What I’m doing now, June 2017

Writer, wonderer, wanderer: Me in a nutshell

I fire up people’s curiosity about our world.

A writer and online editor since 2000, I’ve been a full-time self-employed writer and author since 2011. In addition to managing online content and marketing for various organizations, I write articles about food, craft beverages, business, and more for a range of print and online publications. I’m also the author of 4 travel fantasy books in my ongoing Rucksack Universe series. Outside of my home office, I live with my wife, son, daughter, and kitchen in Eugene, Oregon.

This month I’m…

Sending Roadsong to my Chief Reader

Person standing on a rocky promontory, high above the sea, facing the sun

This is one of the images I’ve had in mind for an important scene in the book.

Yesterday I finished reviewing the current draft of Roadsong, the latest book in my Rucksack Universe series, and I sent the manuscript to my Chief Reader. The revisions went well, and I’m pretty happy with the story.

The idea with Roadsong has been taking readers back in time before the events of the 4 books currently available in the series. As you may know, the story world is defined by a calamity called The Blast, which took place in 1834. Roadsong will take place 100 years and 3 days after The Blast, or, as it’s called in the story world, the year A.B. 100. And yes, the 3 days is incredibly significant.

In Roadsong, we’re going to see a very different Faddah Rucksack, someone who is struggling to figure out his place in the world and what he can do to make up for, ahem, some rather bad mistakes. Fans have also asked for more from Aisling’s grandmother, who we hear about in Home Sweet Road. The most powerful Awen of Ireland is no longer on the scene, so Roadsong gave me a chance to duck back in time and bring you adventures with this fascinating character. I may or may not have based her in part on one of my grandmothers, and added a nod to Gandalf and Granny Weatherwax. Maybe.

I’ll be sharing more about Roadsong in the months ahead. Later this summer, the manuscript will go to my copy editor and I’ll figure out when the book will be released, what the final title will be (since, you know me, I always start with a working title/codename to give me something to call the story). In the meantime, here’s a working draft of the book description that I’ve been working on:

Follow the black road. From the west coast of Ireland to England’s Black Cliffs of Dover, the mile-wide line of ash is known as the Black Road. In the hundred years since The Blast scarred the world, none have traveled this road… until now. A wounded hero, a wanderer who fell between worlds, and a mysterious sage undertake a quest: for home, for purpose, for a light to stop the shadow covering the world. Pursued by a hunter of strange souls, the trio must overcome many trials—and their own mistakes—if they are to find answers to their questions… and if they are to survive the unwelcome surprise that also awaits at the end of the road.

Hitting deadlines: articles on beverages, food & business

Glass of Hellshire beer - As always, I am willing to undergo whatever grueling field research an assignment requires.

As always, I am willing to undergo whatever grueling field research an assignment requires.

I’m coming up on some well-earned time out of the office, so the past couple of months have been pretty busy with freelance assignments too. I’m just about up to 40 articles for the year—not too shabby. Here are links to some recently published pieces:

Some pieces have been submitted but not published yet, and others are print only, such as in Eugene Magazine and the Oregon Beer Growler.

It’s been a fun year of writing so far. Part of what I love about writing articles is being able to talk with people and learn about their world, their mission, and what they do on a day-to-day. I hope I keep bringing that joy and curiosity to my work every day.

Working on different client projects

In addition to the Rucksack Universe and my freelance articles, I’ve also been busy with projects for various clients. It’s a mix of online content management and marketing, depending on the client and project. One of the most gratifying things about what I do is getting to help so many people and organizations get their message across to the right people. Here are some of the folks I’m working with right now:

Doing more yoga

In addition to doing about 11,111 steps most days of the week, I’ve also been upping my yoga. In particular, I’ve really been digging the routines—and irreverent banter—of the awesome Austin-based Yoga with Adriene. Here’s her YouTube Channel, and a wee video to give you a taste:

She also has a great Revolution: 31 Days of Yoga, that’s 31 days of routines. Great stuff, lots of variety and different levels of challenging. If you’ve been wanting to do more yoga but don’t want all the sanctimony that sometimes comes with the practice, check it out.

What is happening with you right now?

Always intrigued by other people’s stories, so feel free to email me: writer@anthonystclair.com

I typically update what I’m doing NOW about once a month, more if merited. Most recent update: June 17, 2017.




Revisions finished on next Rucksack Universe book

First bit of Roadsong, the next Rucksack Universe adventure by Anthony St. Clair

So this morning I finished revising ROADSONG, the next Rucksack Universe adventure. How’s your day going?

“You found me because you needed to pass on the best of yourself, and what you passed on was light, guidance, and inspiration. Now I’m passing it back to you. You must inspire others. Help them find the hero in themselves. That is the person the world needs.”

I’m pretty excited about this book. Set before the other 4 books currently available—100 years and 3 days after The Blast, to be precise—we are going to see a very different Faddah Rucksack. Someone shaken and guilt-ridden, who isn’t sure about his path and place in the world. (He also wears two gloves instead of only one. We’ll find out why that changes—and why it’s more important than you might think.)

ROADSONG will be a sort of prequel for the series. But it’s also a tale of what it feels like to be a stranger in a strange land, what it feels like to drop from the world you know into a place that is different. (Or, to put it another way, how I’ve felt my whole life.)

I don’t have a release date yet. Now the book goes to my Chief Reader and then my copy editor. I’ll let you know, probably later this summer, when ROADSONG will be coming out. In the meantime, catch up on the series here (and remember, you can read them in any order), or join my mailing list for other news and updates and some freebie stories I’m finishing up too.




Reading June 1 at Willamette Writers Authors Gala

"I love these. I like looking at the pages. I can read the letters. They are a puzzle." High praise from a certain junior assistant.

“I love these. I like looking at the pages. I can read the letters. They are a puzzle.” High praise from a certain junior assistant.

The Eugene Mid-Valley Chapter of Willamette Writers hosts their annual Author’s Gala. Anthony St. Clair and other area authors read from current and upcoming works, and books are available for sale and autographs. The Author’s Gala is a celebration of Willamette Writers, members, and the art they’ve put out into the world.

  • Tsunami Books, Eugene, Oregon
  • 6:30–9 p.m., June 1, 2017
  • Free to members, $10 general public



Free Rucksack Universe Fiction: Stars in your beer

Stars in your beer - B.S. Trotter - Rucksack Universe Anthony St. Clair

From The Lost & Found Travels of BS Trotter

Originally published in London Rising

Okay, we all know that after a couple of pints you can, well, see things. But for Londoners they were not expecting to see strange things in their beer.

I want to make a distinction here: they are seeing strange things in their beer, not because of their beer. We all sometimes see strange things because of beer, typically because we should have stopped about five pints back.

Street lights turn weird for me. After I’ve had a few too many I always find that the street lights, instead of just shining and being bright, in fact have a sort of halo. The light hangs in cloudy rings around the light bulb, as if the lampposts were strangely camouflaged angels. Sometimes I think I’m seeing the world how painter Vincent Van Gogh saw things when he painted his famed Starry Night.

Then I realize I probably just need a kabob and my bed.

However, Londoners are seeing the strangest thing in their pints. Reports and calls and letters have been flooding in to London Rising that all over the city, when someone first picks up a brimming-full pint of their favorite blackest stout, they see a star inside.

Folks, that’s not fancy talk from a humble itinerant reporter suddenly aspiring to be a poet. That’s what people have said, over and over and over. The same thing.

A star.

They look at their pint, which is dark as night sky, and in the middle of the beer, it’s as if they see a small spark. It’s there just a moment, then it either fades or simply can’t be seen anymore or wasn’t there to begin with.

First Call Brewing declined a request to be interviewed for this story. However, the cheeky buggers did point out that no stars are used to brew Galway Pradesh Stout.

Keep those reports coming in, though. I’ve heard it said that after a good pint you can understand the universe. Like you I didn’t expect to see the universe in my beer, but I’ve a feeling the universe is a better place for it.

The Rucksack Universe is Anthony St. Clair’s ongoing beery travel fantasy series of myth, intrigue, and adventure.




What books are on your summer reading list this year?

Here are a few of the books on my summer reading list…

Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas, by Laura Sook Duncombe

Glass Houses (Three Pines/Inspector Gamache), by Louise Penny

Everyday Lakota: An English-Sioux Dictionary for Beginners

Kiwis Might Fly: A New Zealand Adventure, by Polly Evans

Honeymoon with My Brother, by Franz Wisner




Free Rucksack Universe Fiction: Brewing School Launches in London

Brewschool - BS Trotter - Rucksack Universe

From The Lost & Found Travels of BS Trotter

Originally published in London Rising

BrewSchool has opened in London, England. Focused on “brewing brewers,” the teaching operation will train prospective professional brewers in all aspects of the beer industry. Areas of training include developing recipes; the brewing process; equipment selection, ordering, installation, and maintenance; finances and regulation; scaling business; packaging (kegs, bottles, and cans); marketing; and serving beer.

Founded by longtime homebrewer Zara Porter, BrewSchool is an interesting new initiative in the industry. “BrewSchool gives women and men the opportunity to understand every aspect of this ancient and complex process,” says Porter. “By the time students graduate BrewSchool, they will be ready to bring value to any of the world’s breweries, or start their own.”

Porter’s younger sister, Branwen, is the newly appointed second-in-command at First Call Brewing, which recently regained its independence from Deep, Inc., and left London to return to its roots in New Galway, Ireland. First Call is among over a dozen breweries that have already pledged support for BrewSchool and its first class of graduates.

In addition to setting up shop in London, Porter has also negotiated certifications and special offers for BrewSchool graduates. Students will be eligible for business planning services, apprenticeships at small breweries and large operations such as First Call, and will also be eligible for special financing offers for new business startups.

BrewSchool offers a new way to get into the esoteric industry. “Brewing will always rely in part on the apprentice model and being a self-starter,” says Porter. “However, all brewers benefit from an understanding of the full process, and they can then build on this strong foundation of knowledge and training depending on where their professional journey takes them.”

Porter is embarking on a two-month world tour to promote the school, develop and further relationships with breweries abroad, and recruit students. The first formal training sessions, each lasting six months, are expected to begin early next year.

The Rucksack Universe is Anthony St. Clair’s ongoing beery travel fantasy series of myth, intrigue, and adventure.




The pit and the page

What we’re aspiring to. Image: jamo

 

If being a parent and an authorpreneur have taught me anything so far, it is this:

The amazing is the sum of the incremental.

To a degree, I always had some understanding of this. I knew conceptually how building a business and raising a child would very much be this bit-by-bit, day-by-day thing. But as Morpheus from The Matrix says, there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.

The pit

Earlier this week, my son asked us to keep back an avocado pit so he could plant it. I pulled up Pinterest and showed him a great pin that walked through the steps.

We went through the steps. I polished the pit, being careful not to remove the protective brown skin. Connor poked 4 toothpicks into it. He filled up a half-pint mason jar and gently set the pit inside, checking to see that the bottom of the pit was actually in the water.

Then we talked about how this will take weeks to sprout—assuming it does, and there were no guarantees it would. In the mornings he’s been changing out the pit’s water (to protect against harmful microbes that might damage the pit) and he’s been observing it.

If all goes well, in as little as two weeks a root will sprout.

Naturally, I think about my kids in this context too. Every day I check them, observe them. And yes, of course, in those early years there are changes a’plenty, especially of the keep-fresh variety.

But as they grow, as my wife and I are there for them and doing our best as parents, they too will likely grow up all right.

The page

My son has a daily list of things he’s supposed to do each day: get dressed, make his bed, practice violin, etc. We recently revamped his list, and he suggested something he wanted on there:

He wanted to make a book.

(Yeah, I felt a wee bit proud.)

Each day, usually after breakfast, Connor has been getting a sheet of paper, punching holes in it, and having me or my wife write down a story he is dictating. It’s only a few sentences a day, and then he adds some drawings, but each day has continued on from where the story was the day before.

What really matters is that he sees this story growing. There is plot, action, and even some development. We read through the pages each day, and he can tell that he is using daily bits of work to make something bigger. It’s inspiring pride and confidence in him, and I love seeing him realize that he can do big things—even if it’s in wee pieces at a time.

The point

After 2 kids, 4 books, nearly 6 years, and hundreds of articles, I get it: everything is incremental. Day by day, my kids grow and learn, and I can look back and see how different experiences or epiphanies have built up into who they are now. Day by day, I work at my assignments and projects, building on successes and failures, achievements and setbacks, and am amazed at how far my business has come since 2011.

A 1,000-word article is really lots of little segments of 100, 200, or 300 words.

A 90,000-word book (about 360 pages) is a collection of 1,500–2,500 word scenes.

And business is showing up every day, with an open heart, a ready mind, and a wry grin. A cuppa hot coffee helps too.

It’s all incremental. But from those wee pieces, something bigger and amazing grows—as long as you nurture it, keep at it, and appreciate the journey along the way.




Daddy, why are you a writer?

Notebook and blue pen

This morning my 5-year-old son came into the office, looked at my computer screen, and asked, “Daddy, why are you a writer?”

I thought about it for a moment. It’s something I haven’t considered in a long time, up there with why my eyes are the color they are or why I live in Oregon or why we breathe. But I took Connor’s question seriously, because I always take my children seriously. A child’s question is an opportunity to refresh and examine your beliefs and understandings. My kids keep me honest, they keep me assessing, and they help me disrupt myself.

The difference between breathing and atmosphere

But back to Connor’s question: why am I a writer? The gist is simple, I explained to my son. I’ve known since I was 12 that I would work with words. It’s so much a part of me now , that I don’t think about it. If I do think about it, I have to take mental backsteps.

It’s like when you think about the atmosphere. Sure, we all know that we breathe, and we know that we are surrounded by air. But when you stop to think about it, it’s a pretty crazy fact and you need a moment to process it. Connor’s been going through that himself lately, telling us how every time we move, we displace air and create wind, and talking about how the atmosphere is all around us.

As with so many things though, the gist is simple yet incomplete. When I talk to my kids, I try to get to the heart of something, the how and why. For my thinking, I try to find the most truthful explanation that balances being comprehensive with being comprehensible. I believe that life’s great truths are things a 5-year-old can understand—and that adults then constantly struggle to remember.

About the words but not about the words

“When I was becoming a teenager, I realized that words were really important to who I was,” I answered my son. “But I came to understand it wasn’t about the words necessarily, it was about how I could use the words to express thoughts, feelings, and concepts. I came to understand that I was capable of expressing things that other people felt or thought, but they had a hard time putting their thoughts or feelings into words. I could though, and that meant that I was capable of expressing what others wanted to say.”

He nodded, we had a little cuddle, and then he went back to his room to play.

But it got me thinking some more.

Why am I writer?

The real answer

It’s a little like asking why I have arms. As much as I believe in nurture and free will and self-determination, I also believe deeply that some aspects of us are wired in, we just mainly determine how we do or don’t apply those various parts of ourselves.

I’m a writer because I get language. Not necessarily in a grammatical sense—I understand grammar, I have an English degree, but I’m no more going to wax authoritative about grammar than breathing Earth’s atmosphere means I have a comprehensive understanding of the laws of chemistry and physics as it relates to elements in a gaseous state.

I write because I under that language is the process through which we translate the infinite into the temporal and the temporal into the infinite. Language is how we express the heart and explain the mind.

This is not as elementary as it sounds. Ever notice how certain you can be of how you think or feel about something, and then go to actually try to convey it into words?

Yup. It can be hard as hell.

It’s hard as hell for me—and I do this for a living.

I’m a writer because voice is who I am. There have been many years where I’d forgotten that. Or maybe I ran away from it, got scared and tried to abandon a sort of calling.

Many times over the years I’ve been pretty scared of this part of myself. After all, what if I express the wrong thing? What if there are bad consequences? For many years, I’ve erred on the side of saying nothing at all. But not anymore.

I’m not just a writer. I’m a teller, an explainer, a letter painter, an understander, a sharer.

I’m a writer because that is how I can be one with the heart of the world, the soul of us all, and turn it into something that we can understand in our day-to-day lives.

I’m a writer because it’s a decent way to make a living.

I’m a writer because someone needs to be.

I’m a writer because it’s who I am, and it is the only honest truest expression of who I am and what I am on this world, in this life to do.

That’s why I’m a writer.

Now I’m finishing up at this, and I’m thinking of my articulate daughter and my inquisitive son. I’m thinking of how I hope that what I live, what I try to live, is what they will see and connect with too: that just as their mother and I strive to live our most honest truest selves, that we hope that one day, as they come to understand, they will too.

It just happened that for me, it’s being a writer. But for my kids, it’s an example.




New Guidebook Shows the Real Independent Scotland

Rucksack Universe - New Guidebook Shows the Real Independent Scotland - BS Trotter

A FREE Rucksack Universe Short Story

Rucksack Universe Short Stories are available for free at anthonystclair.com. They may or may not be canonical, and may or may not be as polished as other stories. Enjoy.

Like what you see here? Visit the Rucksack Universe for available books in the ongoing series.

Originally published in London Rising.
From The Lost & Found Travels of BS Trotter

Scotland has been a favorite travel destination for years, and you’ll soon find, Constant Companion, that Guru Deep’s new Scotland Through the Third Eye guidebook will be a favorite for your backpack or suitcase. The timing couldn’t be better: 75 years ago this month, the signing of the Treaty of Stirling restored Scotland’s independence as a sovereign nation in a post-Blast world.

Scotland is a country of hard history yet enduring romance. The rolling hills of the Highlands. The lush Lowlands. The otherworldliness of the narrow yet boundless islands. Two powerhouse cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, each pull you in its own way. There is so much to see that it can be overwhelming. Luckily, for any traveler hitting the road, there is nothing like a good guide to help you on your way.

Through the Third Eye guidebooks have become common sights with travelers over the years. This latest installment is an excellent reminder why the series has become essential to anyone from backpackers to business travelers. Available beginning this Tuesday (prepping for weekend adventures, anyone?), Deep’s Scotland is 300 pages of witty, concise, informative, encouraging travel information. At its core, an adventurous heart will have you swooning for everything from a taste of whisky in the Highlands and a romp through Edinburgh and Glasgow, to a boat ride to the Isle of Skye and a reflective moment in Stirling Castle, where the Treaty of Stirling was signed.

“Scotland is one of the most fascinating countries and cultures in the world,” says Guru Deep. “With the anniversary of independence approaching, it was time to put out the definitive guide to a country of such deep history and geographical variety.”

Deep’s singular style also accompanies you like a travel companion. Beginning with an introduction that lays out Scottish history and gives an overview of modern Scotland, the book’s organization is similar to other Through the Third Eye titles. After the introduction, a general planning guide addresses logistics such as getting there, transportation, money matters, passport and visa particulars, and other details. From there the book is organized by region: Lowlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Highlands, and Islands. Within each section, further breakdowns by region or city are included, along with well-organized chapters that cover accommodation, food and drink, top destinations, popular itineraries, and more.

Of particular note is the guidebook’s extensive history of Scotland, especially its details of Scottish independence. After The Blast, with the British Empire failing in the wake of London burning, Scotland (along with Ireland and India) was able to gain its independence through a bloodless revolution. Deep takes us beyond the history books, showing us the story behind the story that is as enthralling as a good novel. Post-Blast independence movements have been lauded as miracles. For the first time we delve deeply into the figures—and legends—that took Scotland from being part of a United Kingdom, to becoming the driving force that transformed the island of Britain into three separate countries: England, Scotland, and Wales.

“Independence movements seem like mandates only in hindsight,” Deep writes. “Scotland’s independence was not a foregone conclusion. It was a modern miracle: a confluence of circumstance, a triumph of negotiation over violence, and a legend of a singular figure who rose from the void and led a people and a country to a new vision of themselves.”

Reception among the travel community has been positive overall. Travelers have noted the ease of use that Through the Third Eye guidebooks consider a hallmark. “There is so much here that I never knew about Scotland,” says a traveler who gave his name only as Jay. “I could spend a lifetime there and still not see everything.”

Other travelers noted the quality of maps and photographs, always a friend to the traveler. There are enough photos to pique your wanderlust. The maps, especially of urban areas, are rendered with the best detail and accuracy in the industry.

Deep and his army of guidebook-writing travelers have gone over every inch of Scotland, meeting fascinating figures throughout its rural areas, villages, and cities. Never before has a guidebook on this fascinating place delved so deeply, especially into areas such as the islands, from the Shetlands and Orkneys in the north, to Inner and Outer Hebrides, such as Islay and even distant St. Kilda. You’ll see cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Inverness in a new light. Even if you’ve been to them before, you’ll be ready to go again and experience them as if for the first time.

Legend also accompanies fact, such as tales of a mysterious leatherworker on the Isle of Lewis. Does he exist? Is his genius real? Can you pay for his wares with a dead polecat you found on the side of the road? Does he, in fact, control the fate of Scotland?

Scotland has changed much since its days in the British Empire, and Scotland Through the Third Eye bravely shows this ancient, fascinating country in the detail and respect Scotland deserves. The care taken with detail is exquisite. The writing is evocative and inspiring. And you, dear traveler, might as well pick up your copy and then immediately buy a ticket to get you there as soon as possible.

“We set out in the Third Eye books to give travelers the world over a way to feel like they were in a place, even if they weren’t there yet,” explains Guru Deep. “Once they had arrived, we wanted them to feel like we were wandering together. Our new Scotland adventure is a culmination of research and on-the-ground exploration. We get to know the real Scotland, and the real people and history who make this place what it is. Scotland remains one of my favorite destinations, and this guidebook is not only the newest in the series, it is also the fulfillment of a personal quest. I have gotten to explore Scotland the way I have always wanted to explore Scotland—and now I hope you do too.”

Rucksack UniverseThe Rucksack Universe Series

The Rucksack Universe is Anthony St. Clair’s ongoing series of myth, adventure, beer, and globetrotting intrigue.




What to do when your kids ask you to join their dance party

“Daddy!” asked my 5yo and 2yo, “will you join our dance party?”

I’d been in the midst of a big morning, writing, revising, and filing an article, while also moving pieces for some upcoming assignments. I’d planned the week, checked the finances, and all this after, I confess, having stayed up a tad too late with Jodie while we watched most of Star Wars: Rogue One.

But when your kids ask you to join their dance party, there’s only one answer.

Yes.

Now excuse me, I need to dance, jump on it.




Hi.

Anthony St. Clair - Travel Fantasy Author / Craft Beer Writer / Business Copywriter

Author and copywriter Anthony St. Clair has specialized in online content since 2000, blogged since 2004 and is the author of the Rucksack Universe travel fantasy series.

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Anthony's third book, FOREVER THE ROAD, is a Best Books 2015 Fantasy pick from Library Journal's SELF-e, and a 2015 Oregon Book Award nominee.

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Rucksack Universe

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The Martini of Destiny by Anthony St. Clair, a Rucksack Universe Fantasy Novella - learn more and buy now

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