Saturday, December 24, 2011

Five Books to Read: #1 - Nothing Like It in the World

After completing my own book (GetItHere), I thought it worthwhile to discuss books that shaped my mindset and style, those books that meant enough to me to warrant multiple readings and quiet reflection. One of those five books (all of which will be discussed in this blog but in no particular order) is detailed below...


There are noteworthy decades in our county's history when great things occurred: the 1770s, the 1800s, the 1930s. Few have defined our nation more than the 1860s. The entire world watched as the United States spent four of the bloodiest years in history fighting for its future. It was horrific and fascinating, and the countries of the world watched to see how the globe would be shaped. Warfare blossomed into the modern era as weapons and strategies evolved. Our nation came out of the war stronger and with a solid identity, and the world anxiously waited to see how we would put our mark back on the planet after so much internal strife. Were we a warring nation on the hunt for new enemies? What should they expect?

The answer came in the guise of a road, a special road of gravel and iron. Railroads were nothing new to the world, the system having thought to have been perfected by Europeans decades earlier. The Civil War showed the importance of the rails, though. Where we were once tied to waterways that offered trade and transport, we now were anchored to the Iron Horse.

But, where the Europeans came up short was their vision of the possibilities. In 1863, while the war still raged on, Abraham Lincoln signed the authorization of a railroad to stretch from coast-to-coast, a transcontinental railroad that would connect Sacramento with Omaha and turn a 6-month journey by carriage into a 6-day journey by train.

Nothing Like It in the World by Stephen Ambrose is the compelling story of key participants in the endeavor from both sides, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific, as they churn toward each other on the crest of a wave of metal. As he does in all his historical novels, Ambrose opens the door on a fascinating time period in all its grim detail. The keys to the story are the characters, though, and all but the most learned of scholars will be unsure of the fates of those involved. Visionaries key to the construction of the railroad such as Grenville Dodge and Theodore Judah are detailed in a way that allows you to root for them against the blatantly corrupt methods practiced by the businessmen of the era.

For those that are interested in the time period or the construction of the railroad, the book goes into great detail on the people and techniques of the time. Hardships are extreme, successes rare. The poorly treated Chinese in the west fight their way through walls of rock in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In the east, hordes of union and confederate soldiers, fresh from the battlegrounds of Virginia, breed hate and discontent as they lay rails and pour grade next to each other along the open ground in the Midwest. The technical achievement is unrivaled, but the biggest takeaway from the book is leadership, the benefits to great and the disasters due to a lack.

The lessons to be gained are countless. Modern students of leadership can learn the evolution of leadership from 150 years ago to now. The aspects that defined the day are markedly different than those currently utilized, for numerous reasons, and each can be a teaching opportunity. Examples of the dangers of naivete rear their heads, most notably in the story of Judah, a brilliant engineer that found himself far out of his element when dealing with the Big Four backers of the Central Pacific Railroad, a group including Leland Stanford of university acclaim.

How do you convey your vision to others?
How do you ensure that your vision holds when others become involved?
How do you persevere when setbacks occur each day, any one of which would be proper justification for abandoning the task?

It's a testament to the men of the day and the spirit of a nation that such a creation was begun during the darkest times of our country, only to be joined by the hardened men of both sides who came together to complete a world wonder. By 1869, the two railroad groups were laying track alongside each other as politicians debated where to lay the connecting spike. One hundred years before the world would sit together and watch Americans land on the moon, they were running to stores for newspapers detailing the joining of two sides of a nation. It was THAT big a deal.

And, Stephen Ambrose does an amazing job of making sure the reader is there for every bit of it.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Making a more 'lean' manuscript...

The words I have written and turned into Number 181 (GetItHere)are exactly what I envisioned when I started putting pen to paper. Ok, it was mostly fingers to keyboard, but there was some actually pen work, as well. As it sits now, the book is about 143,000 words, and I could care less whether it is 50,000 of 500,000. It's as long as it should be.

But, I've come to realize that most agents and publishers are extremely wary of first time novelists that come up with a manuscript that... cumbersome. Sure, Stephen King has 800 page books, but he's got a following that will forgive him some exposition if it leads to a good story. It also doesn't help that much of the first part of my book *builds* to action rather than opening the door to explosions right out of the gate. I'm extremely proud of the first few chapters, chapters that I went back and added when I felt characters needed a bit more development and history.

But, agents ask for the first chapters of a book as sample of one's work. They don't ask for the first action scene or biggest twist. So, though I am very proud of the first chapters in my book, I've made the executive decision to remove them when offering my manuscript to agents for their perusal. By my estimation, it will bring the final word count down to the 125,000 word range, a much less frightening number to agents, or so I'm told. Obviously, you should 'tighten up' your work before offering it for representation, but there is little extraneous info in Number 181. If it weren't for the 'Perception of Length' in the literary world... I wouldn't touch it.

It will have the novel starting where I initial had it placed months ago (Boom! Explosions!), and still tell the same story. But, it will lack some back story on compelling characters. Thankfully, Shawn's piece will be unaffected. And, let's be honest, he's the one that matters!

The book available at Lulu will remain unchanged as I feel it matches the vision I had for the story. But, I think it may cause difficulties going forward with representation.

Make no mistake, though, if I get an agent to bite on the abridged manuscript, I will share the fact that I have 15,000 more words of awesomeness a click away that I could throw back in to the mix!

This whole process is fascinating to me... But, I fear the day my squirrel-like attention span snaps to the forefront, and I move on to other endeavors.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

1) Write well. 2) Be interesting.

As some of you know, I had little to no intention of having my book *cough*GetItHere*cough* be anything more than a spine sitting up on my shelf that I could point to as my own creation. Opening that first box from the printer and seeing an actual book with my name on it... wow.

Once I finished writing it, though, I became part of a writing community that surprised me with terms that were foreign to me or that I hadn't considered: Query, YA, AAR... Agent. So, I thought to myself, what does it actually take to find an agent to represent you? What does it take to get a publisher? The long and the short of it is that it's like any interview.

You need something to be sold. Note: This helps if it's actual writing experience, but what's important here is a completed manuscript. My research into contacting agents shows that a surprising number of writers contact literary agencies without having finished (or started?!) their book. Huh? I don't get that at all... Perhaps they don't want to 'waste' time writing if no one will buy it. As someone who wrote for the sake of the product and not the sale, I don't follow that reasoning.

You ne
ed a résumé. This is separate from the "I have been published in such-and-such magazine," though that's a great start. That stack of résumés on your bosses desk that he or she is sifting through in order to find the next salesman? The literary equivalent of that is the query. It's a brief introduction letter that has to 1) explain your novel, 2) explain who you are, 3) tell why you are the one to write the story, 4) show what books on the market are similar to give context, 5) show how it's different from those same books since no one wants to read the same thing, 6) explain what .............

....... 47) offer the word count, and 48) convey the voice of your book.

All in about four short paragraphs. Oh, and it's thrown in a pile with dozens of other queries. And, you're not filling a desk in a sales office that NEEDS to be filled. It's entirely possible that the whole stack will get skimmed over and slid into the trash can.


I couldn't wait to get started, even if it meant no one ever answered my queries. I was mesmerized by the process. The amount of 'help' and advice online is staggering, though most agree on the main points (except for the surprising things that are totally contradictory). Entire books are devoted to How to Write Queries.

And, what have I learned? What insight do I have to offer? Easy.

It's all crap. Not queries, mind you, but the arduous process to get the perfect query. Each agent wants different things. Some want information about you, the writer. Others want sample chapters. Others want a detailed synopsis of the entire manuscript.

But, the truth is, as long as you can write, it'll work itself out. You just need a story people want to read. Agents WANT to like your book. They WANT to sign you and start lobbying for a publisher. It's how they get paid. So, here's my full-proof way to get an agent. Trust me, this will not fail... not a chance.

1) Write well.
2) Be interesting.

There ya go. That's it. As long as you aren't a crappy writer, you're through the first wicket. [Note: This is much more difficult than it sounds.] After that, all you need to do is get noticed. Be funny. Be unique (not just your writing... YOU). Be spontaneous. Be random.


Just like a desk job: be good at what you do, and be a pleasure to be around... and you have nothing to worry about.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

A second, more practical review of my novel, Number 181...

We all have our measuring sticks for acceptance and approval. My previous post with comments from an Air Force Captain really speak to the intended audience for the book and what I hope people get from it. Then, there are those that see things from a different view. I received the following review from a long-time friend of mine...

"It was so good that I wanted to keep reading it, but my legs fell asleep so I really needed to get off the toilet."

More touching words have never been spoken... Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, December 10, 2011

First Review of my novel, Number 181...

The first comments are coming in for my book, Number 181 (grab a copy here!), and I couldn't be more pleased.

I received a note from Air Force Captain Amber Smith, who really enjoyed the book, saying it made it "easy to picture the story as it's happening" with "some beautiful analogies... It's a novel, but it made me think a lot of real-life scenarios."

Anytime a writer puts thoughts down on paper, he has an image in his head of what he's trying to convey. I, for one, was curious to hear how others interpreted my words... what pictures would be painted on each of my readers' individual imaginations. Having such a strong military theme pervade the novel, I was especially sensitive to the thoughts of our military community once they had finished it. To hear such kind words eases some of those anxious thoughts.

And, then I read something from her that really struck a cord with me.

Early in the book, there is a scene that really seeks to personalize the attacks that are central to the story... a strong comment on how individual feelings are overshadowed by media and hype, sensationalism and posturing. "This phrase really made me put the book down and think about it," Amber says. "We've had several incidents in the Air Force this year that really stood out in light of this phrase. When the helo went down in Afghanistan with all the SEALS on it, everyone focused on them. We had 4 special operators on there as well, but they were barely mentioned in the small print on the news. We also lost 9 folks at the Kabul airport shooting in April."

"It just makes me wonder if that's how the NOK [next-of-kin] feels when their loved one is killed among others."

"I loved that part," she says. "Really made me think."

There are few kinder words for an author to hear than that your novel caused a measure of philosophical introspection or self-reflection. She felt strongly enough on the subject to offer up a contact in Afghanistan that expressed interest in the novel, as well. It'd be nice to get some copies over to ground forces in the Middle East or to the USO to share...

It's all about getting the word out. The more press there is, the more the books sells. More sales.... more money to the Green Beret Foundation. Let's keep it going! Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Upcoming Movie: Act of Valor

In doing research for my book, Number 181 (grab a copy here!), and during preparations for the GORUCK Challenge, I've spent a good deal of time around the men and women of our armed forces. In that time, I heard about the film Act of Valor in development. The latest trailer is available at the film's website, and it's a really great piece of cinema. Starring active duty Navy SEALs, the film is inspired by actual events and SEAL missions.

For those that considered The Hurt Locker to be a somewhat inaccurate representation of real-time, battlefield events, this film should be a welcome diversion and an excellent explanation for why I am donating proceeds from Number 181 to the Green Beret Foundation. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pictures of my work at NASA...

Like the protagonist in Number 181 ,Shawn Kidd, (check the link on this page to buy the book!) I have ties to NASA. I've spent ten years working for the space agency in Florida, Texas, and California, and it's led to some great memories...

Standing on the launch pad prior to liftoff of Discovery in 2002

One of my many stops in the world. DC in 2009

My 2010 scene from Transformers 3:Dark of the Moon with Shia Labeouf and Tyrese

Being interviewed by the History Channel's Modern Marvels in 2006

Launch support of Aquarius from Vandenberg, AFB in 2011

Summer of 2011: Crowds line the rope during the last rollout of the Space Shuttle
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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First Press Clipping

The first news clipping for my book. You've got to start somewhere, and this is from my hometown in Niceville, Florida, and the locally printed Bay Beacon. The 7th Special Forces Group is located right next door at Eglin Air Force Base, so the connection to the military and Green Berets clearly runs deep in the community.

Here's to more visibility in the future!

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Green Berets, GORUCK, and proceeds from the sales of my book

If you aren't already aware, I will be donating the proceeds from initial sales of Number 181 to the Green Beret Foundation (see the link on this page to buy the book). My ties to the military go way back, but I've become more involved with the GBF in recent months thanks to my experiences with the GORUCK Challenge. The GORUCK is a difficult thing to describe to others. It's part survival training and part obstacle course, part endurance race and part mental punishment.

Led by an active-duty Green Beret, the GORUCK is designed to build leadership skills and foster teamwork. I participated in the Savannah, GA challenge in October 2011.

26 members
20 miles
13 hours

We waded through the Savannah River. We waded through disgusting lakes. We carried each other, literally and figuratively, for 20 miles through the Savannah night, and it was one of the most challenging, most rewarding things I have ever done. I've run marathons and slogged through years at the gym, but the GORUCK is all about taking yourself to the limits and pushing through them with the help of friends, whether you knew them before that night or not.

Each class is different. Each cadre (the active duty Green Beret leading) is different. About 20 of my group were active-duty or retired military. All were good people.

Check it out. Sign up. And, grab a rucksack full of bricks. Oh, did I forget to mention you have to carry along all your equipment...?

We had to carry a telephone pole.

For 6 miles.

Seriously, it's fun! I swear!

We started at 1am in one of the nondescript squares in downtown Savannah. I met the 25 other poor decision-makers for the first time the night before at the RuckOff, an informal event designed to tempt the participants with alcohol mere hours before the event (fight the urge!). There was a group of about a dozen that had come together from a gym in Lakeland. Note: There is a definite benefit to knowing your classmates beforehand, but it's not necessary. It was here that we gained our coupons, the items we would have to carry in addition to our brick-filled rucks. Five 5-gallon fuel tanks of water. A 25-foot coil of rope. A case full of straps, 'biners, and sapper manuals. Six cases of beer. Two telephone poles.... hang on, we'll get there.

We started off toward the bar district for some "Good Livin'" down the riverfront in full view of drunk revelers (part one of the GORUCK requirement: Bar District). We spent hours here burning through lunges, squats, and push-ups. Three hours in, we had gone about a mile. After being routinely harried by Georgians (I think, they slurred so badly we couldn't tell), we headed into the Savannah countryside, jogging miles into the dark without the calming knowledge offered by a watch or GPS. Dan, our cadre, did his best to entertain us with periodic stops for brutal training: bear crawls, crab walks, crossfit squats.

Unexpected entertainment came in the form of two cordoned off intersections where local law enforcement had established crime scenes (two scenes for three homicides total... Who had three murders in the office pool?).

After a short stop to select the two telephone poles we would be forced to lug around a lake (part two of the GORUCK requirement: Carry a log), we carted the logs and our coupons on our shoulders around an unnamed lake for a mile. Once the loop was completed, we proceeded to do pyramids with the poles (10 presses/curls/push-ups/flutter kicks, 9 presses/curls/push-ups/flutter kicks, 8...).

After setting up a observation post and as the sun began to rise, we proceeded to numb our now-aching bodies with beers (finally, we could lighten the loads we carried). Twenty blessed minutes of bonding and drinking later, we picked up our coupons (log included) and plunged into the lake (part three of the GORUCK requirement: You're gonna get wet. Wading into the Savannah River at the riverfront doesn't count). Up to our necks in pond scum, we waded a hundred yards to the other side, squats and overhead presses along the way.

Once clear of the lake, our plan had us on a return trip to Savannah. Six miles. With the telephone pole. By now, the early morning joggers and dog-walkers were awake and offering looks that were part sympathy and part I'm-Calling-The-Police. After a six-mile trudge through suburban Georgia, with a freaking telephone pole, we were tasked with one last action: carrying each other a mile to an 'evac site.'

A 3-mile jog later, we neared our finish point. But first, Dan sat us down in a very crowded and 'curious onlooker'-filled park and explained to us the role the Green Berets play in the defense of our nation and the importance of teamwork and brotherhood (Note: We did have two kick-ass females in our group). Buddy carries back to the square we started at 13 hours prior, and we were done...

... minus a terrorist threat that was caused by the discarding of our bricks in a crowded downtown area and calls to local police and the FBI after we had left. But, that's a story for another post...
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Noteworthy numbers from Number 181 (Um... other than 181).

458 - # of pages
33 - # of chapters
143,358 - # of Words
0 - # of times I changed the name of the protagonist, Shawn Kidd
41 - # of times I changed the name of his girlfriend, Sarah Melissa Elizabeth Alexis Winters
4 - # of months the book's timeline spans
5 - # of baseball-related references
3 - # of Alexander the Great references
0 - # of The Great Gatsby references
7 - Years from the penning of the first word to the last (My genius must percolate.)
81 - # of mercenaries/assassins
3 -# of booming explosions
10 - # of Force Recon Marines that make an appearance
5 - # of languages spoken by characters (Note: Pig Latin is not one of them)
5 - # of countries visited (Canada counts!)
6 - # of serious, physical injuries suffered by Kidd
Too many to count - # of serious, mental injuries suffered by Kidd

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

[Excerpt #4] A piece from further along...

I've gotta say, I'm a big fan of including excerpts from Number 181 in these posts. Since I know the context of each and its criticality to the story, it is that much more interesting to me. I think each one is a window into the story and the novel's style, but it only hints at everything going on in the scene. It's a lot of fun to pull out excerpts that inform and tease...

Kidd skidded around the corner and sped off east down the hallway. His initial frantic dash had been in order to outrun the gunfire, but now he sprinted toward the doorway to the study in the hopes of getting there before the three flankers hit the far corner. He angled hard toward it, twisting around a corner hall table, and reached for the handle of the door, throwing a shoulder at it at the same time. The door swung open, and he crashed into the room, diving to the ground and expecting bullets to chase him in as they hit the doorframe. No sounds reached him, though, and the door remained in one piece. Not knowing how much time he had before the bad guys turned down the corridor, he hurriedly jumped up and dragged his bag down off the bench.
He ripped the zipper open and tossed the arm and head across the room like they were packing material. Grabbing the pistol and knife, he returned them to the holster and sheath on his chest, already feeling more comfortable. As quickly as he could, he drew the G36 from the bag and made sure it was loaded and on its semiautomatic setting. A glance back at the open doorway showed he still had no visitors. That was odd.
Sighting down the optics, he leaned out and covered the distant, shadowy corner. He could hear the thunder from the firefight in the foyer, but in front of him, there was nothing. Warily, he began down the corridor, crouched and hugging the inner wall. A minute later, he had reached the corner without encountering any signs of the flankers. Around the corner, though, he could hear a soft, rustling sound.
Carefully, he slid his eye around the edge. The flash he caught as the attackers opened fire nearly blinded him. A hail of bullets peppered the wall to his right as they let loose with a determined barrage. Though he didn’t chance another look, they poured fire at the corner. In the split second that he had a view, he knew why. While two had covered the corner with their weapons, a third had affixed a stubby box to one side of the hallway three-quarters of the way down. He was inserting something into the bottom of it, and Kidd needed no training to know an explosive when he saw it.

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Congrats to Clayton Kershaw

Those of you that are familiar with me are aware of my passion for baseball, having played for years throughout school and then 10 years of amateur ball. In fact, I have such strong feelings on the sport that I made my protagonist in Number 181, Shawn Kidd, a former college ballplayer.

Shawn, like me, is a big fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Major League Baseball announced that Clayton Kershaw has won the 2011 NL Cy Young making for a bright spot in a long year. Here's to hoping Matt Kemp can bring the MVP trophy to Dodgertown next week, also.
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Some recommendations....

A few people have asked me to explain the genre of Number 181, and the best I can come up with is 'thriller.' That's a rather vague term, though, and I don't think it conveys the sense of the book to people interested in learning more. A possibly better way to describe the plot and pacing is by referencing other authors' works. Plus, as a bonus, I get to plug some great fiction.

All excellent writers in the thriller genre, and all authors of best-sellers. There are few novels I will pick up immediately in release... in hardcover. However, anything by these three guys is a must-purchase.
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

First books sold...

So, someone bought a book! Actually, multiple someones! I would imagine they were either good friends or people that thought they were purchasing an Everybody Poops sequel.

[Totally needs to be done, by the way... there aren't enough picture books on the market that feature an elephant dropping a #2. But, back to #181.]

The novel took many years of off and on writing to complete, but I am really happy with how it turned out. Just knowing I finished something tangible is inspiring to me. Those that know me are aware of my short attention span and lack of general motivation. But, now I have people paying their hard-earned cash to read what I wrote, and it is great! Please let me know what you think!
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Friday, November 11, 2011

[Excerpt #3] About halfway through Number 181...

Below is another excerpt, this one from about halfway through Number 181. Kidd's been through a lot by this point in the story, so portraying him as confused and dazed isn't difficult. Here, however, it's been taken to an entirely different level thanks to an... event... that he doesn't yet understand.

Screams reached Kidd’s ears, their high-pitched whine slowly dropping to an identifiable roar. The muted rumble sounded distant and unreal. He strained to identify the direction they were coming from as they bounced off each of the surrounding walls. It took several moments before he realized they were his own.
His ears rang, and his throat and eyes burned.
He couldn’t breathe.
His first few attempts to take in a breath forced debris down his throat, but whether the hard, dusty pieces were rock or glass, he couldn’t tell. He rolled over onto his stomach and forced himself to cough violently. Detritus scratched his throat like sandpaper, and his violent throes caused a cascade of dust to pour off his head. The ringing continued incessantly, only to be joined by the far off sound of pops and alarms. Carefully, he brushed the area around his eyes clear, but even that small effort caused grit to slice the skin across his brow and cheek. He finally felt he had removed enough to risk opening his eyes, and he found the floor cracked and covered in destruction. Orange lighting crossed his vision as emergency lighting flashed across the room from the corridor outside the door. The lights above him in the room were out.
Outside the door.
Kidd climbed to his knees. There was no more door. He saw pieces of it scattered around the room, but the doorway had been completely obliterated, the frame gone. Now, a gaping hole was all that remained of that entire side of the room.
Flashes down the corridor accompanied the distant pops, and he suspected he was hearing electrical explosions on the fringes of his mind. He tried to shake some sense back into it, but that brought only more pain, so he collapsed against the back wall of the room and watched shredded bits of papers and dust rain down around him. Some stuck to the dozens of small lacerations he saw on his arms. He figured the rest of him was no better off and looked up in time to see someone sprint past the gaping hole at the other side of the room, their steps muffled.
Kidd stirred. Lights flashed in and out as he brought himself to his feet. Time was passing slowly… or was it quickly? Flecks of debris flitted across his view as he struggled toward the nonexistent wall. Glancing down the hallway, he was blinded by the orange glow of emergency lighting advancing across the sea of glass. The rotating amber glow swept across the wall and floor in a wide arc, and the reflected light scattered down the hallway toward him. Using the wall to stabilize himself, Kidd found out why. Glass from the opposite windows had blown out with such force that it embedded in the dry wall. The light danced. It was horrifically beautiful.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

[Book Art] Final Cover Wrap

The cover wrap to the final paperback version of Number 181. I designed it myself, and I can be a bit overly-critical of my own work. But, I'm really pleased with the final product and am looking forward to the spine peeking out at me from my bookshelf (and my friend's!).
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[Excerpt #2] Flashback

The novel has few quiet moments, and the majority tend to be sadness-tinged, self-evaluations. However, here is an excerpt from a chapter about a quarter of the way through the book that offers a critical moment in the protagonist's past in order to better understand his current situation. I've never been to this bar, but it's the kind of place I can only imagine... seemingly between worlds. Is it due to the mysteries of the bar itself? Or, is it due to the company one keeps?

He was sitting across from Alexis in a dim, dive bar off 4th street downtown. It was their first date, and Shawn had tried to impress with a fancy dinner at a classy Italian place. But, the place had been booked, and they spent nearly two hours waiting for a table to open up. Neither of them noticed, the appetizer and drinks they ordered at the bar all the dinner they’d need. At Alexis’ suggestion, they moved to a quiet place around the corner, one of her favorites, lost in their conversation.

The jazz club was set back in an alley off one of the dark parking lots, its door a rusted steel vault. The only indication it was anything other than an abandoned rental space was the slim, mousey man that asked to see an ID as they neared. No name hung above the door, and the vault opened to reveal a pulsing haze, dark and melodic.

Twenty feet wide and miles deep, the bar swayed with the rhythm of the quiet tones, the trio of musicians in the near corner melting into the patchwork brick walls. They sat clustered around a dark black table stained with years of history and which mirrored the other furniture tossed throughout the club. Their three beers joined countless empties on the table, and the entire scene appeared to be as much a part of the bar as the stools or dark paintings adorning the walls. The music coursing through the air was better than Shawn had heard short of the old LPs he remembered his father listening to on rainy evenings.

It gave the impression of a private party. People dotted the tables and stools along the rough oak bar on the opposite wall, each lost in their own conversations and worlds. At one table, a group of four laughed silently to some unheard story. At another, a lone gentleman sat staring toward the wall sipping a cocktail. At yet another, an elderly couple sat in silence, seemingly content in simply being there together. They each melted into the bar. Part of it. Shawn felt he stuck out, an interloper in the scene of players that fit in such a way that implied they never left.

Shawn loved it. He breathed in the atmosphere and knew he wanted to remember it, his first experience with it. Alexis grabbed his hand and broke the spell, leading him to one of the back tables as they melted into the club’s canvas.

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