Writing Under Giant Trees ~ A View From The Keyboard of Hosho McCreesh


On the wonderful Hypertext Magazine site, Hosho McCreesh spoke a bit about his intriguing new novel, CHINESE GUCCI, and his complicated narrator: “For me, Akira represents many things about America, and masculinity that I hate. In an almost allegorical sense, I want a reader to feel about Akira the way I feel about America. America is a young, spoiled, stunted nation — one lost to façades. It’s a nation that can be brutally incurious about the world, one that views other countries simply as resources, and one that lumps the whole of Asia into a simplistic archetype that it only relates to through either an exotic wonder or warfare. But I also see America as a clever, creative, and ambitious project, one with real promise. If we can get and keep our shit together. These competing visions of America are in constant combat for me, and the soul and character of the nation are the ultimate stakes.”

McCreesh took a minute from the busy weeks around a book’s launch to share with A View From the Keyboard an excerpt from his novel, as well as a glimpse into his unusual creative workspace.
McCreesh: There are two reasons I picked this spot.

The first is simply necessity. I’m not really a “writer” so much as just a guy who writes. I have a regular 40-hour-a-week gig, so I have to find time to write when and where I can. This spot is really close to my work, and I wrote and edited a fair amount of Chinese Gucci here — in the backseat of my car, parked in this nice, shady spot (or one like it) over my lunch hour. Typically I’d kick off my shoes, and climb in the backseat with the pillows I keep in my trunk. I’d crack the windows to the breeze, set an alarm, lay down with my laptop on my chest, and start tapping away. When the alarm went off, I’d pack it all up then drive the minute or two back to work.

The second is because sitting under giant trees is relaxing, and helps keep the smaller frustrations of life in perspective. There’s truly something dreamy about staring up through sun-dappled branches into the New Mexico sky. Whatever was happening day-to-day at work, the simple act of accomplishing a little on the novel every lunch hour really protected the spark you need to have to keep going, and those hours eventually added up. What you can’t see is the liquor store a couple blocks away, which always makes for an interesting cast of characters, the type that can make you rethink the ol’ 40-hour-a-week-gig.Screen-Shot-2018-12-11-at-3.09.43-PM-2-660x400

As the photo is of the back seat of my car — where I did loads of work on the novel, I figured an excerpt set in the main character’s back seat, was apropos:


Akira woke — freezing. The windows inside the Skyline had a thin sheet of frozen condensation. He ran a fingernail along one and a little snake of soft ice unraveled, and dropped near the door lock. Akira promised he’d start carrying a blanket and some pillows in the trunk of his car for nights like this. The ugly, warm musk of stale beer sat thick in the cabin. He thought he might be sick.

Akira opened the door and stumbled out into the frost. There wasn’t a cloud in the frozen night sky, and the moon was a sliver surrounded by tiny, distant stars. The urge to throw up passed and he took a piss instead. The hot acrid stink of it almost steamed on the cold black rocks as it poured out of him, his guts draining. Back inside, he checked his phone. The battery was dead. He found his keys in the ignition, turned them, and fired the engine. The clock on the dash read 3:37 a.m.

His forehead hurt. In the rearview he noticed a red lump. He tested it with his fingers — sucking air back in through his clenched teeth as he did.

Pieces of the evening began to come back to him: Handfuls of chips stuffed in his mouth; jalapeño cheese sauce caked on his pinky knuckle; beers and beers and beers; peppered jerky; then gin, straight gin. He found the bottle in the back seat and thankfully it was still pretty full.

Hosho McCreesh is currently writing & painting in the gypsum & caliche badlands of the American Southwest. His work has appeared widely in print, audio, & online.

Thanks, Hosho, for this glimpse into your work. And thanks to everyone, as always, for reading. May your New Year bring your good luck and good stories! ~ PMc←

The Writer’s Handful with Patricia Skalka


Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

Putting together your summer reading list? Looking for a smart, tough mystery to add to it? Check out the fist in the Dave Cubiak Mystery Series, DEATH STALKS DOOR COUNTY, the debut novel by Chicago author PATRICIA SKALKA. Publishers Weekly calls this book “A tight, lyrical first novel.” High praise indeed!

Here’s the thing, though, the book has already gone into its second printing (released just weeks ago!) and if you are looking for it in Chicago bookstores, you may find that it is already sold out in many places. Hang tight, though, and place your order; more are on the way! And for those of you who live in the Chicago area, you can hear Patricia read from the book at the fabulous Tuesday Funk Reading Series at Hopleaf on Clark in Andersonville (June 3), or head out to Winnetka to The Bookstall on June 12. To hold you over for a bit before then, here’s Patricia answering a couple of questions for us.

Welcome Patricia!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

I try to write every day, but today I did not. Death Stalks Door County, my debut mystery novel, was recently published and I was awash in promotional details. From there I met with my critique group and then spent the rest of the afternoon answering emails. My thoughts on writing and reading, however, can be found in a guest blog post that went online recently at Buried Under Books.Skalka-Death-Stalks

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

I started at about age 7, writing stories at the kitchen table — feet dangling above the floor, printing my tales on coarse lined paper that I’d staple together into “books.”

What are you reading right now?

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose, an absolute gem both in terms of story and writing.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

My father once told me that anything worth having was worth sacrificing for. He wasn’t talking about writing but the advice certainly applies to anyone contemplating a career as a writer.

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

I’d have to say “cat” because I’ve done many different kinds of writing and so, like a cat, have found it necessary to be flexible and at home just about anywhere. At any rate, my cat usually dangles her tail over the keyboard as I write, and I have no doubt that she is sprinkling essence of cat into the work.


Death Stalks Door County marks the fiction debut of award-winning, Chicago writer Patricia Skalka. A lifelong reader and writer, she turned to fiction following a successful career in nonfiction. Her many credits include: Staff Writer for Reader’s Digest, magazine editor, freelancer, ghost writer, writing instructor and book reviewer. (bio from author’s website www.PatriciaSkalka.com)

→Thanks, Patricia, for the chat, and continued good luck with your debut and the series. See you at Hopleaf. And thanks, everyone, as always, for reading. -PMc←

Writer’s Block? Nothing a Glass of Wine Can’t Cure ~ The View From Samantha Hoffman’s Keyboard

View from the keyboard2


Samantha Hoffman‘s debut novel, What More Could You Wish Foris a delightful, friendly read that tells a story that will be familiar to so many of us of a certain (middle) age. With aging parents, lives filled with responsibilities and long-standing friendships, and the nagging suspicion that maybe there might be something we’ve missed, we baby boomers have hard choices ahead and behind us–just as Libby Carson, WMCYWF’s tough-yet-vulnerable narrator, does. So we (and she) go for a run, eat and drink well, work too hard, and look for solace and escape on the internet. This touching story could be one told to you by a friend; and indeed, you will feel as though Libby Carson is your friend once you’ve spent time with her. And now our friend Samantha Hoffman invites us into her writing space.FC9781250003034

Samantha: Here’s where I write. And procrastinate, and write, and think, and write, and plot, and check eBay auctions, and write. It’s where I find a million diversions (excuses) for not writing.

Could someone just please disable my Internet connection? If only…I’d have finished my new book, The Ones You Left Behind by now

Writer’s block? Nothing a glass of wine can’t cure.

What More Could You Wish For -an excerpt

He kissed me fully on the lips, a long, lingering, head-spinning kiss that made me feel seventeen. I felt the color rise to my cheeks. It reminded me of the excitement I’d felt when he kissed me so many years ago. It had made me tingle with the rightness of it. There was promise in the air back then, a promise unfulfilled. Maybe that was a little of what I was feeling now, even though I knew there was a huge chance it wouldn’t work this time around either. But you never knew, did you?

His hand caressed my cheek as if it were made of the most delicate glass. “Come on,” he said taking the handle of my rolling bag in one hand and draping his other arm across my shoulder. “I promised you soft shell crabs and drinks with umbrellas in them.”

“On the beach?”


There would be waves lapping at the shore and the setting sun painting the sky with shades of orange and red. We would toast to whatever this would be. Right this minute it felt so easy and right, like being on a picnic or playing catch in the backyard. But that could change in an instant. If I hadn’t come to see him, though, I’d never know. And the thing is there’s no rewind button in life. If you don’t take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves they’re lost to you forever.

Photo from author's website
Photo from author’s website


→You can find Chicago writer Samantha Hoffman all over the place: www.samanthahoffman.comhttps://www.facebook.com/SamanthaHoffman.Authorhttps://twitter.com/samanthahoffman. And look for her new book on Pinteresthttp://pinterest.com/samantha0402/my-next-book/. Oh, and if you are reading this today, April 2, you should send Samantha a birthday wish. Happy birthday, Samantha! And thanks for this. And thanks to everyone–as always–for reading. -PMc← 




The Island of Ex-Boyfriends ~ Stacy Bierlein’s View From the Keyboard

If you are reading this View From the Keyboard today, Thursday, April 12, 2012, then you are in luck. Especially if you are anywhere close to Chicago. You see, Stacy Bierlein, my friend and fellow Elephant Rock Books author, will be reading tonight in Chicago at the very wonderful Book Cellar on Lincoln Avenue. 7 PM. You should go. Really. You should hear this smart, funny, sexy, and talented woman read from her brand new collection of short stories A VACATION ON THE ISLAND OF EX-BOYFRIENDS. And just in case you can’t do that tonight for some silly reason like you need to spend time with your family or go to class or do your taxes (shame on you, you should have done those already!) and perhaps you live in or near Saint Louis, well then you can come to Left Bank Books on Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 4 PM and hear Stacy read. And me, too. We will be reading together then, and it should be a blast. There is even a resident cat at Left Bank; his name is Spike. How fun is that?

In any case, Stacy Bierlein is a writer to pay attention to. We were in classes together about (mumble mumble) years ago, and even then I was aware that this woman was going to have a literary career. And she does. Editor, Contributor, Writer, Teacher, Presenter. She definitely lives a literary life. And she lives it in California, lucky girl. But she can tell you about it some herself.

Here, then, is Stacy’s View From the Keyboard:

STACY: It is more difficult than I imagined to get a good photograph of my writing space. Throughout the day sunlight bursts in at odd angles–

those who know me may have noticed that I often keep a pair of sunglasses ready on top of my head. The year-round sunlight is disorienting at first to former mid-westerners. I met a man once who had moved back to Illinois saying, All that sunshine, all that optimism; I couldn’t take it anymore. My desk faces my husband’s–a decision that seemed quaint when we moved into our new home and became somewhat problematic later. I’m just saying, the key to a good marriage may very well be separate offices. My bookshelves are to the left of my desk. The day I took my books out of boxes and put them on these shelves was the day this house became home. To the right of my desk an exterior door leads to our small garden. When I’m in the office alone I leave that door open to let in the canyon noises and breezes and to allow my dog to come and go as she pleases. I somewhat obsessively painted the office walls the deepest cinnamon red to match the clay rooftops of the other houses in the canyon, as well as the small blossoms on the four plum trees in the garden. The poem attached to my computer monitor is my current favorite, “The Straightforward Mermaid,” by Matthea Harvey. It begins, “The straightforward mermaid starts every sentence with ‘Look …’ This comes from being raised in a sea full of hooks.”

Excerpt from “Why We Broke Up” by Stacy Bierlein

There was a dead rat above the engagement present closet. You kept insisting the odor came from potpourri my aunt included with a crystal bowl. It is not the smell of perfumed flowers, I kept telling you; it is the smell of death and decay. We pulled every single box, every glass, carafe, and bowl, from that closet. Nothing. I called an exterminator. He held his nose the moment he walked in and said, You have a rat all right. As far as he could tell it got in by crawling under a loose tile on the roof. It must have been trapped in the rafters between the roof and the ceiling. We could tear a hole and look for the carcass or we could just let nature take care of it, understanding the smell would get worse before it got better—our gorgeous gifts destined to sit in the stench.

You claimed not to know what a Twitpic was, yet you knew how to save them and kept an interesting collection. My friend Dara offered her Spyware but I was tired. I had limits.

Most mornings the California sky is cornflower blue. The world’s first tweet was sent on a foggy March morning at 9:50 a.m. In ancient animal legends a rat would arrive first to a party. Originally it was prophesy, not curse, that forced a beauty to a hundred year sleep. Male ostriches kill themselves fighting for harems; their heads slamming too hard into one another. It is so very disruptive to fall in love.


Stacy’s Links

I am surprised by how much I like Twitter! Follow me @StacyBierlein. I recently interviewed one of my favorite authors, Josip Novakovich, for The Rumpus, http://therumpus.net/. I’m getting acquainted with Red Room and hope to post notes there soon, http://redroom.com/member/stacy-bierlein.

→Thanks, Stacy! See you tonight! -PMc←