Erick Mertz is a fiction author from Portland, Oregon. Published by Longbranch Productions, the forthcoming novella, The Mask Of Tomorrow is his debut work of book length fiction, and the first in The Strange Air Series of Oregon based supernatural mysteries. Prior to this book’s release, his fiction has been published in Goldman Review, The Los Angeles Review and The Bethany Reader.
In 2014, he self-produced The Measurable Blood audiobook, based on a short story of the same name, published in Mad Scientist Journal. His poetry can be found in Turtle Island Quarterly, Stone Boat, Dos Passos Review, Cirque Magazine, and most recently, Baldhip Magzine.
In a previous life while an English student at The University of Oregon, he was a late night DJ at 88.1 KWVA. Currently, he writes about new music at New Noise, Pennyblack Music and Bearded UK. He has written articles on Oregon history for 1859 Magazine, Coastal Living and Southern Oregon Magazine.
A baseball fanatic, beer and food enthusiast, and unapologetic music obsessive, Erick not only considers the Pacific Northwest his home, but also his perpetual muse. When he is not writing, he also works with community-based people with Developmental Disabilities, a field where he has worked since high school.
Currently, Erick lives in Portland with his wife and son.
Like an old house where no wall is straight and no corner is exactly square, my writing career has been a constant search for structural integrity.
I was always a writer. I used to wonder with gravelly suspicion about people who weren’t pre-occupied with words and sentences, and the challenge of penning a novel.
My father was an office man. He was a mechanical engineer to be exact. He was responsible for designing massive industrial conveyor systems all over, from Seward, Alaska to Tasmania. In his world, every corner had to be perfectly square, measured lines even, plans produced in triplicate. One of my first jobs was to run prints for him and I can still see his perfect engineer’s handwriting.
Even today, some thirty-five years later, I recall the phone number to his office. On certain days after school I would call him at work before he left. I would ask about his day, but my real purpose was to request some of the notepads and pens his employer kept hoarded in the supply closet. For me, that closet was like a candy store; the spiral bound notebooks delightful places for new writing.
We lived on a country road, connected to another country road, which led to another country road that ran along a fruit orchard. There was a cherry tree atop a small hill. The shadow of that cherry tree was the outside boundary of how far, at seven years old, I was allowed to walk by myself.
Every day after school, rain or shine, I would walk out to the cherry tree where my Dad could pick me up on his way home. I could pick out his headlights from the bend in the road more than a half-mile up. Those days when I requested notepads and pens were especially exciting. I would hop into his old Ford F-150, slide up onto the bench seat where he’d have a stack of them waiting for me. He never forgot.
“Write a good one, OK?” he would say before taking us that last mile back to the house.
Once completed, my Mom would sew construction paper covers onto my books. We treated the whole process like a cottage publishing enterprise: over breakfast, I would discuss cover design, afterward we would carefully select thread and I would oversee the binding before we presented the finished product on the table like a bookstore.
Looking back my parents were a supportive pair. I’m sure they looked at that collection of silly space opera pastiches and wondered what it would all add up to.
Dad said, “write a good one” and Mom served as my publisher. Still, I wonder what they thought of the road I was setting out on.
No one tells you how to do this, other than to usually say, don’t do something like that. It’s an impractical thing, writing, perhaps the most impractical thing of all. Even without a map to where I was going, I would not be deterred though. Writing was always the thing I was going to do, one way or another. Besides, all of the more practical careers like astronaut, baseball player and President were already taken.
So, I stocked up on spiral notebook pads and pens, and began the life’s work.
As I got older, my Dad began his process of parenting my aphorism. One of his favorites was, “be careful about making too many plans” which was odd for an engineer whose life output was a roll of blue printed plans.
More genuinely though, Dad would add, “all you’ll end up at the end of the day is a person biding their time.”
He was right. The longer you sit around in the “what” and “when” the more infirm your self-definition becomes. If you just do this thing, whether that thing is a book or an article or a blog, you become the action and not the plan.
Be the verb, right? That’s what he was saying. Be the action word.
Four years ago, I met Tom Robbins at a writer’s conference. He was alone at a banquet table, waiting impatiently for someone to bring him his dinner.
My fellow writers were afraid to walk up to Tom. Having already infused myself with some liquid courage, I had no such inhibitions.
“You’re Tom Robbins,” I said.
Feigning surprise, he replied, “I am.”
“Your writing has cost me a girlfriend or two,” I said.
Then he laughed. I mean, really laughed. “Hey, me too.”
I noticed that Tom was wearing an audacious pair of Converse All-Stars. They were covered in murals of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe.
“Nice shoes,” he said.
“That’s the secret,” he replied.
Then Tom Robbins shook his head with sage disgust. “No, kid. Be memorable.”
My first self-published book, The Mask Of Tomorrow will hit the ground later this fall. Sadly, my Dad won’t be there to see it. I’ll send Tom Robbins a copy, but what are the odds he reads it?
If my Dad was here though, I would tell him that him proudly that I’m publishing it myself, and that I wrote the first draft in pen in a spiral notebooks. I don’t know if he’d fully understand. But I at least believe he’d recognize where all of this came from.
A lack of square corners. Wobbly walls. Years in, it hardly seems to make a difference. The strange road is home.
Be yourself. Be memorable.
The Mask of Tomorrow
Way out in Canyon County, Oregon the shadows seem to cast just a little longer. Maybe it’s because of the way the sunrises over Tallow Creek. Maybe it’s how shafts of summer dusk light spill out from behind the jagged peaks of the Cascade Mountains.
Or maybe it’s something deeper still, something buried long ago out in the sage grass that is only now simmering to the surface.
What took place in the early-1980’s around the burned out mill town of Josephine is one of countless untold chapters in the story of the American west. It is but a tiny, haunted sliver of a larger saga that began long before any one living there now can remember.
Taking place in a world teeming with glassy eyed drifters, stoic ranchers, heavy-pouring bartenders, and a few honest cops, The Strange Air Series of supernatural mysteries explores the unfurling of a long held cosmic secrets that threaten the rusted out husk of the American dream.
The debut book in the series, The Mask Of Tomorrow will be published in Autumn 2018. Subscribe at www.erickmertzauthor.com for updates on it’s release.
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.