Hibernation: Release Day

Today is the official release day because the four kids I wrote Hibernation for should be getting their copies, today. I wrote it as their Christmas present for 2013. It was meant to be a thriller for my three nieces and nephew who were approaching the age when Hunger Games was soon to appear on recommended reading lists, at least for the older two. Nothing against that book, at all. As the uncle of kids I’d held when they were babies, I just wanted to ease them into the age of thrillers with something less, well, violent. I consider Hibernation a bridge between Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great and Hunger Games.

I was happy enough with it that I reworked it and prepared it for publication.

I always read the children’s books I’ve been giving my nieces and nephew for birthdays and Christmas. (I have a reputation for always giving books as presents.) And I’ve enjoyed them too much to present Hibernation as a book intended only for young readers. So for adults with kids or for adults who want to spend an afternoon reading like a kid, here’s how to get your copy of Hibernation.

The Ebook is 2.99 at Amazon and Smashwords. If you don’t have an Ereader, there is a free kindle app.

The paperback is seven dollars at Amazon.

I’m selling copies for five dollars, signed with my thanks for your interest. I can also mail a signed copy for eight dollars to cover postage. Send me a message if you’d like one. I have twelve copies left but I would be glad to order more.

I’ll post snippets in future blogs and on facebook. So feel free to keep Hibernation in mind as a future read. Contact me anytime for a signed copy. Meet Lisa here: https://myfreesentences.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/meet-lisa-the-12yo-heroine-from-hibernation/

Back Cover description of Hibernation is here:

With families bedded down for the season behind the bolted doors of their season rooms, their valuables are vulnerable to the looters, getting worse every year. Mr. Walters, with his stay-awake juice, patrols to keep the neighborhood safe. This year he gets some help when twelve-year-old Lisa wakes up early and wakes up her dad, Tom.

Tom joins Mr. Walters and finds an up-early dog to keep Lisa company and keep her safe. Only Lisa and her dog, Shaggy, do some patrolling of their own and are soon on the trail of the dangerous looter Mr. Walters has been after for years. Lisa is told to stay away from him, but Shaggy has a different idea. Lisa can’t leave Shaggy to be a crime dog all on his own, can she?

Start with the free Amazon sample, here:

http://www.amazon.com/Hibernation-Lisa-wakes-early-isnt/dp/1511587784/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429134783&sr=8-1&keywords=Hibernation+by+Greg+Metcalf

Links below from wordpress. Thank you for reading.

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Back Cover Possibilities for Grandpa’s Book

For those who may not know, I’ve been working on abridging the 269 letters my grandfather wrote my grandmother while a bomber pilot for the U.S. Navy, stationed in the Pacific during WWII. I’m calling the book, all in letters from him to her, Letters Home: A WWII Pilot’s Letters to His Wife and Baby from the Pacific. These are three possible back cover descriptions. If you have the time to read each and vote on a first, second, and third choice, that alone would be a giant help. If you’re comfortable leaving specific impressions and/or constructive criticism that would also be helpful. You can post these in a comment or in a private message. You can reach me at my facebook author page, here: https://www.facebook.com/GregMetcalfAuthorPage?ref=hl

But I understand thinking of just what to say can be difficult, so feel free to just vote that really will be a big help.

Three Choices:

A.

Rex and Kate, newly in love, just married, part when Rex ships out as a member of the inaugural crew of the USS Shangrila, bomber pilot for the U.S. Navy, fighting in the Pacific theater against the Japanese during WWII. They make a lovers’ pact to write each other every day. This romantic gesture, these letters home, become more and more vital as the distance between them widens, as the months slowly pass, as the strain of war deepens. Rex tells his war story through what he discloses to his wife and, in a state of immense stress, through what he fails not to disclose to her.

Your letters have been shorter lately and so have mine. For myself I am discouraged and almost disgusted trying to say the things that I so much want to say to you personally. Writing seems so futile when my heart is so full of things that I am unable to put in words. I want only the chance to show you. Perhaps you have troubles for somewhat the same reason. Don’t worry if your letters are short for I understand. Just write all you can for they will become more important all the time. I will try to do likewise. When you have trouble just write what you are thinking. Any thought that comes to your head. Just write darling and I will know that at the time you are thinking of me. – letter home, April 4, 1945

B.

The letters Rex Jones writes Kate begin filled with assurances of his safe return, but the bitterness experienced by a man stuck in a war erode away his optimism. He maintains his commitment to write daily, to write honestly of his thoughts and feelings. The pressure mounts as the war stretches on, as news of his wife’s safe delivery of their first child doesn’t come, and on July 23, 1945, the SBC2 dive bomber Rex pilots is hit by anti-aircraft fire during an attack at Kure. The explosion blows the lenses out of his goggles and breaks the hydraulic line, spraying fluid into the cockpit, blinding him. He is guided by a fellow bomber pilot over the Shikoku mountains and crash lands in the Pacific near a destroyer. He misses writing one day and then returns to telling his story in letters home.

I’m very sorry for the letters I have been writing lately darling because I know they are going to cause you to worry but I can’t help myself. I can’t hide my feelings when I write and if I didn’t write you would worry more. I am nervous. Not only because of what happened to me but other things and the whole damned mess in general. It all seems so futile and unnecessary and contrary to everything that is right. You may wonder then why I insisted on being scheduled tomorrow. Well, I’m not any more nervous and disgusted than the rest, so if I stay on the deck it means someone going up in my place. All I can say to keep you from worrying is that I will be the same as ever once I am with you again and can hold you in my arms. I’ll be able to forget all this for a while and live like humans should live. – letter home, July 29, 1945

C.

As Rex Jones waits out the big three: the war’s end, word of his wife’s delivery of their first child, and his coming home, his letters reveal a man struggling to boost his wife’s morale by assuring her of his safe return while shielding her from the bitter effects of his experience of war. Days after his daughter’s birth, long before he will hear that news, anti-aircraft fire enters the cockpit of his SBC2 dive bomber and explodes. The lenses of his goggles are blown out and hydraulic fluid blinds him. Another bomber pilot guides him over the Shikoku mountains, and he crash lands near a battleship. Missing only one day, having written a letter aboard the battleship that he couldn’t read the next day, he returns to writing daily, assuring her, still, of his return but committing, as well, to honesty, to write what he thinks and feels. The result shows a man courageously questioning and internalizing the torments of war, experiencing the elation of its end, and allowing the bitter effects to remain, vowing to apply these harsh lessons to their shared future, to living “in direct contrast to the way these past months have been,” he writes in a letter home dated August 27, 1945. “I don’t want any thoughts, moods or acts in my personality that are even remotely related to the attitudes of war. Instead of hate, killing, destruction and fighting I want love, peace, quiet and the chance for us to construct our lives around these things.”

Thank you so much for reading and voting! I’ll keep updating here and at facebook as the book gets closer to being ready. My hope is to be able to gift copies to all interested in reading. Anything under this is from wordpress.

Four Years, Today. Thank you for reading.

My father died four years ago today. Traditionally I’ve posted a link to what I read at his funeral. I’d like to move on to new things, but I’ll link that for anyone who’s missed it and is interested:

https://myfreesentences.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/caring-for-toads/

After I got the word I finished washing the dishes. (I learned later my dad found out his mom died while washing the dishes and finished.) I got a pizza and took it to my dad’s, the home of his widow. I was utterly numb all this time, which I think is a common initial reaction. I made it to the house and sat at the kitchen table across from his wife and I think the first wave of grief reached me, it seems, simultaneously with me opening my mouth and saying “I don’t think I’ll write anymore.” That was my experience of discovering the giant void that suddenly arrived in my life with that loss. Not “How will I write?” but “I don’t think I’ll write anymore.”

This weekend I’ll be working on the second draft of the novel I wrote over the next four years, a novel I’d barely started when he died, a novel I wrote for him, more than I’ve ever written anything for any one person. I don’t remember how soon I started writing again. I’m not entirely sure how I managed to write a novel for someone who will with all certainty never read it, but I have a guess. I think he came back to life, for me, through my writing. One day I felt him walking up the steps of the porch where I was writing, of a house he’ll never visit.

What I’ve learned, what grief showed me, is that the great void you feel when you lose a loved one isn’t where you think it is. It feels like it’s in you, but through the long painful journey of grief you learn that void is still filled with memories and the force that relationship was in your life, but the void is still there, it’s just in front of you. It’s in the future. It’s far more manageable there but it still sucks. My dad will never read this book I wrote for him, but I absolutely couldn’t have written it without him. It brings him back for me. It always will, whatever happens to it, and if I can get the writing just where it needs to be, there’s a chance it will bring him back for my mom and sisters and, one day, his grandchildren. This will just be my experience, because I’m a writer, but you don’t have to write for this to happen. You just have to be human and keep living with the gifts that lost person left for you and share them.

Phone call from Angela, excerpt from Flowers on Concrete

I included this as an acknowledgements because the way Trey sticks up for Sean was stolen from a real life conversation I had with someone.

“Is this Trey?”

I could tell immediately who it was. How she had gotten my number I wasn’t sure, probably from Sean, but the invention of the telephone had never seemed so miraculous. That voice, sealed against my ear, and the image of her face it conjured. I closed my eyes and everything else went away. “Angela?”

“Hi.”

“Is everything okay?” I sat up in bed. She probably didn’t have any idea she was calling in the middle of my night. The sleep schedule I’d spent years honing was going out the window, lately.

“Everything is fine. What is up with you?”

“I’m up. Yeah.” I slid to the edge of the bed and hopped off. It didn’t seem right hearing her voice while I was lying in bed without her knowing. It felt like it should have been illegal.

She giggled and I managed to get my other ear plugged with my finger and cup the phone tightly to the side of my face. The rudimentary acoustic design of the phone’s ear piece worked in tandem with the intricate evolutionary design of my ear to put Angela in my brain. I felt giddy from the intimacy and I had to sit down. I gasped, right into the phone. There was a long pause, and I covered the mouth piece and held my breath.

“I didn’t wake you up, did I?”

“No. You didn’t. It is, sort of, my bedtime, but I wasn’t asleep.”

“Oh. I could let you go.”

“No. No, I wasn’t sleeping. I probably won’t be sleeping for a while.”

Another long pause followed. Right when I was kicking myself for not having some conversation topics—in the unlikely event of her calling—jotted on a sheet of paper and near the phone, she gave a long sad sigh. A sound I appreciated even more than her giggle, even while it broke my heart. “I’m worried about Sean.”

“Why? Did everything go okay with his car?”

“Yeah. Well, he had it towed to the dump. We’re sharing mine, for a while. Just, I’m worried about how he’s being. Like that thing today, that just wasn’t normal, was it?”

“I’m probably not the best person to ask. I thought that was just the way he was, but you’ve known him longer than I have. He did have a point, although he probably took it too far, maybe.”

“I guess.” Angela paused a lot while she was talking. During the breaks, I could hear her breaths and my pulse in the phone. “And then when we had the car towed. What the guy at the salvage yard offered for the car and what the guy towing it was charging were about the same, and Sean made a huge stink about it. He called it a conspiracy. It was so embarrassing.”

“Well, he’s not one to be taken advantage of. I kind of admire him for that.”

“But how did that even make sense? It was just coincidence.”

“He might have been upset about his car, understandably.”

Angela giggled into my ear. “Every time I say something bad about Sean, you stick up for him. You’re sweet. You’re a good friend. I just wonder if you’re really seeing him.” She groaned a little. Another sound I enjoyed. “That sounded bad. He is a good person. He’s like a brother to me.”

Like a brother to me, more music to my ear.

“I love him. It’s just he gets worse and worse, faster and faster, these days. I don’t know what to do. He’s so angry all the time.”

“He’s passionate.”

She giggled. “You did it again.”

Flowers on Concrete: Reviewed

My fiftieth blog will be a wordy link to another blog. Jesse Minkert was one of my critique partners in Seattle. Flowers on Concrete is ridiculously better because of my meetings with Jesse and Andrea every other Monday, and then every Monday, for two or three years. One night I had something to do the next day and I announced that I’d like it if we kept that night’s meeting at around two hours. We ended up meeting for our usual four hours. Driving home, I just laughed, and I forget what I had to do the next day; it was nothing important.

Jesse bought my book and reviewed it at his blog. As when he critiqued it, he sees things I miss. My favorite line from his review is this: “Trey scrutinizes the world for signs of whether or not he is successfully imitating a normal person.” The entire review is here: http://www.jesse-minkert.com/2012/12/book-review-flowers-on-concrete.html

Jesse also posts excerpts from his book which I read and critiqued and enjoyed, now titled The Catusic Effect. He also posts non-fiction essays. His blog is The Rat-Tail Files, on blogspot.

First First Reader

Writers are all different. Some are extremely needy, some move so eagerly and completely into their next project they seem to barely care about their old work being read. Mark me down for a big fat the former. For a while, friends would visit and I would hand them something of mine to read and all but perch on their shoulders waiting to hear what they thought. Back in the day, if you were someone kind enough to ask about my writing, you probably got a story shoved into your hands the next time you saw me. At least ten people at my old restaurant job read a Simpsons episode I wrote (as practice) because I was so relentlessly excited about it they couldn’t escape. I’ve gotten much better. Although, in my opinion, expecting a writer to exist without being read is like expecting an infant to grow up healthy without any love.

Probably every writer and really anyone who pursues creating art has a handful of stories of how they almost quit and why they didn’t. I’m not sure they have merit, most of them. If you didn’t quit because some event or person stopped you from quitting, who is to say another event or person wouldn’t have come along to keep you from quitting, later on? Who is to say you didn’t seek out something that would be the encouragement you needed? At what point, do you give yourself the credit for pushing through disappointment and keeping at it?

I can make that argument for all of my “near quits” except for one. I don’t think I would have survived my first year as a writer without Allisyn as my first first reader, which is why she is the first person I thank in the acknowledgements section of my book. Allisyn read the opening chapters of Flowers on Concrete, page by page–paragraph by paragraph in some cases–as my neediness left me more anxious to be read than to keep writing. She instinctively managed to give the exact feedback my writing needed at that stage, she showed excitement in the story, in where it might be going. When I was desperate for someone to care, she did.

Many people in my life, sometimes from the most unexpected sources, encouraged my writing, and I am planning future acknowledgement posts to those people, but no one did more at a time when it must have been a terrible strain to read through that early writing and find a story of value. These were what Anne LaMott would call “shitty first drafts” and they were “shitty first drafts” from a beginning writer, but Allisyn always found things to like. I never felt like I was being deceived because I don’t think she was deceiving me. I think she looked hard for what was good in those early drafts. She said she wanted to wait and read chapter by chapter, at one point, and I’ll never forget we were down at Pioneer Square in Seattle, drinking and playing pool, and I spilled the surprise I had planned for then chapter five, now chapter four. I hadn’t even started it, yet. I was only outlining in my head and I needed to share my idea. Her excitement and mine reverberated off each other, and in that way, she helped me write it.

The Story of Chapter Two of Flowers on Concrete

Chapter two of Flowers on Concrete earned me a postage stamp. Five months after submitting it to a print literary journal as a story called “Blue and White Gum,” I was mailed a letter that said the story was still under consideration for their upcoming issue (So the stamp was used, but still). About three months after that I got a form rejection slip. Not a lot to go on but that did boost my writing confidence. Prior to that I got a lot of positive feedback when I brought chapters 1 and 2 to the restaurant where I worked in Seattle. People seemed to find it funny! Trey doesn’t ever attempt to be funny in the book, so it’s tough to know that type of humor is working. You really can’t know, for sure, unless someone laughs. As it was getting passed around, someone asked what it was about and someone who’d already read it laughed and said (I wish I could remember word for word) something like, “it’s this guy who really likes a girl but then it turns out he’s one of those creepy guys who doesn’t talk to anybody.” That wouldn’t have been a bad start for a pitch.

I also got a laugh from a guy after reading chapter two at Last Wednesday at Elliot Bay Books in Seattle. (A good amount of twittering but only that one guy truly laughed, as I recall.) But it was feedback from my critique group that resulted in the passage I’d like to share here ending up as part of the novel. In the chapter, Trey is desperate to end up in Angela’s line at the bank. He craves the most base social exchange imaginable, small talk and her slight touch as she hands him his bank slip. He manages neither due to his nervousness, and he watches from the breezeway marveling at the customer who followed him, an elderly lady who “made Angela laugh somehow.”

At that point I had him leave, but when I sent that portion in to my Monday critique group, I recall Jesse saying that the segment needed something else at the end. That was an excellent suggestion because it didn’t suggest much of anything except that Jesse, as a reader, felt the chapter was incomplete. I didn’t necessarily agree, but I let that ending portion of chapter two open back up and later that night I remember writing in bed what remains a favorite passage:

I had to walk around the building. In my hurry to escape, I had gone out the closer doors, opposite where I’d parked. I ran my hand along the rough back wall of the bank. Angela was in there, so far away. It could have been me making her laugh after the suit guy upset her.

I faced the bank and leaned in. My forehead was held away from the wall by painful spikes of plaster. By then, the old lady had probably left. The soft twigs of a wild growth of bush spread my legs apart. Looking through the wall: Angela stood, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet, peering anxiously into an empty lobby. The pads of her fingers streaked the counter in lines of cloud. She was waiting for the next customer to save her from a stretch of boredom. She was waiting for me. I could have gone back in and made sure my last check cleared. I could have remembered I needed quarters for laundry. It would have been perfectly normal to have forgotten a thing like that. Her eyes might have even lit up like she knew me. But it was too late. I failed. I didn’t deserve another chance.