Monday, April 29, 2013

Something Stinks

I baked a lasagna this afternoon, and as the smell of it wafted through the house I thought that there could be nothing better to stick up my nose than the scent of red sauce, ground turkey, and cheese coming together at 425 degrees. An hour of pleasant torture for sure.

After dinner, a new friend and I drove up Weber Canyon Road on our way to visit some good and friendly people. As we made our way up their front walk, the sweet smell of Springtime in the Kamas Valley replaced that of cooking lasagna as number one on my list of favorite smells. Fresh grass, a hint of snow, and just a pinch of fresh manure, mixed and blown by a slight breeze; you wouldn't think it the perfect combination, but it evokes some of my more happy childhood memories while holding great promise for the future at the same time. I love that smell, and I wrote about "that sweet Oakley air" last summer.

We entered the house of those good people, and after a few minutes into our visit, the delightful aroma of a cake baking filled the room in which we sat. I was enchanted at once, and the smell kicked that of the sweet Oakley air from the top slot on my list of favorite smells. Were it not for comfortable conversation with such wonderful people, I might have been driven mad by my desire to eat the source of such a heavenly scent.

And the topic of conversation that held my animalistic cravings at bay? Judging others.

Judging others is something with which I have a lot of experience. I have spent a fair amount of my life sitting in judgement of others, while at the same time ignoring not only my own weaknesses and faults, but the good in those that I have judged. Even people that I love have not been spared. Anyone who reads West Of Independence through to the end will understand what I mean.

It isn't something that I am proud of, but it is something that I can change, and so I wrote a book and moved to Oakley.

Tonight Elizabeth and I climbed into our bed to watch a British mystery. The kids wandered in and out of our room over the next hour. Each one of them has a distinct smell, and when caught up in my nose, each one of their distinct smells sit atop my list of favorite smells. But after they had all retreated to bed for the night, I caught a whiff of Elizabeth's skin as she turned over to go to sleep.

Game over.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Paperback Edition!

West Of Independence in Paperback!
Buy it by clicking the link below.

Seven Chapter Preview

Click the link below to read the first seven chapters of West Of Independence

Icy Big Brother

Back in the day, my two younger brothers and I would often throw our red canoe into the back of the Ford Club Wagon family van and drive over to the boat landing in Newfields, New Hampshire. I say boat landing, but back then it was just an incline of rocks and mud. They have since built a cement ramp and a large parking lot there, and speedboats and wave runners have become the norm.

One year, just as the ice had just started to break up, we decided it was time to go canoeing. We dressed in our winter gear, drove the van over to the river, and pushed off from the frozen mud ramp in our plastic red boat. Massive chunks of ice immediately threatened to sink us. Our paddles spent more time fending off frigid disaster than they did pushing water, and the cold air stabbed at our lungs as we worked hard to remain afloat. Had we fallen into the icy water, we would have been dead within minutes, either from the cold or from being crushed between icebergs. The danger was most of the thrill.

Conner sat in the middle and Jared in the bow, while I took the stern. That was the way it had always been. I liked having control, but hated sitting behind my brothers, because I always ended up doing most of the work, and that meant that I did all of the shouting. Jared and Connor would get distracted by animals, floating garbage, or (mostly) by the telling of a joke or a funny story, leaving me alone in my efforts to propel us forward. I seemed more intent on getting somewhere, rather than just enjoying where we were. Their lack of focus would make me angry, and I would yell and bark orders, which they for the most part ignored.

That day was no different. Jared and Connor, while a little more focused on where we were going due to the potential for death, were still Jared and Connor, my carefree little brothers. They were laughing and joking while I sat in the back, fretting and stressing.

At some point Conner decided to ratchet both the danger and my blood pressure up a notch by jumping out of the canoe and onto a large chunk of ice as it floated alongside us. Jared laughed as Connor danced a jig on the iceberg.

"Kid, be careful," I warned, worried that my little brother would slip and bump his head, causing him to slide into the water and drown, or bleed to death as he floated out of our reach.

"Calm down, it's fine," Connor replied, ever confident in his immortality.

I paddled hard to keep the canoe close to Connor, and Jared took it as a chance to jump up onto the ice floe with him, leaving me alone in the only safe method of conveyance.

"Oh great, now I'll have to save both your butts when the ice cracks and you fall in!" I complained.

"Chill out Matthew," Jared suggested with a chuckle.

"We're fine, it's totally safe," Connor added. He stomped his feet to prove to me just how thick their frozen platform was.

Over the years I had experienced many moments such as this. While I stayed safe inside the safe and reliable man-made boat, my brothers danced on the tiny island that was surely inhabited by cannibals and surrounded by hungry man-eating sharks. I was suddenly tired of being the mature, rational, boring, fun-killing big brother.

"Pull me up onto the ice," I commanded with a smile.

Jared and Connor obeyed at once, bending down to pull the red canoe (and me) up onto their ice island. I climbed out, and together we floated down the river, the canoe resting beside us on the ice. We knelt and dipped our paddles into the water, propelling our new vessel even faster, and by using my paddle as a rudder I managed to maintain a safe course through a field of broken ice. We lay on our backs and stared up at the grey winter sky, laughing and chattering away, enjoying the latest in a number of dangerous brotherly adventures. I jumped up and stood at the bow of our rugged white boat, feeling like Washington crossing the Delaware.

After a while we neared the boat landing. We paddled like mad to get over to it. Moments after had we had disembarked and dragged the red canoe up onto shore, a State Trooper pulled up in a rush, reds and blues flashing and radio squawking. He jumped out of his car and approached us as we carried the canoe up the ramp towards to van.

"You boys been canoeing the river?" The trooper asked.

"Uh, yes," I replied nervously.

"Did you see three kids trapped on an iceberg?"

"Nope," I answered honestly. We had not been trapped on the iceberg, and we were not kids.

The trooper looked out at the river filled with floating chunks of ice for a moment, then looked back at my brothers and me, standing at the back of the van with our red canoe.

"Thanks," he said, shaking his head. He climbed into his patrol car, switched off his reds and blues, and drove away.

We watched in silence as his tires crunched over icy gravel. Not until the sound of his engine faded down the road did the three of us start laughing.

"Either he was a rookie, or you are an incredible liar," Jared said.

We loaded the canoe and headed home for some hot chocolate, one more adventure worth telling in our quivers.

I have thought about that adventure many times since. I don't think that the trooper was a rookie, and I don't think I was a very convincing liar.

I like to think that he was a mature, rational, boring, fun-killing big brother.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Long Day Coming

The day I have hoped, worked, and waited for has come.

West Of Independence by Matthew Deane (that's me!) is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You do not need a Kindle or a Nook to purchase and read them. You can use the free readers for PC, MAC, Iphone, Ipad, and other devices. I have also ordered a proof of the printed version, stay tuned for its availability.

I sent the following emails to two people that were instrumental in making this dream a reality, in spite of the fact that I haven't seen either one of them in more than 20 years.

To my College Freshman English Professor

Hi College English Professor, my name is Matthew Deane. I was a freshman at UNH in 1992, and you were my English Professor. I had just returned from spending two years as a missionary in Paraguay, and for your class I wrote some terrible essays about the experience. You may recall my description of a beautiful Latin girl's eyes as being big, black, and cow-like. How romantic and literary...

Nevertheless, you were very kind and encouraging. I had never really believed in myself, and your faith was inspiring. I have never forgotten your kindness, or your unique way of teaching. You cared, and it has stuck with me.

One afternoon, you walked through the classroom door just as I was climbing in the second floor window. Rather than call the campus police, you asked me what was outside the window, and if I thought we could have class out on the roof. "We could," I said, and so we did. Other memories include your guitar playing, the day you shaved your beard and waited for us to notice it (details, people, details!), and forcing us to think so far outside the box that we couldn't even see it anymore. It is because of you that I suffer severe allergies to cliche, adverbs, and over-used metaphors.

I still have my "Writing Down the Bones" book.
The very last words you said to me were "You can write a good book, I know you can." I promised you that I would, and that you would one day read a good book that I had written.
It has taken twenty years, all of them filled with more experience than I often care to ponder, but after several failed starts I wrote what I believe to be an excellent work, and I hope that you read it.

With thanks for your belief in a student that had a big wish but very little talent with which to make it come true,

Matthew Deane

To my High School English Teacher

Hello Mr. High School English Teacher, my name is Matthew Deane. I was a student in a few of your classes back in the late 80's. I was quiet, nervous, and awkward, but for an hour each day inside your classroom, I was transformed into a happy and hopeful young writer that paid no mind to his insecurities.

You probably don't remember the piece I wrote about why I thought a nuclear missile silo should have been installed in my backyard. In it I promised the government that I would avoid eating too many Twinkies and getting a sugar high that would send me running to the launch button. I also collaborated with a few students on a story about a limo-driving revenge killer at the Senior Prom. We had a lot of fun with that one, and with your encouragement we included a great deal of blood and mayhem. I had a serious crush on one of the girls that worked on the story with me. Her name was Heather. I thought she was perfect, but she thought she was in love with some tall blonde with a weird French name.

I loved your class, and since then I have dreamed of becoming a writer. Years of insecurity and a lack of initiative stood in my way. It wasn't "Writer's Block" however, because you taught me that it doesn't exist.

And it doesn't.

It took a long time, several failed starts, and some serious life experience, but I have done it. I have written a book, and I think it is very good. I hope that you want to read it.

I just wanted to let you know that you inspired me. It has been more than twenty-five years, but I have not forgotten you.

With thanks for the time and attention you gave to a young student with big dreams and very little faith in himself,

Matthew Deane

Sunday, April 14, 2013

"West Of Independence" Coming Soon To A Reading Device Near You

West of Independence is the story of two brothers on distinct but inseparable journeys. Raised in a large Mormon family, the brothers find themselves at odds with their upbringing; Jared because he is gay, Matthew because he is too much like his father. As Jared fights to find happiness in a lifestyle he was raised to detest, Matthew struggles to become the man he wants to be without losing his faith. Overwhelmed by sadness, Jared decides to end his life by driving over the edge of the Grand Canyon. He makes it all the way from New Hampshire to Independence, Missouri, where his trip ends with a suicide attempt in a lonely motel room. Several months later, Matthew and Connor (their youngest brother) set out to complete Jared's trip to the Grand Canyon with him. Heading West from Independence, they pick cotton, take a walk on Mars, chase windmills, and meet a plastic eating cow, while at the same time repairing a relationship that has suffered from Matthew’s self-righteous attitude. West of Independence is an affecting tale of family conflict, the need to be loved, and the capacity for change.