Notes from NYC: Liquid Inspiration

Ernest Hemingway famously may or may not have said, "Write drunk, edit sober." And regardless whether or not this is actually a Hemingway quote, an actual study by actual studiers found it's actually true. (Thanks, Fast Company!) With that in mind, it would seem irresponsible of me not to drink everything in sight while I'm on my writer's retreat. 

Fortunately, this is New York City, and there are plenty of drinks in sight.

Here are a few boozy highlights that have been giving me my summer author superpowers so far:

Cheeky Negroni

Last week was Negroni Week, which is a pretty cool concept from Imbibe Magazine. Basically, a bunch of bars create their own special Negroni-only cocktail menus for the week, and for every Negroni you order, $1 goes to a charity of the bar's choice. Last year alone, Negroni Week raised $400,000 for charity. 

Mmmm. Tastes like altruism.

Erin and I decided to kick things off by making our own Negronis at home. Traditionally, a Negroni is gin, Campari, and vermouth, but we didn't have any Campari, so we took to the intertubes to find a variation we could make with what we had on hand. What we settled on was called the cheeky Negroni, and shut up, I can make drinks with the word "cheeky" in the name if I want.

Cheeky Negroni

  • 1 part Gin
  • 1 part Aperol
  • 1 part Lillet Blanc
  • Garnished with an orange peel twist

Let me tell you. It did not suck. And every cocktail in the world is made 87x more fun when you mix it into the fun rocks glasses Erin picked up at MoMA some years back. Mustache and glasses! Oh my God! The fun of it!!!

And don't worry, we didn't make Negronis at home to avoid the charitable donation. We enjoyed our cocktails while making a donation to Inwood House, and you should absolutely check them out, and probably give them some money, too.

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Mahoney Negroni and Motorcycle Diaries

Forest Hills Station House

Negroni Week continued! We hit up this cool little cocktail bar in Queens before heading to Forest Hills Stadium to see the New York Pops perform an evening of John Williams music (Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones and Star Wars, GOOD GRACIOUS, WHAT A NIGHT!), and we did our part for charity by getting a lovely little gin buzz on, because we are very good and giving people. We also ordered a the Motorcycle Diaries cocktail, because there were two of us, and we needed two drinks, 'cause that's just math.

By the way, pay close attention to the fact that the Motorcycle Diaries had raw egg white in it. That's right. I braved salmonella for this shit. I'm hard AF.

Mahoney Negroni

  • Bols Genever Gin
  • Carpano Antica
  • Campari
  • Creme de Fraise
  • Walnut Bitters

*A donation from the purchase of every Negroni was made to givemeshelterproject.org

Motorcycle Diaries

  • Lavender infused Macchu Pisco
  • Honey
  • Lemon
  • Raw Egg White
  • Orange Bitters
  • Basil Blossom
  • Olive Oil

Beach Bonfire and Drinking at the Gym

Huckleberry Bar

Boy, I'll tell you what. People in Manhattan do NOT like going to Brooklyn. And people in Brooklyn do NOT like going to Manhattan. Turf wars are weird.

Anyway, Erin and I ventured out to Brooklyn, borough battles be damned, to meet a couple friends for dinner. We headed out a little early and stopped in at Huckleberry Bar for a drink on the way. We split a Beach Bonfire and a Drinking at the Gym, and now I sort of wish Brooklyn weren't so off-limits, because I really want to go back for more. 

Ugh. Turf wars. 

Shoutout to the bartender whose name I definitely forget, but who was VERY knowledgeable about the various amaros and amaris, of which this place had a pretty great selection. He even let us try a glass of his favorite for free. DON'T TELL THE MANAGER! 

Beach Bonfire

  • Batavia Arrack
  • Denizen Rum
  • Lapsang Souchong Syrup
  • Amaro CioCiaro
  • Lime Juice
  • BBQ Bitters

Drinking at the Gym

  • Medley Bros. Bourbon
  • Lemon Juice
  • Bell Pepper Syrup
  • Honey Syrup
  • Peychaud's Bitters
  • Tapatio Hot Sauce

Mezcal Southside

The Vine

Percy, the Beverage Director at The Vine, is an old friend of mine from high school, so I like to do him the very great honor of stopping into his bar when I'm in town and allowing him to give me free drinks. (You're welcome, Percy! This is what friends are for.)

Fun fact! Percy was also the co-author and one of the stars of Death and McCootie, my play that premiered at the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival!

Anyway. On to his drinks. I hate to admit it, but Percy has somehow managed to become supremely talented at dreaming up fun, delicious twists on great, classic cocktails. The Vine offers a really great and unique Negroni, and a wet gin martini that packs a punch. But this time around, we opted for the possibly-racially-insensitively-named Mezcal Southside. (Look, I'm sorry, Percy, it's true.) As you may have noticed from the picture, it is green. It looks like Ecto Cooler in a rocks glass. But it is not Ecto Cooler in a rocks glass. It is, somehow, tastier than that. 

Mezcal Southside

  • Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
  • Cucumber
  • Lovage
  • Lemon

Editor's Note: What is lovage? I do not know. 

Okay, but, like, what are you writing?

Ah! This, I am almost ready to reveal. Check back later this week for a full rundown of the five--yes, that's right, FIVE--projects I've been tackling since I got to New York! CAN YOU EVEN STAND THE SUSPENSE?!

I'll also share more of what I've been drinking next week! If you'd like any further details on the cocktails above, or on the bars where you can find them, let me know! Find me on social media (@Claytonsaurus on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter) or shoot me an email by filling out the form below! 

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Notes from NYC #1

The first week here in NYC has been an amazing cultural re-set. Did you guys know they have, like, theatre in New York? And museums and shit? It's great! And the cultural tourism has been great for my own inspiration...I've written more in the last seven days than I have in the last seven weeks. 

So what's inspiring me this week?

jeffkoons

Jeff Koons!

"Seated Ballerina," at Rockefeller Center through June 2

Jeff Koons' work is as whimsical as it is beautiful, and "Seated Ballerina" is no exception. The inflatable sculpture is gorgeous, ambitious, delicate, and powerful. That's a combination that distinguishes the abilities of a true artist. I am so glad I was able to see this before they pack it away tomorrow!

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Theatre!

Julius Caesar, from The Public Theatre's Free Shakespeare in the Park program

Not only was this performance free (thank you, Public Theatre!), but it was also one of the finest iterations of Shakespeare I've ever seen, Julius Caesar or otherwise. The cast was an absolute force of nature; Cory Stoll as Brutus; Elizabeth Marvel as Antony (that's right, a woman as Antony, and MAN did she kill it); Gregg Henry played a pitch-perfect Trumpian Julius Caesar; John Douglas Thompson played the part of Cassius, and damn it all if he's not my new favorite actor of all time. The rest of the cast was equally amazing, and watching this cast act its collective heart out in the rainy cold of Central Park during a blustery early-summer cold front was just jaw-dropping. If there's one thing that makes a writer want to write, it's got to be a timeless script acted impeccably and directed with so much passion and verve that you don't think twice about sitting through the rain to watch a show that's more than two hours long with no intermission.

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More Theatre!

The strange and whimsical Ernest Shackleton Loves Me

I also saw the charmingly strange two-person musical Ernest Shackleton Loves Me. The show was pretty fun, but it's the talents of the two actors that really blew me away. The female lead was played by Valerie Vigoda, who is an electric violinist and songwriter, and who also wrote the music for the show. She played the hell out of that electric violin, and the live looping musicial tech work that accompanied the show was pretty incredible. The male lead was Wade McCullom, who just blew me away. He played a handful of different characters, and MAN was he fun to watch. The show (written by Joe DiPietro, the brilliant writer behind Memphis and I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change) is an odd little concept piece, but their passion made it really work. It definitely swirled a few new ideas around in the old noodle.....

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Nature!

A view of Central Park

Did you know I'm training for the New York City Marathon? It's true! Can you believe that? I guess we all make questionable decisions sometimes. At any rate, it's been pretty extraordinary, running through Manhattan, and you can expect a full post about it in the very near future. But for now, suffice to say, there's a lot of beauty here, and my favorite thing about running is that it helps me clear my otherwise-raucous-and-rowdy mind. 

By the way, I'm training with Team to End AIDS, a training group sponsored by AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and I pledged to raise $3,000 for the non-profit in order to train with them. So this probably won't be the last time I ask...but they do SO much incredible work for people with AIDS and HIV in Chicagoland, their work is incredibly important, and if you can find it in your heart and in your budget to give, literally any amount will help! You can donate by clicking here, and everyone who donates will get their name on my race-day jersey! And seriously. Any amount. ANY amount will go so, so far. Thank you!!!

So all this inspiration is great...but what am I writing now?

Great question! And I'm almost ready to reveal a couple new projects. I just need to make sure they have legs first. But I've been working on three new projects this week, and I'm more than a few thousand collective words in, so I think we can safely assume that success is imminent. More on those very, VERY soon!

In the mean time, if you're not signed up for my newsletter yet, this is a great time to rectify that particular wrong! Sign up now, and you'll get a FREE copy of my first short story collection, Pants on Fire: A Collection of Lies! Just sign up below!

Summer Residency: NYC

Okay, look, I admit it. Inspiration has been hard to come by these days. 

If you read the blog regularly, this probably isn't news to you, since I haven't posted in over eight months. (Whoops.) But what can I say? Some days you want to write, and some days you want to put on soft pants and watch Hulu marathons for twelve hours straight.

And some days, those latter days happen every single day for eight months worth of days.

There are probably a few reasons I could point to on why inspiration has been lacking lately. I had some Major Life Upheaval in 2016, and it's been hard to get back on track, creatively speaking. But it's hard for me not to write, ideas get backed up and boxed in, and it's frustrating as hell, especially when I have so many things I should be working on. Post-Apocalypticon has really stalled. I should have finished a new draft of my new play, The Depths, before the new year. I've got the front and back cover designs for the second Na Akua book, but no words to put between them. My friend and favorite collaborator, Steven Luna, and I have been toying around with a few projects, and we haven't been able to get any of them going.

I have so much to do, so much I want to do, and almost no drive to do it.

So enough is enough. It's time to get back in the driver's seat and find some inspiration.

Enter New York City.

I've been fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to spend the next six weeks in Manhattan, and I've decided to take it, as sort of a self-imposed creative residency. 

I'm just, like, so Bohemian, I can hardly stand it.

I tend to find inspiration in the creative work of others, and I can't think of anywhere in the world better suited for cultural exploration than New York City. I landed in Manhattan last week, and my goal for the next month and a half is pretty simple: see some shows, listen to some music, visit some museums, bop around the city, and write, write, write. 

And I want to take you with me.

I'll be sharing some of my favorite finds here on the blog, and I have no doubt I'll be posting like mad on my Instagram and Facebook accounts. So strap in, hold tight, and watch out for rats. The summer residency starts now. 

It's gonna be a hell of a summer.

Episode 5: The Monsters of Na Akua

In my new novel, Na Akua, I plumbed the depths of Hawaiian mythology and legend to give my story as much solid footing as possible. Mostly, that meant researching the various gods of Hawaii and making sure my characterizations of them were accurate...but it also meant picking out some of the more sinister and thrilling monsters from ancient Hawaiian legend and repurposing them for my own selfish narrative! In this episode of The Mainlander's Guide to the Legend of Hawaii, we explore three of those devious creatures in all their dangerous glory!

 

This episode is brought to you by Na Akua! 

 

Episode 4: Kanaloa

Every mythology has its own version of the poor schmo who gets stuck on Underworld duty. And in Hawaii, that was Kanaloa, Polynesian god of sorcery, spirits...and squid. Today, we explore just how Kanaloa got stuck with the terrible job of guarding the Caves Below the World!

A Closer Look at Na Akua

You've heard the name. You've seen the cover. But you're probably still wondering, "What the heck is this Na Akua book all about, anyway?" Well, wonder no more! It's time to say aloha to Grayson, Polunu, and the rest of the Na Akua gang!

The Title:

"Na Akua" (nah ah-KOO-uh) is Hawaiian for gods or the gods.

Fun fact: In Hawaiian, "na" makes a word plural, so "akua" means god, and "na akua" means gods. If you've heard of the Na Pali coast in Kauai, the word "pali" means cliff, so Na Pali means cliffs. Which, again, if you're familiar with Na Pali, is pretty dang accurate.

The Synopsis:

Here's the official blurb from the back of the book:

"Maui was supposed to be a romantic trip for two. But when Grayson Park’s bride leaves him at the altar, a solo trip to paradise seems like just the thing to take him far from his troubles. Then he meets the beautiful and enigmatic Hi’iaka, and his troubles just begin—because when she’s abducted by the sinister Kamapua’a, a savage creature bent on draining her life by the light of the full moon, she calls on Grayson to rescue her. With his loyal, new-found Hawaiian friend Polunu as his steadfast guide, Grayson sets out on an incredible adventure that pits him against the very gods of Hawaiian mythology and leads him to the heart of Pele’s volcano, into the ocean to find the mythical Hook of Maui, and through the strange and brutal upcountry fleeing from demonic mo’o sent to destroy him. But there are only two nights left before the moon becomes full, and Grayson is running out of time to save Hi’iaka...and himself."

The Series:

Oooooh, yes, my friends. Na Akua isn't just a book...it's the first book in a series that I think is going to be pretty extraordinary (though I admit, I'm a little biased). The next two books in the series are in the early stages of being plotted, but the working titles are Na Akua: Namaka's Revenge and Na Akua: The Search for Kane. GET READY!

The Early Feedback:

Members of my exclusive early-reader club, The 99, are starting to trickle in with reviews, and here's what they're saying so far:

"Easily your best yet! It's got everything Apocalypticon had, but so much more!"

"So Neil Gaimanesque! Right up there with American Gods and Anansi Boys!"

"Read the book today and could not put it down. I really enjoyed it tremendously. I thought it was wonderful!"

The Release:

Na Akua hits Amazon on Tuesday, Sept. 13! If you're not part of my newsletter list, let me know, and I'll send you a notification when Na Akua goes on sale! Just drop your email address in the box below!

Book Cover Reveal for Na Akua!

Holy smokes! We're getting close to the September 13th launch date of my next novel, Na Akua, and I couldn't be more thrilled! I haven't been this excited for a book since Apocalypticon. This new novel has the same spirit, with even more adventure, a fair share of romance, and a whole pantheon of Hawaiian gods.

Now that we're so close to the release, I thought it was finally time to share the book's cover. It was designed by the unceasingly impressive J. Caleb Clark, who also designed the covers for It Came from Anomaly Flats and Pants on Fire: A Collection of Lies. I told him I wanted a cover that captured the essence of old, vintage Hawaiian travel posters while planting the story firmly in modern times and highlighting the adventure and danger of a man going up against the old gods of Hawaii.

In hindsight, it was a pretty ridiculous request.

But man. He nailed it.

At least, I think he did! But what about you? What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Leave them in the comments!

Oooooh, Grayson, you done made Pele mad

Episode 3: Pele Comes to Hawaii

In today's episode of The Mainlander's Guide to the Legends of Hawaii, we learn how the powerful volcano goddess Pele first came to the Hawaiian Islands! (Spoiler alert: It involves an egg and a schnauzer.)

 

If you like the Mainlander's Guide, you'll love my upcoming novel, Na Akua! Sign up to be part of my readers group to get first dibs on the new book, coming in September 2016!