Sunday, October 21, 2018

Making it Count....

My first draft of The Awakening of David Rose was more than 100,00 words. Ultimately, I pared it down by about 1/4, which is kind of par for the editing course, but I remain amazed how we can indeed produce hundreds of thousands of words of prose--millions, really, in the life of many scribes--and still, so much boils down to a few key sections, be it the first page, or even first sentence, or even the query letter or (my nemesis) synopsis in which we must somehow and succinctly capture/convey the essence of all that work...

But that's the deal, right? Agents, publishers, and most importantly, readers, are not going to read a novel to decide if they want to read that novel. We have to hook them, and if and when they DO engage, we must keep them hooked, throughout the arc and journey of even a long and voluminous tale.

I have found writing short stories and micro/flash fiction, helpful toward that end. It helps me make it all count, and consider the flow and arrangement and impact and import of every single word. I know some novelists who don't care much for short fiction, but I find that reading it and writing it helps me distill things down to their essence, a habit which, even in long-form in a novel, is essential.

What do you think? Do you like short/micro fiction? Why or why not? What are some other lessons learned?

Here is a piece I was lucky to have published by the great folks at Amid the Imaginary. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

What's in a Word?

What’s in a word?

Well, in a word, everything.

In his terrific guide, On Writing, Stephen King shares this anecdote about James Joyce:

“A friend came to visit James Joyce one day and found the great man sprawled across his writing desk in a posture of utter despair.

James, what’s wrong?' the friend asked. 'Is it the work?'

Joyce indicated assent without even raising his head to look at his friend. Of course it was the work; isn’t it always?

How many words did you get today?' the friend pursued.

Joyce (still in despair, still sprawled facedown on his desk): 'Seven.'

Seven? But James… that’s good, at least for you.'

Yes,' Joyce said, finally looking up. 'I suppose it is… but I don’t know what order they go in!”

Every word counts, of course, but I’m always struck that an author can toil over 100,000 words throughout the journey of a manuscript, but the fate of the thing might well rest upon the precise assemblage of a few select components, such as the first sentence, or the last, or the climax.

As for this latter piece, I struggled with mine in no small measure for my YA/Fantasy novel, The Awakening of David Rose, to be released in December by the great folks at Evolved Publishing. I needed it to pop, be compelling, but more than that, TO WORK. To fit, to resonate, to ring true, and to set the path for all to come, not only in the denouement, but the reminder of the series.

A friend recommended some books where similar “awakening” climaxes occurred, and the best of the lot was from the amazing Laini Taylor, and her surpassing novel , Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Her climactic scene (and the book entire) worked marvelously, and while I don’t know if I nailed it or not, I feel my climax works for my character, and my tale.

And now, he knew. Instinct had roused first, muscle memory springing to life in the nick of time and resurrecting a swordsmanship centuries dormant. But now the fog was lifting, memories shaking off their slumber. They burst the dam of what had been his unawakened soul, and he clenched his eyes shut and steadied himself as they flooded over and through him, time unraveling inside him like a waterfall in reverse. Quick, blurring visions that did not stop but roared past, defying resolution, until at last they slowed and images dropped into the picture as though from a thousand different skies, contorting, twisting and then interlocking with other pieces until the puzzle was complete.

It is tempting, with scenes like this, to focus on writing a cool, riveting scene, and while I hope I’ve done so, what matters most is getting it right, placing the reader right there with David, in his head, and in his heart, feeling and endeavoring to reconcile these things right along with him. And just as important as conveying what happened, is laying that groundwork, for what happens next.

The upward waterfall ceased, memories pooling in his mind like swirling eddies of understanding. Marcel had spoken of it as a gift but also as the greatest of burdens. No wonder; beneath the brimming exhilaration—the thrill of knowing he held at his fingertips scintillating powers of untold lifetimes—was the growing realization that along with the power came the pain. People dreamed of immortality, spoke of it wistfully, but what they could not know was that immortality at its core embodied the greatest frailties of the mortal world.

I appreciate so deeply the amazing scribes who craft climatic scenes with such inspiring prowess. I am excited about my December release, and will keep you posted.

So, what do you think? What is your favorite aspect of a good climactic scene? What are the most challenging—and invigorating—aspects of writing them?

Thank you, as ever, for your community, and support.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Lessons from the Master: Considerations of Theme

Theme is one of the most essential elements of a good story. The David Rose series is driven by several, including time, antipathy, immortality, hope and coming of age. Much of my other work, including my literary suspense manuscript, Cucariva, mines more sobering terrain, building perhaps more than anything on the notion of lost love, and the fight to find salvation, and the will to go on.

I fancy myself a decent hand at the written word, but even though I’ve penned countless thousands, endeavoring to capture the essence of this struggle, I can find no better than these by one of the greatest writers of all-time(after the protagonist loses the love of his life):

“He saw very clearly how all his life led only to this moment and all after led to nowhere at all. He felt something cold and soulless enter him like another being and he imagined that it smiled malignly and he had no reason to believe that it would ever leave.”

Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

Poignant prose, and it resonates within me, wholly and eternally, more deeply than I wish it would. But its great for theme, anyway, and theme is great for story.

I look forward to updating you soon about mine.

What themes to you most like to write, or read?

Thanks as always for your support!

Thursday, July 5, 2018 a writer or a man...

Working on edits for D Rose reboot, but also still intending to get Cucariva out there. A quick snippet...

The irony was hardly lost upon him, as a writer or a man, that he had misapprehended entirely his own life story. Remained fixed, in chapter and verse, in the bedrock gospel of his own heart, as the denouement had eased past. She was long gone. Wasn’t it supposed to be easier by now? Wasn’t time supposed to help?


He was its supplicant and its fool. She had moved on. Long ago, and far. But not time nor reason nor even the most constituent flickers of self-preservation, held a candle to his truth. It wasn’t just that everything reminded him of her; everything was her. She was the love of his life: not until the next one, not until he’d lost her, not contingent upon having her, not contingent upon anything at all. And so time lent not the slightest refuge, but served rather, with each passing moment, to merely strengthen his resolve.

Not to one day win her back, for she was never his to claim. But to simply love her. That if on one far day she called upon him, he would not fail her. He would stand his post. And she would see that he’d been standing it for time immemorial. I have been here all along, he would tell her. And will always. All you need do is reach out your hand, and mine will find it. Stop and hear the wind, and in it, my whisper. Read my words—these words—here, now, and for always—for they are spoken for you, from that heart long since given over. That heart whose inscription is yours, and yours alone. Indelibly, eternally. The book lays open, the page unturning, and even if it should, the next shall read likewise, and all in turn. Live your life, sweet girl, and if you may find it in somewhere within you, take it into your own heart that you are so very much loved…

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Of Time, and Seasons...

Wow, I hadn’t heard this song in decades. It harkened a passage from Cucariva, my literary-suspense manuscript....

It wasn’t so much that time had frozen, but that he had, while time moved on—she moved on—without him. She was gone—irrevocably—but still he tried to hug her to him, throwing his arms around one no longer there. Flailing hopelessly at the unyielding hands of an unheeding clock. It was the strangest thing. Years had passed, people come and gone, souls passed on and new ones born. World events, political elections, civil strife. Seasons changed, save that of his own heart, exiled into abiding winter.

The seasons had forsaken him. He loved her as he ever had, for this love abided no season, no gospel, but its own. That time marched on, that she was gone, diminished its ardor not the slightest. If only. 

And so be it. 

But interred well beneath the ice breathed eternal spring, for even without her, within him had she planted the seeds of the greatest love he’d ever known, and ever would know. For in her eyes, lived the light of the world, and even the hardest heart melted at her touch.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Rose by Any Other Name...David Rose to Set Sail Once More

I have described previously the labor of love that was--and is--The Awakening of David Rose. And some may recall some of the perils of the journey to this point: previous publisher folding, and how I republished it myself, but quietly set about in search of a new publisher.

I've found a good one, known for their exacting standards, and as of today I am under contract with Evolved Publishing, and to be welcomed by Dave to the "good ship EP," represented the next step in a sometimes arduous, but persistent journey. All I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by...I am excited and grateful to be aboard. The incipient novel should relaunch--new and improved--in November 2018, with 2-3 sequels hopefully landing a year apart thereafter.

It's also cool to announce this on Mother's Day, as finding the truth about his mom's disappearance is at the heart of the D Rose series.

And now, we set sail. As Holmes, whom I quote more than once in the books, would say, The game's afoot.

Thanks to all, as always, for your support, and stay tuned...

Image result for sailing ship

Sunday, April 22, 2018

No Myth: the Burden and Blessing of Lost Love...

Was sad to see some posts today from folks hurting, struggling in the throes of lost love, or love unrequited. I am focused now on D Rose sequel, but still shopping Cucariva, and these themes are at the heart of the story. Those things I read today, hearkened this passage:

He’d come to regard himself as some sort of modern Sisyphus, forever consigned to pushing the boulder of his anguish. But this, he realized, was sheer hubris. His was hardly the world’s first broken heart.  Yes, it was his boulder to push, his road to sojourn. But unlike Sisyphus, who managed to reach the summit, only to watch the boulder careen back down, day after day, he neared no summit. Found no refuge. The pain had set it in from the moment he’d read the truth in her eyes. Hard and cold and abiding, and abide it he must, silently, and without complaint, for such was the way of things, and somewhere deep in his faltering soul, where faith and hope had run out of him like blood, he understood to do any less constituted the greatest sacrilege. A lesson he wouldn’t wish upon his greatest enemy, but a lesson no matter: that love most enduring, lived not in possession, but in loss. How easy had it been when they were together, when their hands so readily found the other’s, when with each embrace they’d known they’d found home. How much easier it would be now if the pain would apportion away with the passing days. If his love would ebb out with the tide, receding into the night, as had she. Until it was at worst a bittersweet memory, a melancholic and maybe one day even whimsical chapter in a story which could at long last turn a new page.

It was not to be. It had gotten no easier. Sometimes he dreamt of her, and in his dreams there was love, and she was there, and those dreams, and the first unknowing moments before awareness returned, were small bits of the paradise he’d lost. The moments thereafter were like losing her all over again. No, he would push his boulder for the rest of his days, but as he eyed the star-laced firmament on this evening, he understood in his bones he dare not curse the heavens, for in his anguish lived a blessing for the ages. It was never about having her, just loving her, and with or without her, he loved her still, and she was there in that way, inside him, and in this she had bestowed upon him not the harshest burden, but the greatest gift, and he dare not bear it with anything but the most profound gratitude.

Image result for sisyphus

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.

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.