Writer’s Retreat #1 – Onto Lake Chelan

erick mertz, supernatural fiction, author, retreat, lake chelanI think that every writer shares a similar dream. A time to get away. The space to think clearly. The much coveted writer’s retreat experience is that rare opportunity to get both at once, usually in a gorgeous location to boot.

As a few of you have noticed, I took this last week away from publishing episodes of The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice in order to prepare for a retreat to Lake Chelan, Washington. The curious Doctor Brice remains in my thoughts, as I do hope he remains in yours. The time away will be a chance to focus on what comes next and I am thankful to Write On The River in Wenatchee for affording me the opportunity to share space with some of Washington’s finest writers.

What comes next? As many of you are aware, Doctor Desmond Brice fits into a larger supernatural mythology of Canyon County, Oregon. While up in Lake Chelan on this specific writer’s retreat, I am going to break out the time twisted plot of The Strange Air which will be the second novel in my supernatural mystery series. Also, I am going to take a little of my three days to work through edits and ideas for The Mask Of Tomorrow which I anticipate releasing in January or February.

Stay tuned. I also anticipate a few blogs and pictures along the way.

By the way… don’t think for a moment I’m taking a retreat just anywhere ordinary. According to legend, Lake Chelan is haunted by a dragon.

Don’t believe me? Check out this story.

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emertzWriter’s Retreat #1 – Onto Lake Chelan
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Mindfulness & Space Invaders

erick mertz, fiction author, mindfulness, mask of tomorrowSearch the term mindfulness on Google and you’ll come up with 160 million hits… approximately. For a myriad of reasons, focusing on the present moment is an idea that is gaining traction in our cultural zeitgeist.

Down to a more personal level, my recent draft of The Mask Of Tomorrow is done. I mean it. My draft is done.

Translation: I can’t even look at the manuscript. Right now, what I need is to practice a little mindfulness.

You know Space Invaders, right? If not, you’re either fourteen years old, or you spent the bulk of the last thirty years on a church mission in Guyana.

Space Invaders is the quintessential drone-making 1980’s video game. One of the earliest shooting games, Space Invaders hit the market in Japan and the US in the late seventies. By 1982 it had grossed over $2 billion and spawned an equal number of suburban American zombie children.

Need a refresher on the game mechanics? You control the little side-scrolling space ship on the bottom of the screen. For protection you’ve got these shields made of what I can only imagine is marshmallow. Blocks of aliens five high and six wide drop bombs as they move left to right before they drop down to move right to left. A space ship scrolls over top. Manage to clear the screen and it starts over.

You can play this game for hours. And hours. It’s fucking brilliant.

mask of tomorrow, mindfulness, erick mertz, fiction authorLast Christmas a family friend bought me one of those all-in-one Atari 2600 consoles. Ever seen one? Looks like the classic Atari 2600 console but it comes with hundreds of games already built in. All hail exponential advances in technology. No need for cluncky cartridges.

We relegated the little console to the old 32-inch TV upstairs. Upstairs is where a lot of the old stuff goes. Couches and desks. Beds and toys. It’s nice though because Lisa has built a little massage studio up there too.

With every page closer to the end of my recent draft, the sound of Space Invaders calling out my name has gotten a little louder.

My son goes to school on Monday and Wednesday mornings. He goes to school on Thursday too but Lisa works upstairs on Thursdays. This makes Thursday a gaming bogie.

After Lisa goes to work on Monday and Wednesdays though, I drop the kid off at school at nine o’clock. Four hours later, I return to pick him up.

Four hours. That makes for a lot of frickin’ aliens.

It’s 9:12. I turn off the cell phone. I go upstairs and only one game in, I clear six screens. How can this get any better?

Back in the late 1990’s, I lived in a house where half of the residents were studying to be sommeliers. The other half really loved their roommates’ course of study.

In that house, I learned then that your tastebuds are most active in the morning. Today I learn that applies to Rainer as well, cracking a can of the frosty lager as I work on besting the last high score.

Did I mention high scores? I turn the game on and the high score reads 000000. After my first game of scoring 970 points, the high score turns to 970.

Unlike in the arcade there are no left behind initials to focus my competitive edge on. I settle in for game two. I drink my Rainer. The phone rings. I ignore the phone knowing full well that student loans are paid off and I’m not in any need of consolidation.

12:20 rolls around. I need to compose myself before picking the kid up. As it turns out, I opened one Rainer can and only finished about 2/3rds of it.

The high score is 1,030. If I sit here another forty-five minutes, I’ll best that score, but then I’ll be the bane of my son’s school (and my son, to be honest).

1,030? Talk about a crummy high score.

I really don’t know what today was supposed to prove to me. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to prove anything. Maybe the whole point is to spend a day in idle mode.

Focus on the present moment. Rather than spend my day at my desk working for tomorrow, I sat upstairs and saved the world from an imminent attack from side scrolling aliens.

What could be more mindful than that?

Doubly confusing, I don’t know what this blog is suppose to mean to anyone reading it either. Maybe you searched for mindfulness and found this curious mash-up and now you’re terribly disappointed. If you’ve read this far though (thank you) maybe it’s time to wax philosophical.

Should you shirk a day’s responsibility to play Space Invaders? Maybe. It worked for me.

Should you drink Rainer in the morning? Probably not. Unless you’re camping of course.

Mindfulness is the practice of embracing the events in the present moment. It’s a tough sell. With the mid-term elections coming, you’re shooting the damn aliens, which only get faster, you think about work, when all of a sudden the ship moves overhead and…

Well, you get the idea. Writing is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. That manuscript isn’t going away either. Once I get the little man home and into his nap, I’ll be back downstairs.

I’ll be writing. I’ve got a pretty good idea what to do with that scene involving the truck.

Maybe the point is, we all need a little mindlessness of our own design.

I can’t promise I’ll write anything more about mindfulness, but mindlessness? Sure. Subscribe to my mailing list today to keep track of all the wicked escapades.

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Erick Mertz Author – David Lynch “The Air Is On Fire”

erick mertz, david lynch, the air is on fire, the mask of tomorrowWhen I rank David Lynch’s albums, The Air Is On Fire comes in at the very top of my list. The soundtrack accompaniment to an exhibition of Lynch’s paintings and photographs, this is an eerily slow building sparse ambient record. There are swells. A few industrial accents rise out of the dark clouds.

Otherwise it’s a haunting.

The album as offered by Sacred Bones Records is split into two songs, “Side A” (21:48) and “Side B” (19:58). There are a couple of short snippets at the very end that don’t really add much to the overall listening experience. The dark tones churn beautifully with very few jumps or punches to take you even momentarily out of a good creative head space. During the 40-minutes duration, Lynch explores a labyrinth of American darkness that has served as his perpetual muse: subterranean ambience, a distant lumbering menace, alive with a quasi-nostalgic mysticism that rises out of a rust belt nightmare. It’s all train yards, factories and construction zones on The Air Is On Fire.

Writing an urban fantasy or horror story? The Air Is On Fire sets a perfect mood. It’s ideal for an hour long, Absinthe fueled writing sprint, or late night note scribbling session. When I’m trying to get into a dark place, this album serves as fuel in how it spins a pitch black shadow even during mid-day.

This record is very highly recommended on many fronts, most of which I would say stem from the thread of vulnerability that laces the whole creepy work together.

Are you a supernatural fiction author with a favorite album to listen to while writing? Have you given any of these David Lynch albums a listen?

supernatural fiction, erick mertz, portland, oregon

What do you think?

Leave a comment below or suggest a writing album & I’ll cover it in my next “Music For Writers” column. Meanwhile, check out my book page to see the latest Oregon supernatural mystery I’m working on.

emertzErick Mertz Author – David Lynch “The Air Is On Fire”
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Erick Mertz Author – Max Kutner

erick mertz author oregon portland supernatural mysteryAs an author, I am attuned to the title of a thing. If you happen to be able to get past this album’s peculiar title then you will discover that Max Kutner’s ten-track guitar experiment Disaffection Finds Its Perfect Form makes for one of the more intriguing new writing compliments of 2017.

This album is not comprised of ambient music. At least it’s not ambient music in the traditional sense of sanguine tones, lush layers and a beautiful crescendo. Kutner’s work is more striking than that. If I close my eyes and try to visualize the music, I see it as a series of angular strokes and slashes.

The tracks on this album are not named. They gradually build into one another. Each one acts as a movement within a greater cycle of ever deepening guitar chords with heavier layers. By the end everything crashes into a wall of exquisite and disorienting noise. Round about the time when Kutner has dragged his listener toward that tenth and final movement, the whole structure has fallen apart in a crush of feedback and noise.

In spite of the noise there is something meditative in Kutner’s ambient style. His sound isn’t so much chaos as threatened chaos. Rarely do any of the songs overwhelm. They simply involve. Like a reader in the hands of a master author there is a lot left to the imagination.

Tip of the hat to North Carolina’s Silber Records for putting out a wonderfully ponderous album. You can get Kutner’s album at their site, or on their Bandcamp page for just $5.00.


Are you an author with a favorite album to listen to while writing? Have you given this album by Max Kutner a listen? What do you think?

Leave comments below or suggest a writing album & I’ll cover it in a “Music For Writers” column. Meanwhile check out my book page to see updates on the latest Oregon mystery I’m writing.

mertz erick fiction supernatural mystery author portland oregon

emertzErick Mertz Author – Max Kutner
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