If this is cabin fever, shouldn’t we have a cabin?

Is this what it feels like to be a shut-in?

I haven’t been out of the house all that much since the dog bite. Apart from the reading last Wednesday (which was probably overdoing it, as my ankle swelled up after that), a doctor’s appointment last Friday, and brunch on Sunday, I’ve spent most of my time parked on the sofa or shuffling back and forth to the kitchen. On the bright side, my leg is feeling much better, and the swelling went down a lot after they took out the stitches on Friday (a bizarre although not quite painful sensation).

I have taken a ridiculous number of photos of my leg over the past week. Mind you, "a ridiculous number" is any number over zero.

I have taken a ridiculous number of photos of my leg over the past week. Mind you, “a ridiculous number” is any number over zero.

Additional bright side: new Ace bandage! Velcro makes everything easier. I never want to see one of those pesky little metal teeth clips again.

You would think I might be getting a lot of work done, and I did for a little while. I applied for several jobs, submitted stories to about five magazines, revised a sixth story, and made a little progress on a seventh, as well as work on my next novel.

That was all in the first few days. Since then, I’ve entered the phase of recuperation that’s called “climbing the walls.” The main reason I tend to ride my bike to the library or coffee shops to work is so I can get away from the house. I’ve barely left it in the last 12 days and it’s making me a little frazzled. I used to think that when I was old enough to retire and I could do nothing but sit around the house and read and maybe do some writing, I’d be so damn happy. This episode has made me realize that if I don’t get a regular change of scenery, I will lose my mind.

Thankfully, my cooped-up-in-the-house phase is coming to an end. Yesterday I did get out—for a doctor’s appointment, but I’ll take what I can get. On the bright side (three bright sides in one post! It’s so bright, let me put on my sunglasses), things are healing. I also managed to get to the gym in the morning—all upper body, obviously—then out to dinner last night. Today, I’ll be getting out for the first meeting of my YA writing workshop at Meramec.

Nervous? Who, me?

(Yes, me.)

It’ll be good to be doing something productive though, not to mention gainful. I’ve been applying for work for the past three months without any luck, which does of course mean I’ve had more time for writing and revising. Which is productive, but doesn’t immediately put money in the bank. And as much as I’d like that not to be a concern, well, it is.

Video of my reading at Left Bank! Watch me stutter and reach awkwardly for my water!

As promised, here’s the video from last Wednesday’s reading at Left Bank Books, along with the Q&A, which starts around the 30-minute mark.

Yes, it’s like a 40-minute video and I don’t know who’d want to sit through the whole thing, but during the Q&A I discuss what I’m working on at the moment, how awesome my MFA program at the University of British Columbia was, and how I’ll be teaching a YA writing class at Meramec’s continuing ed program starting this Thursday.

Ricker-Writing-Fall-2014Yes, really, I’m going to be teaching. Me, of all people. I know, right? I’m also doing a short story workshop later in the fall. Click the picture on the right and download the flyer if you’re interested in signing up—or even if you’re just curious.

I’m excited! And nervous. But I’m hoping mainly that it’ll be fun and productive for people. The best thing? The assignments I have laid out for the YA class are things I’m doing myself right this moment. (No, really. I have a Scrivener window open and I’m working on my outline for the sequel to The Unwanted when I’m not writing this blog post.) So by the end of the class, if I’ve done my job right, I’ll have an outline and first chapter completed too….

New (old) story, “The Visitor”

A long time ago (2009—it seems like so much longer), I wrote a story for a litmag called Collective Fallout titled “The Visitor.” It appeared in the Vol. 2, No. 1 issue, which doesn’t look like it’s available from their LuLu store anymore. It’s a story about a guy visiting his out-of-town friend and falling into a fling with the man upstairs—who may not be exactly what he appears to be:

It’s the firsts with Dale that stand out in my mind: The first time he smiled at me; the first time our hands accidentally collided when we both reached for the sugar at the South City Diner, how Dale had withdrawn his hand and let me have the sugar, and how I’d wished I’d let go and taken Dale’s hand back instead. How we stood outside Dale’s front door while I hemmed and hawed until, after a silent, awkward moment, Dale asked if I’d like to come inside.

Other firsts, I remember those too.

You can read the rest of the story over on Wattpad. Let me know what you think!

Pictures from the reading at Left Bank Books

This was so much fun! Even with the gimpy leg, I managed not to fall off of my high chair during this Wednesday’s reading at Left Bank Books. First of all, thank you to everyone who showed up to hear me read from The Unwanted and to ask questions. It felt really good to see so many people there. And thank you for supporting our hometown bookstore! Thanks to Shane and Cliff at Left Bank, who put the evening together, and thanks to Kea and Kris, who set it up.

My friend Leah Givens from Writers under the Arch was there, and she took a few photos. Thanks, Leah!

Thanks also to my partner, Mike, who videoed the reading. I’m hoping to put that up soon.

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“Snowblind” in BEARS OF WINTER out now

The Bears of WinterYou may recall my mentioning that a story of mine, “Snowblind,” was going to be published in the Bear Bones Books anthology The Bears of Winter. (Or maybe you don’t recall. That’s okay. Things come up; I get it.) The print edition isn’t due until November, but guess what? You can get the digital edition right now. Go to Goodreads and add it to your to-read shelf. Then, head over to Bear Bones Books to buy the ebook or pre-order in print.

It’s kind of funny, but even as a contributor, I can’t wait to read this anthology. It’s my first time writing a bear-themed story, and I did stretch the theme a bit with my story. I can’t wait to read how others tackled the concept. It’s one of the things I really enjoy about writing stories for Jerry Wheeler-edited anthologies: he comes up with some off-the-beaten-path themes and is open to interesting twists on that theme. For him, I’ve written about love on a train on Mars, grief and romance in a restaurant kitchen (along with some magical bread pudding in an homage to Like Water for Chocolate), and now romance with a bearish man on an ice planet at the edge of explored space (or, as we called it in emails to each other, “BEARS IN SPAAAAAAAAACE!”). I hope I’ll get the chance to write something “out there” for him again.

UPDATE: The Bears of Winter will also be available soon as an audiobook at Audible.com. More info on that when it’s live. Also, there’s a Facebook page set up for the book, which you can check out here if you like.

Lastly, look what arrived in the mail today!

Bears of Winter, non-bearish author

Reading from ‘The Blizzard’ at the Lambda Literary Retreat

You may recall, earlier in August, I took part in a group reading presented by the Lambda Literary Foundation as part of their Emerging Writers Retreat. It looks like Kyle Sawyer, who filmed all of the readings, has been a busy guy ever since then, because they’re all showing up on Lambda’s Vimeo feed. Check out my reading below. It’s from a story called “The Blizzard,” which I’m working on revising now:

You can check out the rest of the readings here on Vimeo. They’re worth watching; so many talented people attended the retreat!

Who let that dog out?

You probably can't tell, but I'm flexing my right calf to make them look more balanced. It's totally not working, is it?

You probably can’t tell, but I’m flexing my right calf to make them look more balanced. It’s totally not working, is it?

Getting attacked by a dog was not how I expected my weekend to start. Of course, does anyone ever expect their weekend to start that way? Probably not. But, that’s what happened, as I was biking through the intersection of Shaw and Tower Grove and the pit bull/shepherd mix, a stray from a rescue group, leapt out the back window of a car and chased me down.

I have never been quite so terrified. I’ve also never bled quite so much. It’s not quite twenty-four hours later now, and following seven hours in the emergency room and somewhere between one and two dozen stitches in my left calf, I’m at home waiting for the time to pass so I can take my next dose of Vicodin. Funny how it’s supposed to last for six hours and yet it seems to wear off faster than that. The dog also got two fingers on my left hand where I was trying to pry his jaw off my leg. He didn’t get them badly, but they’re sore enough that signing books on Wednesday at Left Bank Books might be a little extra fun! Apologies in advance if my penmanship is somewhat lacking at that time. At least I’ll have an interesting story to lead with now… I mean, besides The Unwanted, which I’ll be reading from and which is totally interesting and which you should read. Or better yet, come to the story and buy a copy. And watch the somewhat hobbled lefty sign it.

(A small aside: when they asked me what I did for a living in the ER and I told them writer, I did tell them about the novel and the event coming up. Even when bleeding profusely, never pass up a marketing opportunity.)

It’s best to keep a sense of humor about these things when you can, right? The ER nurse who was doing triage asked me, “Did you know this dog?”

“We didn’t really have time to get acquainted, although we did bond for a little while.”

“Yeah,” she replied, “for a while you two were tight.”

Laughter is the best medicine, I’ve heard. I think that’s not entirely true. The best medicine is Vicodin. Almost time for my next dose. My mom said this meant I couldn’t have a glass of wine, and I mentioned that at one point in the past I might have washed down a painkiller with a glass of chardonnay. Nonetheless, it’s too early in the day for that.

This is just the sort of thing you want to happen when you’re “funemployed!®” but let’s be real, there’s never a good time to be mauled by a dog. The funny thing is (well, not “ha-ha” funny), one of the texts I sent to Mike after it happened was “I know this sounds weird, but lucky it was me and not someone younger or older.” The rescue group is covering my bills for the hospital and so on, which I didn’t even have to ask them to do. They’re a good organization, one that we’ve donated to in the past and participated in trivia nights to raise money for.

When my friend Ruth heard about what happened, she said, “All dogs should be nice to you because you’re so good to dogs. Flawless logic.” I like her logic, and only wish that were the case. That said, I still love dogs. I’m just glad our dog is 10 pounds and loves me, and is not extremely reactive to bicycles.

I’m not going to stop biking either. Well, I mean, obviously I’m not going to be biking in the immediate future, because ow. But biking is one of the main ways I keep both my carbon footprint and my waistline in check, and let’s face it, this was a fluke.

So, how’s your weekend going?