Friday, March 9, 2018

AllI Ask...

I so admire poetry, and poets—it is not my forte. But here is one of my favorites(you might recall a line of it from the original Willy Wonka). The theme plays heavily in much of my writing—not necessarily the sailing, but the resignation, the melancholy. Not despair, but loss, and the subsequent road ahead. Coping, and trying to appreciate the many blessings, often the simple things, which remain.

Are there common themes in your work?

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; 
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Monday, February 26, 2018

A (David) Rose, by Any Other Name...

When my publisher folded the very week The Awakening of David Rose came out, my heart sank. Not that I was expecting to get rich or have a best-seller, but this was my dream, a story I had conjured a decade previous, a promise I’d made to my children, at long last come to fruition. I know a writer must ultimately be his own best marketer, but I didn’t have a budget, and the ability of the publisher to market and give it a push had been one of the most appealing things.

The ensuing weeks and months were crazy, endeavoring to properly divest from the publisher and republish on my own. But the book had always been but part one of a series—the David Rose series—and I knew somehow, someway, I wanted to attract another publisher. No easy thing, mind you, given that it was published by a now defunct publisher, and then self-pubbed by me. Publishers want a cleaner path, and more original involvement in the process.

I will demure on further details if/until I have them, but I am excited to say a good publisher is tentatively interested in the series—I am talking to them now. Good timing, as Cucariva, my literary-suspense manuscript, is being reviewed by an agent presently, and so I have dusted off D Rose II—David Rose & the Forbidden Tournament—the seven chapters I have crafted, anyway. Rachel likes it so far—kinda a rollicking opening chapter, and it—along with the whole book—involves her character more than did the first.

Anyway, fingers crossed that they’ll want to publish the series—if they do, it’ll mean intense rewrites of the first, and an ambitious turnaround on the next. Life is crazy right now, to say the least, but I work best with a deadline, and besides, when a dream comes knocking, you don’t ask it to come back at a more convenient time. You welcome it in, thank the literary gods, then you roll up your sleeves and get to work. That’s the deal. And I’m game.

Thanks, as always, for your support. Here’s a snippet from the sequel:

"No one move!" David called. "They're after me." He braced for the next assault, from whatever they were. Darting, diving shadows--yet somehow, not OF something distinct from themselves. As though fluttering animations of darkness itself. He tensed, but the next rush never came, and in that awful sliver of time when one realizes he’s made the gravest of errors, David understood why. It was not him they wanted.

He prepared to spring forward, but something in him gave him pause. Marcel, and all the strange events of the last year, had taught him things were all too often not what they seemed. But as his eyes widened and his mind attempted to register what was transpiring before them, like one of those rapid-turning flip-books, he’d no idea how things seemed. No frame of reference against which to even hazard a comparison.  This was something else entirely, something which defied somethingness. And so he stopped, hoping down to his bones that in so doing, he would not be failing Rachel yet again.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Theme Party: The Rewriting of a Novel

About 1/3 through with revisions, trying to stay on pace. Or, get back on it. After letting it sit for several months, it's a challenge to immerse back into my story and characters, because it's really about waking them up, not me. But I've found the cooling off period in fact indispensable: the editing is easier, the flaws stand out more readily, this far removed from the blinders conferred  by familiarity and pride.

Really appreciating the power of purging--not just total words, but the right words--well, scrapping the right "wrong" words, and preserving the right "right" words(hmm, there were probably better words for that). Wondrous, though, how much more lustrous those words we retain can be, unencumbered by those superfluous ones we'd once been so sure of.

And, of course, it's never just about the words: character, story, theme, are paramount. Cucariva is literary-suspense, a pretty dark(but hopeful, hopefully) tale. A few overarching themes: human nature(what is is that, when all luxury and pretense are stripped away, truly authors our lives?), redemption, perseverance, and lost love. Imperative when rewriting, to ensure the themes are credibly, and impactfully conveyed.

A snippet:

A sensibility cellular in nature: she was the love of his life, this he knew in his blood and in his bones. The one person for whom he’d been procreated into existence—blood and bones and organs and musculature and tissue—his, in its precise assembling—that he might those decades hence meet and love this woman. Who until recently had professed a devotion no less profound. And so he brimmed with this imperative and wanted to tell her he loved her, for so he did. Not to persuade her toward some starry end, but simply, because it was truth, of the most unassailable type.  And truth had become an inestimable, if faltering beacon, upon the fringe of this fathomless sea.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night...

And, I shall not. But the light, or enthusiasm for Cucariva, my literary-suspense novel to which I devoted some 18 months, had been waning. Many dozens of queries unrequited. But today,  I had an agent say she was very intrigued, and request a full manuscript. She's giving me a little time(I have no time, but shall make it) to polish up. Still a longshot, but any progress affirms perseverance, and rekindles the flame. Here's a snippet from an early chapter:
He clambered up the stairwell to the street, which tilted crazily, so that he had to steady himself on the railing. Something brushed his ankle and he looked down like an oafish giant and stared as a bevy of rats scampered past. He would cut through the park. It loomed pitch and silent beyond the pale glow of the streetlights, but soon his eyes adjusted and the park’s architecture budded into resolution like a strange, post-modern birth. The benches, the walking path, the oaks looming tall and imprinted like midnight sentries.
It was a perfect night, really. Almost enough to persuade him that the ordeal now before him was as ethereal as the stars dropping away along the slope of the blue-black firmament. The city slept. He crossed in darkness through the park, which fell out before him, flat and dark and promising ahead only darkness still, a great promontory at the edge of the earth.

We'll see what happens, but either way, I need to finish final revisions so I may do justice to the effort. There's a lot of my heart in that book. Thanks as always for your support, and I'll keep you posted.

PS: Amazing, I am reminded as I dive back in tonight, how no matter how many times you edit, you always find more...

Friday, January 26, 2018


Night, which had become his most steadfast companion, spoke to him one evening.

Why, it inquired of him, do you continue along this road? 

“Because,” the man answered, “it is the only one remaining to me. The one to which I am consigned.”

Night contemplated this a while, as the man walked on.

Forgive me, Night said at last, for I am but darkness, but I dare say you’re wrong. There is always another path. There is always turning back.

The man, requiring no contemplation, replied, “Not for me.”

Ah, said Night. Punishing yourself. You choose this path in penance.

“In truth,” said the man. “I can no more choose it than I can choose to breathe. And every breath speaks that truth. Speaks her name.”

They were silent a while more, until Night said, in scarcely a whisper: I know. I’ve heard you.

The man nodded, walked on. A latticework of stars traced across the deep-set firmament. Flickering in their fathomless remove. Planets and galaxies entire waxed beneath their aegis, these coldest of sentinels; the passing of a nameless, wayward soul, of not the slightest consequence. 

Do not begrudge them, urged Night. Even their light shall one day extinguish. 

“I begrudge them not in the slightest,” said the man. “If a broken heart is the worst of my travails, I should call myself lucky.”

Be kind to yourself, Night offered. Loss is loss; pain is pain.

“Yes,” said the man. “That it is. But to have lost the love of my life, is at the very least the rawest validation of having found her. There is no greater blessing.”

Night smiled at this, in that nearly imperceptible way of things incorporeal. An easing, however brief.

What, Night asked the man, did you love most? Was she the woman of your dreams?

“She was the woman who gave me the dream,” said the man. “She was all things love and light. Light in the darkness—err, no offense—and light in the light.”

No offense taken, said Night. But light in the light—what do you mean?

“She lit up the world. Everyone. No matter how things were in that moment. Made the dark days brighter. Made the bright days, brighter still. Saw the best in me. Loved me even for my worst. Made me believe again, in the man I could be, the man I must be.”

You loved her deeply.

“Still, and always.”

There must be anger; there must be pain. 

“Only the latter,” said the man. “Sometimes I want to be angry, but I can’t. She is the only soul on earth for whom my heart cannot harbor an angry sentiment. Even in this pain, there is but love. That is her legacy, whether she desires it or not. Even in her absence, she’s taught me true love.”

They walked on, these sojourners. At length, a wind kicked up, and the smell of rain perfumed the air.

Storm coming, Night said. 

“And let it,” said the man. “Therein resides one reason more. She was at once, my storm and my refuge. Never did my heart know such tempest, and such peace. No matter that she’s severed it, never a stronger connection have I felt.”

To this day?

“For all days. No matter where we were, with her, my heart was always home. She remains, and ever shall be, my touchstone.”

The storm grew nearer, but they walked on, for their road was their road, and the storm was a storm, neither the first nor last they would encounter.

You still live for her. 

“In many ways, yes.”

And would you die for her?

“Aye,” said the man. “I have.”

Monday, January 1, 2018

Ringing in the Grind...

Talk about a cold open, 2018. The intrepid canine and I ventured out into a sunny, -5-degree morning, he, the Great Pyrenees, infinitely more suited in his God-given coat. He stalked on out, invigorated, as I shivered along, thinking through clacking teeth, I need to write today.

And every day, really. New Year’s Resolution? Sure, why not? But soon the revelry and inspiration will wane, spiraling away like my frozen breath on this artic morning, and what then? For such is the nature of things: the excitement ebbs, the guests trickle home, even our Muse, especially any other than the one greeting us each day in the mirror. Life goes back to its daily grind, but, you know, that’s the thing, isn’t it?

Writing IS a grind, for most of us anyway. “It is by sitting down to write every morning,” noted Gerald Brenan,  “that one becomes a writer.” Sure, we’ll have moments of epiphany (too cold and too tired to conjure the adjective for that…epiphaneous? Epiphanific? Spellcheck has rebuked both). But even those moments of precious elucidation are fleeting, and we must return to the grindstone, for it is at once our whetstone, our covenant. Oh, the Muse might visit, but don’t give up your chair. She might toss you a bone, but she really only came back for her hat. Keep at it. “If I waited for perfection,” said Margaret Atwood, “I would never write a word.”
I write fiction, but one of my favorite scribes is nonfiction icon Erik Larson, who told me, among other things, that what separates an amateur from professional, is completion. Write the thing. And yes, there are indispensable ingredients, but as Doctorow reminded us, “Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”
That it is. So be it resolved that today, we’ll write. And again, tomorrow. Even if only a little. And if you miss a day, start over the next. The grind will keep grinding, after all. “Writing,” said Gwendolyn Brooks, “is a delicious agony.”
Write on.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Life IS Pain, Princess....

Always fun to reference The Princess Bride. And what about the quote above? Sage words from Mr. Hemingway? For me, yes. Happy, saccharine writing is bad writing, from me, anyway. Finding some silver linings, perhaps, some windows of redemption, in a world gone otherwise dark? Now there's some territory to mine.

To wit, this excerpt from my work in progress. Kind of an undercurrent of much of my work. What about you? You prefer happy writing, or at least, happy endings? Is your best work extracted by giving voice to your pain? Please weigh in...

Losing her cut him to the quick, and the pain never ebbed. Only deepened, in fact. And where was the mystery in this? She was the love of his life, and this love redoubled with each beat of his heart, and continued to do so no matter her absence, for it was a devotion born not of possession, but bequeathment. A heart given over. A life. He missed her beyond all measure, but his wish was no longer for her return, but for her happiness.  For one fallen faithless,  his lone, remaining gospel. And so it pierced like a knife, one he wasn’t certain he’d pull out if he could. No masochism in this, pray tell; no ill-conceived martyrdom. He simply feared what would happen when the blade at last came out; that all the life would run out of him, and it wasn’t the emptiness which scared him most, but rather the thought of what cold, sinister things might find their way in.