Despite many cautions from people both inside and outside the industry, I checked it out. Then, with the support of equally stubborn friends, we launched Solitary Press as a print-on-demand imprint. With the help of Amazon’s platform, we now publish my novels that way.

While surely pleased by the results, there’s a long way to go.

Because from here, it looks like I’ve done a whale of a job proving how well the world’s literary agents and publishers know their business. And after publishing seven novels, I fear losing the interest of those few people supporting my work.

For me, the pertinent questions are: What’s the writer to do when his best isn’t good enough? Give up and stop writing? Press on, and stay true to his convictions, no matter the cost? Or change what’s written to something believed accessible to more readers? After all, one definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing while expecting a different result.

What is the writer to do?

Now, most times, when confronted by either difficulty or failure, I tend to persevere. Mainly because I believe the road to success leads through that stuff. Not only that, but if a few setbacks are enough to keep a man from chasing his dreams, then it’s likely they didn’t belong to him.

And my hunch is, the answer to those questions can only be found by writing another novel.

Which doesn’t mean I’m planning to do the same thing but expecting a different result. Though I’m not denying any insanity claims. I’ve always been one of ‘those people’, and have never much cared who knew it.

Truth is, I’ve always believed the madness was necessary to my art.

Once again, I digress.

So, instead of wasting more time asking myself a bunch of questions whose answers I didn’t know, I spent the last few months writing a first draft of my next novel. Mostly because writing keeps me from stressing out about book sales.

Though I surely accept, to paraphrase the old master, that all first drafts are shite. If only because I know they’re necessary.

Anyway, the first draft of my latest new manuscript is done. As usual, I’m pleased to finish it. I hope it’s eventually a better novel than my last one.

But this time, I’m not sure what happens next.

I don’t mean that literally. As usual, I’ll apply the three draft method. First, a break of a few months, followed by writing a second draft. Then, repeat for a third one. After that, it’s rounds of copy and line editing, followed by proofreading, artwork, and setup.

Blah, blah, blah. My writing method is dependable enough.

What most concerns me is everything else.

Because, plainly, what I know about either marketing or selling books is somewhere between little and nothing. And maybe the novels deserve better than the support I’ve given them. Though I can’t be sure about that.

It’s as much a control issue as anything else.

Apparently, I’m not good at taking editorial direction.

Plus, I’ve got a bunch of style issues. Things like my heavy use of sentence fragments, the split infinitive, and refusal to end a sentence with a preposition. Grammar choices like these drive editors crazy.

Not to mention my continued focus on depicting the minutia of life’s happenstance among the downtrodden.

I have not been, nor ever will be, sorry for the fact I’m an uncompromising mofo. Here, as ever, it’s my way, or the highway.

Despite knowing all that, or maybe because of it, I’m not getting back on the find-an-agent merry-go-round again.

The truth is, since we started Solitary Press, I’ve been unwilling to make even small press submissions. The same goes for both agents and major trad publishers. From here, it looks a little like I’ve grown comfortable in the role of unknown and starving artist.

It’s something of a catch twenty-two. Which is an elegant way of saying I’m damned if I do, but screwed if I don’t. Or something close to that.

While funny enough, from a distance, it’s not in the ‘ha-ha’ way, from up close. That’s because if you focus in, you’ll see the joke is on me. And nowadays, I’m not laughing.

See what I mean? Weird at the best of times. Inscrutable for the rest of it. Maybe that’s it, there. It’s just not worth the trouble. Not when so many lower risk bets are available.

All the same, understanding doesn’t make accepting any easier.

So, there you have it. Is the writer suffering from a preponderance of doubt? Or a fondness for the ease granted by anonymity? Is he a no-account hack getting his just desserts? Or just another wasted talent? Is he lazy? Or burned out? As the reader, it’s your call.

For the writer, meanwhile, it’s more of the same.

Thanks for being here. And for sharing this with anyone you think might like to read it.

-              TFP

    July 3, 2023

Saturday 6 May 2023

Minor league hit.

             Hello, and welcome reader.

It’s been a great month, for this writer, since my last note. Thanks to everyone for being there to make it possible. Because somehow, together we’ve made my seventh novel ‘Things I Can’t Change’ into something of a minor league hit, here in Canada.

I’m as grateful for it as a man can be. Thanks to you for helping.

After debuting at #3, the novel has remained among the leaders on Amazon Canada’s Hot New Releases Top 100 bestsellers list. In fact, since its release, the novel has held two spots there, one in paperback and another for eBooks.

If you haven’t got one yet, grab a copy at the URL below here.

Or check out the latest Goodreads reader reviews of the novel at the URL below here.

Thanks too, for sharing the glad tidings, and the web links, with fellow readers.

Today, instead of the usual crazy, I’m sharing more news. Here it is. I’m appearing at the Thorsby Municipal Library, 4820 – 48 Avenue, Thorsby, AB, on Wednesday, May 24, 2023, at 6pm. I’ll make a short presentation called ‘My Life in The Arts’, give a reading from one of my novels, and follow it up with an audience Q&A session, as part of the exciting new ‘Writers & Readers’ series hosted by the TML.

The evening concludes at 730pm, and seating is limited, so you don’t want to be late.

To check out the many services offered by the library at Thorsby, click the URL below here.

In other news, I’ve started work on the first draft of a new manuscript. As usual, it’s an immersive and exhausting experience for me. So, there’s a good chance you won’t get another one of these notes for a while.

Rather than being disappointed, think of it as an opportunity to read, or reread, another one of my novels.

Thanks again for being here, and for sharing this with anyone who might enjoy reading it.

Memento mori.


May 6, 2023