“Merry Christmas, Ya Hairy Devils”

Life around the compound has been crazy-busy, which I’m sure everyone out there can relate to, so I’d like to take the time to wish the readers of this blog a safe and lovely holiday and a prosperous New Year. I suspect that everyone out there has had just about enough of 2011 and will spend the time off quietly regrouping and refreshing their souls. At least, I sure hope so. Real life will start cranking back up soon enough. Enjoy some drinks with family and friends, catch up on your Tivo or Netflix queue, take stock of what you value in your life and choose some things to leave behind on the trash heap. You deserve it, and you can’t really move forward without it.

I’d like to thank those of you who’ve helped me out this year, by buying my books, listening to the podcast, and generally keeping my name out in the public mind. I’d like to buy you all a drink and some Beer Nuts, but something else will have to do. So, below is the link for a genyooine unpublished Christmas story, starring Top Town’s favorite bigshoe, Rex Koko. It’s got everything: thievery, tightwaddedness, fraud, deception, and a happy ending. And lots and lots of Yuletide Monkeys. If you listen to the whole thing (less than 20 minutes), you’ll understand the title of this post.

So please enjoy this. Take time to enjoy life this next week, strengthen your heart and friendships, enrich your life in whatever way you can think of. Tis the season, pally.

2012 UPDATE: I’ve taken down the MP3 until next December, when you will all be able to listen to it again and make it part of your holiday traditions. No sense turning it into “It’s a Wonderful Life”, which used to appear on every TV channel at year-end because its copyright had lapsed.

Indie Book Blowout !! Cheap books, Kindle giveaway and more!

While this blog isn’t used often to sell things…oh, wait, yes it IS!…so I’ll tell ya…

Honk Honk, My Darling is currently part of the Indie Book Blowout, a little pre-Christmas promotion for indie book writers. The 12 Days of Christmas Blowout features dozens of writers of thrillers, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, romance and any other genre you might like, all offering their books for a mere 99c!

If you have a Kindle, you know that it’s a baby that needs constant feeding. So here’s your chance to fill it up for a song. The 12 Days of Christmas Blowout wraps up on December 24, Christmas Eve, so go check it out, help out the writers involved, buy a few volumes for the people you’re giving a Kindle to this year, and help yourself to some terrific books — among them, the world’s first noir thriller and Book of the Year from the Chicago Writers Association.

The Indie Book Blowout is also giving away a new Kindle, with no purchase necessary. In addition, every day they are giving away a $25 Amazon gift card so you can buy even more books.

Whether you’ve done all your holiday shopping (in which case, you deserve a treat for yourself) or you haven’t even started (in which case, you might as well let it wait until the after-Christmas sales, so mellow out with a good book), you need to go to the Indie Book Blowout and get yerself blown out with some books. The 12 Days of Christmas Blowout is a lot cheaper, neater and quieter than your standard 12 Days of Christmas, that’s for sure.

Writer’s Corner: Productivity

So, this has been a very productive week. This raises two questions: Why? and How can it happen again?

I can figure out the why to some extent. The week of Thanksgiving (and a lot of the week before that) was a bust, work-wise. Hosting meant a lot of legwork, cleaning, and family obligations. Turkey Day itself was quite enjoyable, though we didn’t get to finish our “Treehouse of Horror” Monopoly game. And it was also sublimely enjoyable to watch Liesel sing in “Boris Godunov” again, on Wednesday night.

The rest of the week, though, was one big obligation. Certain family members were here who usually bring out the worst in me, who without knowing it cause all the bad habits of mind and character I’ve been trying to change for most of my life to crawl to the surface again. A lot of psychic energy is needed to fend off these habits, which can get very frustrating. Everyone knows the feeling of how old family roles begin to take shape again when relatives visit. Sometimes these can be laughed off, and sometimes they can’t.

Of course, this only shows you how fitting my “family role” — touchy, overly sensitive, impatient aesthete with strange tastes and dismissible opinions — must be. If I’m so touchy about being reminded that I’ve always had an unpleasant personality, well then, it must be true, right? This unavoidable, “unassailable” circular logic can make you want to punch a brick wall after a few days, so it was a relief to get it off my back. Maybe this was the kind of “slingshot” effect I needed to dig into work and produce.

I don’t recommend this type of “therapy” be used very often, but harnessing the negative energy when it does might be useful. (And any relatives who might be reading this will know, by that fact, that I’m not talking about them.)

This week, I managed to rewrite about 9000 words, mix a huge podcast and record another. And yesterday I wrote a complete story for my upcoming project, Tea Party Fairy Tales, in one sitting. Oh, and winning the Book of the Year from the Chicago Writers Association also put a little wind in my sails. I think it also helped that materials I’ve been waiting for from other people started to arrive, so I got the feeling of deadlines needing to be met. (This might be the No. 1 hurdle to get over when self-employed. Deadlines can get very flexible, especially if I want to avoid a crowd at the grocery store, so the extra effort that could go into meeting them gets diverted. I’ve tried everything in the book to get deadlines to stick, but it gets harder and harder.)

Now the tougher question: How to keep it going? Hard to say. My work habits don’t change much between fertile and fallow periods. My ass is still in the chair 5 hours a day. Creation, reflection, promotion, household maintenance and screwing off in various degrees fill the day. This week a sense of urgency was calling me, with the literal feeling of grabbing me by the nose and pulling me forward. It’s the closest thing I have to feeling “inspired.” She’s a fickle bitch, that muse of mine. I don’t like to rely on inspiration. I’m more the type of guy who wants to get something good done a little bit every day. Sometimes that little bit never comes, and all the devilish voices of doubt start coming from the corners of the room. Then, sometimes writing comes in a burst, along with promotion ideas, organizational breakthroughs, and other tag-alongs, flotsam and debris. Time stretches out, and everything seems doable.

Is it a question of my basic disposition? A passing mood? Is it the standard for every writer but Stephen King, and doesn’t even bear looking at?

I really don’t know. I think all I can do is treat the work and progress this week like molten glass, something that forces urgency to be made into something bigger, something further, something useful. Maybe the load of unfinished work will quicken my mind next week and not drag me down into despair. (I don’t believe in Hemingway’s bromide of stopping short of completion at the end of the day, to leave “something in the well” for the next session. Never got me anything except a lot of unfinished paragraphs.) And maybe the looming work break at Christmastime (with the promise of more interaction with blood relatives) will light a fire under me too.

New Podcast Episode Now Up!

Here’s the recording for Chapter 10 of Honk Honk, My Darling, in which Rex finally meets the woman he’s been searching for, and almost starts a food fight.

Featuring the dramatic debut of Mary Dixon, siren of the morning news at WXRT-FM.

Brought to you by the Hindenberk Car Company.

(If you’d like to download the MP3 and play it elsewhere, just subscribe at iTunes or go to http://rexkoko.libsyn.com.)