I’m sitting in New Orleans Louis Armstrong Airport with Max and Karen waiting for Jetlbue flight 576 to arrive to head back to New York. It’s a long story and I’ve only got the energy for a short version.
Drug Court conference for the state of Louisiana. I did a plenary for the whole association (some 400 practitioners) on Cultural Competency and LGBT clients – a workshop for about 100 on Young Adult Developmental Issues. I said the words penis and vagina out loud. You had to be there to get the context but it was a moment I’m proud of.
Karen and Max came down here with me. It was their first time here. We did Mardi Gras, and a swamp tour, and Max held a baby alligator, and we ate beignets (Max laughed and made the powdered sugar go all over the place), and we caught beads thrown from parade floats, and walked the French Quarter.
Grant proposals are due. My work as Ex Dir is giving me constant brain freeze. I’m running out of steam.
I haven’t posted since December but I’ve been writing. That’s good.
Half of one book (Cid prequel) and half of another (modern-day). I’ve been marking new pages on a note app and am up to 42 this year on the modern-day newbie. That puts the total for modern-day up to about 135. Writing is good.
Finishing is better.
I’ll work some on the plane ride home. I’ve promised myself that. That and a movie – perhaps a comedy. We could all use a good laugh. We’re heading into the cold and a coming snowstorm.
I read The Bully Pulpit – by Doris Kearns Goodwin – a massive tome about Taft and Roosevelt. It was a long long tough read but totally worth it – even if Teddy R comes out looking like an ass at the end. Small print and many hours reading later…
Taft was an introvert. Long live the introverts. They are different kinds of leaders and good ones too.
It’s 2014. Two months in. 42 pages. Have to catch up.
I lost 90 pages of my WIP late in the summer – don’t ask how. Okay I’ll tell you. I can’t help myself.
Once, when my son was small, about four years old we had a small fish tank with a few fish in it. One fish disappeared one night. I mean … it disappeared. There had been casualties before (many, many, many casualties) but they always showed up on the surface, belly up. So one little guy, like a master illusionist, one night disappeared. I searched the whole tank, top to bottom, filter to gravel graveyard. I checked the floor for 6 feet in all directions. I looked for bones in hideouts.
I called fish experts.
They scratched their heads.
He was too big to be eaten by the two other fish inside the tank with him. So what happened to him? I don’t know. But sometimes, late at night when I’m just about asleep I swear I can hear him laughing and calling out to me, “So long sucker.”
One night in August I was working on my WIP. I left the document open on the screen, got caught up in watching The Big Bang Theory with my son and wife. I went to bed. In the morning…
So long suckers.
The document was there but 90 pages were gone. I looked everywhere. I looked on my screen, in my dropbox, in my WIP folder, in my other computer, in all my back-up files. I checked the floor for 6 feet in all directions. I looked for bones in hideouts.
Fortunately I had a hard copy. I just had to type it all in again…
I wish I was a faster typist. Mavis Beacon, here I come.
So long suckers.
Then a little while later he says, “If I write two pages a day – only two pages a day – I’ll write a novel in… ” I can see him doing the math in his head, “half a year.”
I nod. “It’s cool isn’t it?”
He shows me his new page(s) every night. He doesn’t usually show me his writing for school so this is a new thing for me. When I’ve ask to see his school work in the past he’s usually said, “No.” I’ve had to search for his stories and essays in his work folders after it’s been handed back to him and placed somewhere in his overstocked and overflowing backpack. Or my wife has had to tell me where it was. She knows. She almost always gets to read his work.
He’s finding real joy in putting his pencil to his page. He sits at the table at night staring out the window with his pencil eraser between his teeth, chewing and thinking. Every once in a while his pencil moves down and across the page leaving text behind. I sit with my back to him at my computer doing my version of the exact same thing with electronic text. I don’t chew on an eraser – though I’m not against it if it helps to think. I usually sip tea.
When he’s finished he wants me to read it, “Right now.”
He stands next to me and places his book in my lap. He points at it. “Now.” He watches while I read it, his hands together in front of him. He cracks his knuckles one after the other rolling from one finger and hand to the next. I laugh out loud when the story is funny. He smiles when I do that.
“Who should I kill off?” he asks, placing his hand on my shoulder.
“Let me finish reading,” I say.
“I’m not going to kill off anyone,” he says. “Maybe just have one of them lose a foot or a hand.”
“Shh,” I say.
“Read it,” he responds.
It reminds me of so many writer’s that I know, including myself. “Tell me what you think?” He asks and I have to tell him now. When I give my work to someone to read I want the same thing, now, only as an adult trying to show that I have impulse control, that I can be patient, that time is of no importance to me – I say instead, “When you get the chance.” Or worse, “There’s no rush.” What that really means is, “Now.” Trust me. it means, “Pick up the manuscript and start reading now. And don’t stop until you’ve finished. Because I want to know what you think – if it’s any good and I want to know now. I’ve been inside my own head for over a year, written 235 pages, and need to know it’s been worth the effort so I can write another 100-200 pages more of my epic – though it’s not really an epic I just think of it that way. And if you make me wait a day or a week or – God help you – a month to get back to me I’ll have to exist in silent scream torture mode as every day I check me email to see if you’ve sent me a note that says, “I’m done.” ”
My son is quiet while I read the rest of the page. He sits on the arm of my work-chair, reading over my shoulder. He asks me, what do I think, with raised eyebrows when I close the book and look up.
This is the second time I’ve completed the A-Z Challenge (Thank you Matt from the QQQE for putting me on to the possibilities), blogging 26 letters of the alphabet this year on swordplay. It’s hard to believe the month passed so quickly. It’s my son’s 11th birthday tomorrow and I’ve finished just in time to plan his birthday party – an ode to Ratzo part IV. It’s a long story and you could check on my Dad-dito blog for more info but suffice to say I’ve got some work to do. Puzzles to make, dangers to create, some script and storyline to ponder for my son and five of his friends.
What was it like to blog the whole month of April on the A-Z? Exhausting and exhilarating. The word discipline comes to mind also. Hard work. A kick in the ass, also. This year I visited more blogs than last year, though it was much harder to do as the month went on. A good start helped. I pre-wrote the first five posts – that helped me to blog-hop the first week. The whole experience has put a smile on my face.
What’s amazing to me is that I also got some work done on my next novel. Sometimes other writing gets in the way. Other times it acts as a motivator. I’ve read a few good books also that I’ll talk about in May – a bit of non-fiction, a bit of fiction.
I am tired. Some of that is spring and a giant ahhh of exhalation.
It’s time to press on with my WIP.
The offer of help to anyone who needs it on swordplay in their writing is still open. I’m no fencing master, but I’ve learned a thing or two about blades and such over the last 30-years and how to put them into words that paint pictures and tell stories.
I’ve been away in my mind for the last two weeks. That’s what bloggers say when they’ve been away from their blog – at least that’s what this blogger says. Yes, I am a blogger. I’m surprised to see myself write this but it’s true.
So, I’ve been busy with my day job and putting words on paper for my new book – more day job than new book but I have clocked in my first 100 pages so I’m pleased.
I’m in Nashville right now, at a Starbucks Coffee mixing with the mall rats from across the street’s giant Greenhills Mall and just visited Parnassus Books (in a small mall on my side of the street) – an awesome indie with a saleswoman who was nice enough to take two copies of Open Wounds and put them on the shelf and consider stocking them – consider, I can ask no more.
It helped that my book has just been announced (no megaphone or loudspeaker, just a quiet facebook mention from my beloved publicist Julie Schoerke at JKSCommunications) as a finalist in the historical fiction category of the 2012 National Indie Excellence Book Awards. I’m very excited, especially since I’d completely forgotten that I’d entered my book in the contest. Julie had recommended that I do so and I’m glad I did.
So I was at Parnassus looking for Michael Grant’s Bzrk and they had the book (many indies have not, I’ve asked at five so far) but only at the warehouse. I couldn’t buy it because after the conference I’m presenting at is over tomorrow I’m heading home and the store is out of the way (two bus rides for this writer and an hours travel). But you can bet they’ll have it stocked on the floor tomorrow. My search for a non-Barnes and Noble purchase of Bzrk goes on…
Oh, but I did buy a book while there (I have to support the indies!). I bought the new Stephen King book in the Dark Tower Series – my favorite books from Mr. King.
Now it’s off to the bus stop and back to the Opryland convention center where workshops on LGBT Issues, Teambuilding, and Cultural Competence await me.
Recently I read Gone, by Michael Grant and although it’s a real page turner one of the things that struck me (besides being a bit scared of the darkness inside, I’m not afraid to admit it!) was how several of the characters had faith in God (a male it seemed and organized Christian God). It wasn’t a large part of the book but it was part of the fabric of the universe for the main characters. What happened to them challenged some of their faith in a God. It made sense for that town and those characters but I am so unused to a discussion of God that it stood out for me.
My son wants to read Gone (after reading The Magnificent Twelve he thinks Michael Grant is the funniest writer in the universe) but we won’t let him. He’s very upset about this as he’s turning 10 in three days and has read Ship Breaker (my fault), The Hunger Games (my fault – I’m a bad Daddy), and all the Harry Potter books (okay – now he earned the right to read them so back off!). My wife, who is infinitely more wise than me, is the one who put her foot down and said no, not now, to Gone.
You see in our community a boy recently died. He was thirteen years old. The whole story is not known as we do not know the family well, but we had been to their home a couple of times with other families for school social events. The boy got an infection that turned into meningitis and he died. It all happened in one week and I am still shaking a bit about it because, as a parent, my first thought was – what if this happened to my son? These kinds of things make you question God(s)/Goddess(es) and faith. My son barely remembered the boy as it had been a few years since they’d last seen each other and the boy was three years older. My son seemed okay with the news. It seemed to pass by him and through him with only a small ripple. He was more concerned for us then himself, it seemed.
So in Gone (this is not a spoiler as it happens on page one) everyone over the age of 14 poofs – disappears and the world that Michael Grant creates is scary and fascinating. But not right now for my son. No poofs. Maybe next year or in the fall with some time and perspective. It is impossible to answer the question, why did a child die? How do you find a reason for that?
The book I’m working on now is about God, tangentially. It is about loss of faith and maybe (I don’t know yet how it will work out) gaining of faith back. It’s a real challenge for me as I was born a Jew, brought up Methodist, tried some Catholicism (youth groups have girls in them and I was a teenager but I really did go on that retreat to ask some questions of the priest – which I did. For example: Why do you say there’s only one God if there’s a father, son, and holy ghost? Isn’t that three? And what about the virgin Mary? What’s up with that? I was not popular and I did not get a concrete answer. I digress.), wandered into paganism, studied Buddhism and Hinduism and presently believe in a higher cosmic spirit of the feminine kind.
What I love about Greek mythology and all polytheistic practices is the ability to have all these different aspects of the great cosmic soul. Zeus of the lightning bolts needs all the other Gods and Goddesses to balance him out. They balance each other, yin and yang, water and fire, a satvic existence on the higher plane. without balance there is chaos. And yet in our lives, there is chaos. It seems in one way or another, in one corner of the world or another, with violence and death there is chaos. There are plateaus of balance and seemingly random acts of chaos. It makes me wonder as a parent and it makes me wonder as a human and it makes me wonder as a writer.
This is my last post on the A-Z challenge and I’ve made it through 26 posts relating to or pertaining to things that are Greek, at least from my perspective. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey even half as much as I have.
Deimos and Phobos are the moons of Mars – named after the sons of the Greek god Ares (Roman Mars). It seems so many things about Mars are war-like or resonate with the actions of war. Deimos means horror and Phobos means fear in Greek. I never knew this.
John Carter is of Earth and Mars and he is war-like as are all the Martians in the John Carter stories of Edgar Rice Boroughs. I’m drifting a bit but lets see where it goes.
How can war, something that is both horrific and to be afraid of, also be romanticized? It seems every generation plays with these two pieces of the war puzzle. Isn’t that what video games do for us today – allow us to play at warfare without getting hurt? I struggle with this as a writer who writes about war.
Today the weapons used in warfare are taken for granted – explosives, automatic weapons, missiles. We are used to them in a sense. They are on TV. They are on our visual radar. Can you image how terrifying it was to see them for the first time? The first time seeing an armored tank, a flamethrower, a mortar, a machine gun, large artillery shells and barrages that would make the earth shake, your ears bleed – that could stop your heart from beating? My chest tightens just thinking about it.
I wonder about this as a reader who reads about war – fantasy, science fiction, historical, non-fiction – and a writer who writes about it.
This was said by King Proetus who wanted to kill Bellerophon when he visited his home because Bellerophon had tried to violate his wife. But it would have been bad manners to kill a guest. So Proetus sends Bellerophon to his father in-law, King Lobates, as a messenger with a sealed letter to deliver. The letter in a folded tablet says, “Pray remove the bearer from this world: he attempted to violate my wife, your daughter.”
So that’s how you do it.
Isn’t that a great idea for a plot? Much harder to do than defriending someone on Facebook but easily more satisfying.
Just how many plots are there to choose from? This is a question that’s been floating around the writing universe for a long long time.
So I looked it up. The oldest source I could find said that there was either 36 or 37 plots, and the book it comes from is a “French book published in 1916 as “The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations” by Georges Polti”.
Maybe we better all take a look. And while you’re at it beware of people asking you to deliver sealed letters in folded tablet form, in case you’ve got a history and it bellerophontic.
That was awkward but I think it worked.
You give it a try. Write a sentence with bellerophontic in it. See how it sounds.
This is my first post on the A-Z challenge and I’ve got my own theme for the month that comes from the book I’m working on now that takes place in 1914 England where Greek and Latin ruled as education in the “classics”. How each of these sayings deals with writers today will be my own stretch. So stop by and see what I come up with.
Api tou heliou metastethi (Stand a little out of my sun.)
So replies Diogenes the Cynic when asked by Alexander the Great if he had any wish he could fulfill. You gotta love that with a rim-shot for punctuation.
Something I recently overheard from a writer at a conference who was published with a big house when asked about the kind of support and publicity campaign she was receiving: “Oh it’s great except they always put me next to the (choose your megastar writer – there are only a few) so I might as well not even be there.”
Me I like being next to the megastars. At Charlottesville, being next to Alma Katsu (The Taker) on a panel meant people on her line (long line) sometimes drifted over to my line when they finished having her sign their book. Hey. You gotta start somewhere. Alma is a very cool writer whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet twice at two different conferences. I can stand in her shadow any day, ’cause one person’s shadow is another person’s sun.
Where is Diogenes when you need him?
I just finished a book I was reading as part of my research for my next book. It has taken me four months to finish it. Non-fiction works that way with me. It was fascinating, small print, footnotes – not my usual fare. But it gave me background that I need. It’s title is The Old Lie, The Great War and the Public School Ethos, by Peter Parker. I bought a used copy since it’s out of print. I’ve got notes written in the margins now, pages dog-eared, flags sticking out its side, and a coffee/tea stain here and there on the cover (or that may have come with the book).
Here’s some Latin that haunts the book and England during WWI:
Dulce et Decorum est,
Pro patria mori
(it is sweet and right to die for your country)
This is what drove English boys to war from the public schools at ages of 17 and 18, to be officers. It’s still doing its work today. The thing is in 1914 England the world was very different from what it is today. Context is everything.
We’re on vacation at a friend’s family condo in Sarasota, Florida – two families, one of my son’s friends. The two boys are laughing and giggling all the time (except when they are mad at each other which is not often). If I open the window I can hear the waves breaking on the beach. The balcony overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. I love the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t know why. The waves are small but the water is a different color than I’m used to. Long Island water is dark and cloudy and cold cold cold. The water here is lighter in color, turquoise, and chilly but swimable. It is beautiful.
I’ve slept until almost nine two mornings in a row. Normally I am up at 5:30am. The dogs are back home being boarded for the week playing with other dogs and wondering if we’ll come back for them (well one isn’t wondering – he’s probably too busy playing, but the younger one probably is). I miss those mongrels but I’m also glad I can sleep late.
It’s 70’s with a breeze and the sun just came out. It might have hit 81 but I’m not sure. I’m not wearing my watch.
This is my vacation. I’ve had a cold since the day before we left but it’s getting better. The sea air is doing it. That and some sleep.
I’ve been exhausted from my day job.
I’ve written two for two days of vacation – continuing my streak of three months. It is lovely writing from the balcony, listening to the ocean. We’re going to Disney one day, but only one day. Every other day is the pool, the beach, or the pool (there are two).
Here’s three words I wrote today:
I’ve been in a cave this week – a cave of work, of budgets, of elearning systems, of gamefication explanations and analysis, of wireframes, and harm reduction, of SBIRs NIDAs SSICs and NDRIs. Some days I live in a sea of acronyms and abbreviations. Other days the hull of my ship is made of tinsel. I am tired and not about to catch up on sleep any time soon.
Lying in savasana each day for a few minutes at the end of my yoga practice helps me to settle into myself and rest.
It has been one of those kinds of weeks. But tomorrow is Friday and new movies come out on Friday and even though I don’t go to movies much anymore (I love them but don’t have time for them) Friday has always been a joyous day for me because I can look at the reviews of movies and dream about what I would like to see. That and of course it’s the weekend.
John Carter of Mars comes out in less than a month. I have waited for this movie for almost forty years, since I read the ERB book and was first transported to Mars as a boy. I hope it will be good. I’m taking my son to see it with me.
Three words I found today in my work:
What words have you found in your imagination?
Three words I typed today:
I laid out a puzzle for myself to solve and solved it in my narrative. A small section but a pivotal one. Funny how plot points come and go.
The week between christmas and new years day is a strange and timeless week.It sits between the past year and the coming year. It sits in the present more than any other time, for me. In yoga class I say, try not to think about what happened before class or what will happen after. Just be present for the sensations in your body, the sound and rhythm of your breath, and awareness of your thoughts. Make room for the inward journey of your practice.
This week, after the insanity of christmas is over, these things – the ability to be more present in particular – just seem to be more… accessible. There is room inside of me.
It hasn’t always been this way. In many past years I couldn’t wait until January 1 and the beginning of a new year. I’d been focused on the end of the year and endings. And endings can be painful to be present with for any period of time.
This year, I’m more… present, more present tense.
I’m off so we’re all home, hibernating. For us hibernating is reading a lot, playing games (both electronic and non-electronic), going to the movies, taking out the dogs, and eating. I’ve added in writing in the morning and practicing yoga. I feel more whole than I have in a while. The writing is doing that for me. Other things too, but that is a big part.
I know. It sounds exciting. I wish I had two weeks like this.
But I only have one, for now.
Then it’s back to my day job.
It’s cold outside and warm inside.
Here’s three words from this morning’s work.
Besotted. Mummies. Aye.
I’ve started the writing phase of my new book.
I’m six days in. I started writing snippets before this so I had a thousand words or so written during my planning phase. And in some ways I’m still planning. But I’ve put down the research and started in.
Here are three words I wrote today from different parts of my text:
My writing process is long. I’m writing early in the morning before my family wakes up (and before the dogs grab their leashes in their mouths and drag me to the front door.) – before the sun rises. I’m writing half an hour to 45 minutes at a shot. This is good for me as once my day starts at 6:30 it doesn’t stop until the evening when I’m too worn out to put fingers to key board.
I have a 2011 smile on my face.
I’ve been doing family things this last week and I’m completely behind on my posts. I went to Boston what was already almost two weeks ago to read at the Cambridge Public Library (a story or two there but I’ll get to that later this week) and visit some bookstores and fencing salles. Then of course there was Thanksgiving. And my son finished his video of occupy wall street (to come later this week also).
And I’ve been reading, in the planning phase for my next book. I just finished Six Weeks, by John Lewis-Stemple and I reread A Storm in Flanders by Winston Groom (the man who wrote Forest Gump). I’m writing little pieces in Scrivener, creating the world bit by bit. A very different process for me than Open Wounds. But then, things change, writing process, life, many things. I’m in that kind of mood.
So I was listening to a lot of car radio, NPR to be exact. I love the talk shows when I drive. I heard Fran Drescher being interviewed last week and couldn’t help myself from frantically scribbling down what she said because I thought it so appropriate to writers.
“Turning pain into purpose is extremely healing.”
Now I should give this context. She was talking about her Cancer Schmancer movement. I heard it speak to me as a writer. Andrew Smith’s blog addressed this not too long ago and I thought what he said and the comments posted from that day to be very deeply felt and true. I think that so many of us write because it is healing and there is pain to heal. But does that mean you need to have had a crappy life filled with sorrow in order to find the right notes in your work? I don’t think so, but then on the other hand if you want to write deep work it helps to have been there. I think it depends on what you want to write. I remember some Frank Sinatra bio (hey… I like Fran Sinatra’s voice – he’s got a great voice – so cut me some slack) I saw on TV a long long time ago. I don’t remember the name of the film or the stars but I do remember one scene in the movie early on when he’s just starting to sing. He’s told by a nightclub owner that he has a great voice but that it has no feeling to it. The man says, go on out and live some and then come back when you can understand what the words mean. It made an impression on me.
As someone who has lived long enough to have had my share of loss (the longer you life the more you experience – that’s just the way it works) and probably a few extra thrown in just to make my life more interesting, I can say I didn’t write the hard stuff well, until life had happened. My understanding of my character’s pain deepened and my ability to write about it got better.
This has been my process.
Would I choose an easier one if I could?
When you stay in the pool for five hours, in the sun, with sunglasses on, a bathing suit, and only one coat of sunscreen spf50, you are bound to get burned. Oh, and if you’re Polish, Hungarian, Rumanian, Ukrainian and Luthuanian, all mixed together, then you might as well forget the sun screen and go straight to the burn anyway.
I’m at that part of vacation where I am starting to think about going home. The days are starting to come back into focus. We have one more day at Universal and Harry Potter and then we’re following the hurricane north – riding in its wake.
I’ve been working on a new book. I don’t know if this will be the new book or not. I write slowly and take a while to start putting words on the page. I write some. Leave it sit. Write some more. Leave it sit. This book requires a lot of research so I’m hitting the books and starting to take notes. Usually I take notes on the margins of my books, underlining words, marking the margins to remind myself to come back to this page or that one. Then I put my notes on the computer. At least that’s what I’m doing this time.
With Open Wounds I used hard copy for all my notes and have folders upon folders of notes, timelines, articles, websites, and maps. I over did it for Cid’s story. I did. But I had so much fun doing it. My next blog post I’ll give you a treasure hunt for Open Wounds – see if you can find an un-named celebrity hidden inside it’s covers – one of the details I couldn’t let go of.
This time I’m using Scrivener instead of all those note pads. I’m going straight to the computer with my favorite word processing program, which has all kinds of gadgets and doodads to satisfy the pickiest writer. I got when it was free. Now it’s $45 but I think it’s well worth it. I don’t have stock in their product. I’m just happy with the way it works. It puts WORD to shame as a tool made just for writers. I still only know about 50% of all its uses. I’ve been getting myself tutorialized (they’re pretty good and I can’t learn just by reading or doing. I need some teaching too).
So I’m using the research page.
And creating characters.
And building a new world to put them in, one detail at a time.
I just love that spell. This is our third day of no driving and my bum is very happy about that.
We waited on line for wands at Olivanders in Harry Potter land and it was well worth the hour wait in the light rain. Seriously. It gave me the chills when the wand misfires. Each of us got a wand. How could we not?
No bookstore activities at all. I’m on vacation for the next two days. Then I have to plan out a trip to Vera Beach (possibly if we can make the time to visit friends of a friend who happen to own a bookstore on the coast!). Perhaps one or two Barnes & Nobles in Orlando? No indi’s to speak of as far as I know…
Did I mention that we stayed in the pool the whole day today? Now that’s a vacation.
For those who are interested I’m researching my next book. I will only say it has something to do with WWI. At least that’s what I know so far.
I’ve been posting for a couple of weeks already so you would have some content to look at when I opened the site to the public so… here it is!
Marissa DeCuir of JKScommunications (my publicist) put the site together for me and she is wonderful, creative, and very good at what she does (Thanks Marissa!). I’m really pleased to offer it to you as a source of information about my book – Open Wounds, my writing life (the mundane life at the keyboard that it is), travel plans to cities and neighborhoods near you or far away, news on the next book I’m working on (although trying to find time for that with the demands of a ramping up publicity campaign is very challenging), and reviews of books that I’ve read recently and really liked (I read all kinds of books but am partial to YA books for boys, realistic fiction, and historical fiction. With that in mind the first book I’ve reviewed is Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber).
So, keep the date marked on your calendars – Open Wounds publication date is May 25, 2011, less than two months and counting.
I hope you like my site and find the pages both useful and interesting. If you have any questions or just want to say hello please drop me a line via the blog comments, facebook, twitter, or email.
All the best,
What YA author Joseph Lunievicz has up his sleeve