Today could be about the volte (evasion from opponents blade by moving the back foot to the right (for righty) or left (for lefty) displacing the body away from the line of attack and creating a new attack line for yourself)… but it’s not. Voltes are cool. But so is Varvarinski.
Nikolai Varvarinski is a fencing master in my book, Open Wounds. Here’s how he describes his philosophy of fencing to the protagonist, Cid Wymann:
“In war I lose count. It is what happen in war.”
“How many in duels?”
“In first duel I place my point in other boy’s chest”— he pointed to the center of his chest—“here. Into heart, I think. Blade go into body—go into body far. I let go of blade—stare at boy. He stare back at me but does not die. I think, why does boy not die? While I think, he put blade in my side and almost kill me.” He lifted up his shirt and showed me a thick puckered scar above his hip.
“You don’t remember?”
“There are many things I not remember.”
“What happened to your fencing school?”
He did not answer for a while, then his hand trembled a moment and he clenched it into a fist. “Enough talk. Now back to work!”
is one of my favorite fencing terms.
It means to attack and attack again. If your first attack misses or is blocked you do not retreat or recover. You attack again without pause. That is a remise.
It requires great confidence and nerve, sometimes leg strength for a double or triple lunge. If you pause after missing the first time and hesitate, even for a second, you lose the initiative. The remise is finished. So don’t pause. Keep going forward and attacking until you touch your point to his chest (or wrist, or arm, or head, or, or, or…). It is thrilling to do and a bit frightening to have done to you.
To defend against the remise you retreat, parry, stop thrust, or some combination of these three in order to stop the juggernaut. Cut into his attack. Get out of distance. Make him pause and hesitate, so that you can take the initiative from him.
My books original title was Remise. My publisher said it had to be changed. “It is a French word,” she said. “Nobody will know what it means.”
Open Wounds is more brutal but Remise is elegant violence.
Here’s my main character, Cid Wymann learning about the remise from his old Russian fencing master, Nikolai Varvarinksi.
Open Wounds, by Joseph Lunievicz, Chapter 17
“Aldo Nadi says—”
“I am not Nadi,” Varvarinksi shouted and threw his glove onto the ground. “You want to take lesson from Nadi you find Nadi!”
“I didn’t mean—”
“Kónchit’! No more questions. You learn. I teach! Remise is attack, then attack.”
“What do you mean?” We had been working on parry-riposté drills, Nikolai pushing me to parry later and later, and to riposté faster and faster.
Nikolai picked up his glove and épée. He cinched his leather wrist strap tight and secured the grip against his palm. “With foil you extend arm before attack. Da?”
I nodded and rolled my eyes, having heard his explanation of foil what seemed like a thousand times before.
“Good,” he said, ignoring me. “You know difference between foil and épée?”
“Yes, yes,” I said, nodding and mouthing the words with him.
“If you parry, I withdraw arm, extend again before I attack in redoublement,” he said, showing me with his blade in quick, sharply etched movements.
“That sounds French,” I said.
“Quiet!” he shouted and launched an attack at my chest so quickly I barely had time to parry. Only instead of relaxing his arm back into en garde he kept his arm extended and attacked again to my hip. I stumbled back just in time to parry his strike in seconde and retreated again, now off balance, parrying another attack to my shoulder in sixte, only the third time I was too slow and his point touched my upper arm. Nikolai didn’t stop. His momentum threw him forward and pushed his point into my flesh. I tripped over my feet and fell to the ground. My arm felt as though it had been pierced.
“Remise!” he said, looking down at me, anger seething out of his lips.
“Remise,” I repeated, my own anger building in return. I touched the bruised skin of my arm. There was some blood where the point had hit. It was sore and would be black and blue in the morning. “Remise,” I said again, quietly. The world slowed down and my senses expanded. I heard the rasping sound of gravel shifting beneath Nikolai’s front foot and the dull thudding of my heart. His breath was ragged. A high-pitched buzzing floated by one of my ears and passed around to the other.
It seemed impossible for such a large and out-of-shape man to move that fast. In drills he pushed me with his own attacks, but they were timed and rhythmic, beautiful in their own way and mesmerizing in their patterns, but never blinding in speed. I’d thought he was fast enough to touch me only if I made a mistake. Now, watching him walk awkwardly away from me, his shoulders slumping forward, his belly hanging again over his pants, my anger grew. “Why don’t you try that again?” I said, the words seeming to elongate out in front of me as if in a dream.
Nikolai stopped in his tracks, then turned to face me. “You want to fight me?” His words were crisp, dangerous.
“Yes,” I said.
->— Open Wounds, by Joseph Lunievicz
There are three competitive weapons in fencing today: foil, sabre, and épée. I have fenced épée on and off for over thirty years (more off than on, and with a tremendous amount of humility), tried sabre for a year or two and started with foil as most fencers do. The question is what’s the difference and why should you care?
I’ll tell you. The first cover of my book – the one that went on my ARC – was a dark, edgy image of a fencer in mask and full uniform. I loved it. Only one thing. It was a sabre fencer and my protagonist, Cid Wymann, fenced épée. I got another, better cover, with an image of a stage rapier super-imposed over NYC. Each is a different weapon with a different personality and type of fencer who picks it up.
This is important. Each weapon speaks to character and personality.
Foil is more structured and formal with a rule called right of way which dictates who can score and who can’t. You must extend your arm fully to take the attack. It makes foil more structured and in some ways artificial – more of a sport than a martial art. The target is only the torso, not the arms, legs, pelvis, or head. The blade is thin and bends. It can even be used in a whipping motion to score back hits in a move that has nothing to do with the martial art (hits over the shoulder and into the back?) of the sword. You can only score with the point.
Sabre is a holdover from rapier and calvary sabre days. It is an agressive and sometimes brutal sport (okay, okay, if you parry well you can avoid getting hit which is the idea. I get wacked because I’m slow with my parries). You can get bruised up because the thin metal blade is used to both cut (both sides are considered to be edged) and thrust (it has a point also). There is a guard to cover the hand and you need it. It uses the same right of ways rules as foil and is hard to follow because it is so fast. The target is the waist up but not the hands so the arms and head come into play and must be defended. Sabre moves fast and furiously. Sometimes you see sparks fly from blade contact.
I learned to fence with a foil my first two years fencing. I learned to be agressive with sabre. I learned to think with épée. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
Capo Ferro has not nothing to do with Italian food or stringed instruments.
It, or rather he, has everything to do with what we know about actual rapier, rapier and dagger, and sword and buckler (shield) fighting from the renaissance period. Since we don’t have film from back then and no photographs, we have to go by line drawings and any books that were written that described it like the one above from Capo Ferro’s book Italian Rapier Combat originally published in 1610. I bought my copy in Portland from Powell’s Books (awesome indi and just a huge huge store). This book is a series of plates with short explanations of the positions and moves of Italian rapier fencing. The Italians were known in the 16th into the early 17th century to be the best with the sword. The French surpass them later but not for a long long time. Ferro was a fencing master in the city of Siena. My favorite are the many images that show (see below) what happens when you are successful in attack. Notice the three different angles the blade can take and the successful parry with the dagger.
Of course this is 1610 Italy so most people in the plates are fencing naked or mostly naked (very strategically placed scraps of cloth or leaf)- not sure I’d recommend that – must have been very hot in Siena.
Here are some words from the first section: Some Remembrances or True Advices of Fencing
First, if you are found at blows with your adversary; you must always have the eye on the sword hand more than in other places, all of the others are false, because looking at the hand you will see the stillness and all the movements that it does, and from this (according to your judgement) you will be able to determine what you will have to do.
Methods that one must hold against a brutal man:
If you have to encounter a brutal man who, without misura and tempo, hurls many blows at you with great impetus, you will be able to do two things. First adopt the interplay of mezzo tempo, as I will teach you in its place, you will strike him in his hurling of the point, either by cut in the hand or in the sword arm. Otherwise, you can leave him to proceed at emptiness with somewhat voiding the vita backwards, and then you instantly drive a point into the face or chest.
Needless to say, I chose Capo Ferro as a model teacher for my protagonist in my novel Open Wounds.
How could I not?
Actors On Guard, by Dale Anthony Girard – a great book on the use of the rapier and dagger for stage and screen.
A young man, a kid really, is doing choreography with a rapier, musketeer blade (double wide épée), cup hilt. He does the choreography well with his partner, an experienced actor and stage combat veteran named Dave. Dave is waiting for the kid to start his schtick.
“What’s the real thing like?”
So it begins.
“I bet I could hold my own in a fight with one of these.” The kid’s looking at the blade with confidence.
“Sure you could,” Dave says. He’s tired from almost three hours of fencing choreography – two classes, a beginner’s class and an advanced. This is the advanced class. He’s sweating and perspiring. He worked all night at his seventeen-year proofreading job, graveyard shift. He won’t go to sleep until that evening – if he can last. Its been 24 hours since he slept.
“Seriously, Dave,” the kid says. “Why won’t Joe fence against me?”
“Just stick with the choreography.”
“I bet I could fence against you.” The kid thrusts his blade tip at Dave’s chest.
Dave bats it away with his hand – his leather gloved hand. He’s more awake now. “You’re not a fencer,” he says with just a bit of an edge. “You’re an actor.”
“I’m pretty good,” the kid’s bouncing on the balls of his feet. “I could fence.”
“Joe,” Dave shouts and turns away from the kid. “Kid wants to see what it’s like to fence.”
An older man, probably in his seventies – the decades speaking in the lines of his face – rouses himself from reading the paper at the teacher’s desk. He slaps the newspaper shut and stands up, pushing his chair back. “David,” he shouts back. The rest of the class stops their work on the days choreography to see what’s happening. “Get the kid suited up.” He smooths back his white hair with his fingers and walks over to a locker, pulls out his gear. Dave gets the kid suited up with fencing jacket, mask, glove, competitive sabre. The old man suits up in similar whites. His fits loosely, like he used to fill it out more. Still he wears it with familiarity. He walks past the kid with his helmut under his arm. He turns smartly. Dave has pushed the rest of the class back so they’re all against the wall – out of range. All except the kid. Dave’s put him in the center with the old man.
“We’ll do three touches,” the old man says. “Dave, you’ll judge.” Dave nods and the old man salutes him, the kid, and the audience, then puts on his mask. The kid, a huge smile on his face, copies him.
“Fencers ready?” Dave asks.
The old man nods and says, “Yes, sir.” He is still. His sabre in the line of three.
Dave repeats his question to the kid. The kid is nervously swaying back and forth, the blade moving from side to side.
“Fencers ready? Dave asks him a third time.
He nods finally.
Before the kid can take a step forward the old man slashes his sabre’s edge across his chest. The kid stumbles back a step clutching his chest with his free hand. He rubs it smartly.
Dave hears him breathing shallowly. He knows that one hurt, even with a canvas jacket on.
The old man cuts the kids arm and the kid grabs the place where he was hit.
“You ok?” Dave asks sweetly.
The kid nods.
The old man waits this time. He drops his guard down, inviting the kid in to an open target. The kid attacks. He cuts to the old man’s head. The old man parries easily in five and smacks the kid hard in the head, hard enough to make him stagger back a step and to make the rest of the class gasp.
The old man swipes off his helmut and throws it to Dave. “Carry on,” he says and retreats back to his desk where his paper waits for him.
Dave directs the others to go back to their choreography. He walks up to the kid. “Ready for choreography?” he asks.
The kid nods. He’s still wearing his mask. He still hasn’t moved.
For the A-Z challenge I’ll be talking sword-play, every letter of the alphabet. I love to fence and I love to do the choreography of stage fencing. Outside of playing rugby there’s just about nothing better. As a writer who’s first book has more fencing and stage combat in it than most I hope this unique expertise can help others figure out how to write about the use of the sword whether it’s a small sword, a foil, a broadsword, a bastard sword, or a rapier and dagger. Maybe it’ll help with your next fantasy novel or historical. If you have questions, ask. Otherwise onward tomorrow to B.
I was thinking vulpine (cunning) or vorpal (deadly) or valetudinarian (anxious about health) or vafrous (sly) but… I’m sticking with my it’s all Greek to me theme and working my way through the hard letters. A vastidity (vastness) of words in Greek starting with a V, there are not. Actually there are none. There’s no V in Greek. So… I skipped a bit ahead in time and chose Venus who is the Roman version of Aphrodite, Goddess of love. Though because she’s Roman and not Greek she has her own spin on the love thing. She is not always venerous (lustful) or venary (in pursuit of sexual gratification), though she can be at times. She was not born but emerged out of the sea-foam, probably covered in varec (seaweed). But let us not vapulate (flog) the V anymore and use this as a vincular (connective) moment.
Just how important is a love story to your work? I’ve never thought of this in terms of my writing at least not in the context of do I write love stories? . I’ve not set out to write a love story (except for the first novel I ever wrote which must stay in the dark dark underworld of a drawer covered in dust and buried beneath later works even though it sometimes calls to me late at night to let it be free) before. Usually a story comes to mind and it may or may not have a love story in it. I find love in stories, happens, many times whether I want it to or not. What’s interesting to me is when I talk about this called love, I wonder who you, the reader imagine are the lovers and what kind of love it is. Are they male and female, two men, two females? Is it a love triangle? Love hexagon? Is there such a thing? What are the limitations we and society put on such things?
In my book Open Wounds my protagonist, Cyd Wymann, struggles with love – love from and for parents, parent figures, boys who are his friends and brothers, and a girl. Relationships are complicated and yet they are what make so many narratives pulse, whether there is love, ambivalence, or hate involved between the characters. A theme I find myself coming back to again and again in my work is the love of a boy for his father (or father figure) or what happens when there is none.
What are the themes of love that echo in your work? Which ones are violactic (flying above) and which are sequestered in the viridarium (Roman Garden)? Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
I spend a lot of time thinking about names for my characters. I do it early in the process of writing a novel because I find the name informs the character and the character informs the name. I like to find a name with just the right sound to it, sometimes symbolic meaning, family background or ancestry. But first it starts with sound. It has to sound right, especially for my protagonist. Dickens understood this and unerringly was a master at naming his characters both primary and secondary. My favorite is Uriah Heap from David Copperfield but there’s also, Oliver Twist, Fagin, Ebenezer Scrooge, Edwin Drood, and Mr. Crummins. Here are a few of my recent contemporary character names from books I’ve read in the last year:
- Stick from Stick by Andrew Smith.
- Vera Dietz from Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S.King.
- Phineas T. Pimiscule from Return to Exile by E.J.Patten.
- Nailer from Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
- Winston Arnolf Leftingsham (Lefty) from my own Open Wounds.
Which leads us back to Uranus. Uranus was the first Greek lord of the universe, first of the titans, god of the sky. He was created by Gaea in order to surround and cover her, but soon he became her mate and together they produced the remaining twelve Titans, three Cyclopes and three Hecatoncheires, hundred handed creatures – all of whom Uranus hated. So… he stuffed them back into Gaea’s womb. She had no choice. Cronus escapes, though, with Gaea’s help and eventually castrates Uranus while he’s sleeping one day and so son takes father’s place, all kinds of creatures spring from the drops of his blood and his genitals get thrown into a sea from which is born Aphrodite. I’m not kidding.
I did not know this about the word Uranus. I always thought it was simply the seventh planet out from our sun with the name that everyone had trouble saying out loud because the second half of it spelled anus. We should all say that out loud, just so we can practice. It’s a good word, long besmirched. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Excellent. Ahh the power of a name.
What are your favorite character’s names? What is it that makes them sing?
The Charlottesville Fencing Alliance is off Allied Road and McIntyre a short fifteen minute walk from the Omni. I visited two evenings last week, fenced 8 times (thanks Ken 2x, Dave, Drew, Emily, Sarah, Chairon, and Aron for your lessons in humility) , winning 2 of 4 the first night and 1 of 4 the second, for about 90 minutes each night, talked shop with the members between bouts, and pitched my book to anyone who would listen. I left four copies of Open Wounds to be used for prizes in tournaments, a ton of book marks, and a lot of sweat.
The director, James Faine, was a great host and has a terrific club to boast about. They fence foil, sabre, and épée with a good number of sharp épéee-ists on hand – a number of which are lefties – always tricky to handle. That’s a nice way of saying they kicked my butt.
The picture of the fleche is Ken (red hair) with a perfect touch against Sarah.
I’m still a bit sore from all the leg work but I’d do it again in a second. I’ll have to bring my equipment when I go to New Orleans next month – see if I can get in another evening of swordplay. Oh yeah, and sell some books!
I was away last week at the Virginia Festival of the Book. I did no blog entries. I’ve been in Charlottesville Virginia, moving between the Omni, downtown, Emmit Road B&N, Allied Road Charlottesville Fencing Alliance and Allied Yoga. Oh, and the AMTRAK station.
I took a seven hour AMTRAK ride down and wrote some while my butt rode the rail. That made me smile.
Here’s the other thing that made me smile besides the beautiful town, the nice and friendly people, and the warm weather and flowers.
Barnes & Noble in Charlottesville carried my book there. There’s no other B&N in the country that carries my book. But in Charlottesville VA, they carry it. That’s cool.
It’s in two different places, the New Teen Fiction section and the table with all the books from the book festival authors – at least that’s where it will be until the end of today when the festival closes. This was the best series of events I’ve ever done. Seriously. If you ever get the chance to do this as an author, don’t hesitate, do it.
Panel I, Fiction: Conspiracies and Obsessions – I did with three very cool authors – Alma Katsu (The Taker), Amelia Gray (Threats), Virginia Moran (The Algebra of Snow) – and an even cooler moderator named Meredith Cole. Meredith knows how to moderate (not as easy as it would sound). She gave us a series of questions she would ask ahead of time, met us 30 minutes before the event to get to know us and help us settle in, and read all four of our books so that when she introduced us and asked us questions she knew what she was talking about. Meredith rocks. And, she’s a heck of a good mystery writer herself.
There were over 60 people at the even at the Barnes and Noble in town. They were standing in the aisles and sitting on the floor. That was a very cool thing to see. I don’t know who they were there to see and I don’t care. We all had a good audience to talk to and the panel kicked butt. Seriously. These women were funny and interesting and I added a touch or two myself, but watching the ladies work, I wanted to be in the audience myself. I had fun and… sold ten books, at least as far as I can remember. j
The Festival volunteers were helpful. The B&N staff were helpful. I probably had too much coffee because my hands shook. Or it could have been the influence of the Christianity section behind us. Or that might have been my nervousness showing. In any case it couldn’t have gone better.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the fencing. Oh yeah, and Panel II with Elizabeth Nunez.
I don’t know how this happened but it has. Cid Wymann, the protagonist in my book Open Wounds, has been compared to Leave it To Beaver. He’s a “Jewish Leave it to Beaver,” the reviewer wrote. I don’t know what to think about that. The Beaver didn’t really get into fights, or try to kill anyone, or get beaten by his father, or have his mother die in child-birth, or learn how to duel with a sword. Can you imagine Beaver dealing with Lefty, Cid’s WWI mustard gassed, one-eyed, one-armed, one-legged, cousin from England? The pristine world of the 1950’s black and white, father reading the paper, mother cooking, house neat and suburban, just doesn’t seem to fit.
There were a number of nice things said by The Write Girl in her review not the least of which is a comparison to Return to Exile (the Hunter Chronicles #1) by EJ Patten. I loved that book. And she says, It’s one of her favorite books about a boy growing up. But I can’t get past the Beaver. On the other hand the Beaver’s last name is Cleaver. That sounds Cid-ish. Cleaver. No elegance like the word épée or even foil or sabre. More thuggish, Cleaver. More like Cid’s father or Scarps, one of Cid’s antagonists.
Say, no more about the Beave. Thanks to The Write Girl for reading and reviewing and adding her review to Goodreads.
Here’s the link to her review: The Write Girl
Writers create worlds out of words. It sounds obvious but it isn’t. I didn’t realize the amount of world building that went into a historical novel until I wrote one. If you’d have asked me before I wrote Open Wounds whether I’d ever write a historical novel I’d have told you, you were out of your mind.
I just finished Garth Nix’s Mr. Monday: The Keys to the Kingdom Book 1. My son read it and told me I had to read it too… so I did. And he was right. It’s a good book. What impressed me the most about the book is the world building Nix did. He created a world in which a line of script is alive and letters changed can change life to death and visa versa. Nix’s world has its own logic to it. It makes sense out of Nothing, and Nithlings out of Nothing and Fetchers out of Nothing. It is a book that makes me see a world that I’ve never seen before – one that springs out of Nothing.
World building is not relegated only to Fantasy or Science Fiction, but also historical novels and realistic fiction. Even realistic fiction has to create a believable here and now just as historical fiction has to create a believable then and there.
I’ll give you an example. In the 1930’s-40’s the subways in New York City didn’t have intercom systems in the cars. You knew what stop you were at by the conductor shouting it out from his window and from looking out the window or door yourself. I’m betting on crowded days people missed a lot of stops. It’s a simple detail but it gives time and place and helps to build the world that Cid Wymann lives in.
When world building you create worlds out of words that readers take and surround with atmosphere, beating hearts, and long harsh howls.
My first book festival in which I’ll be on a panel discussing a subject that has to do with my book.
I’m very excited about this. So far I’ve been to a few (3) conferences (ALA, BEA, and a NYC Dept. of Ed Librarians Conference) and each of them I’ve signed and done some author speed dating but no presenting on panels.
It seems like a cool thing that an author would do. I’m excited about it.
The Virginia Festival of the Book invited me (thanks to my great publicist JKSCommunications!) and as a Yankee, it’s a real honor to have been picked. Maybe the road trip last summer down south paid off. Whatever Goddesses were looking out for me I’m one happy camper.
I’ll be on two panels.
Panel 1: Conspiracies and Obsessions – novels of unravelling lives – with Alma Katsu, Virginia Moran, and Amelia Gray (and me). It’s an adult author line-up, not YA. I’ll have to think about the context but it sounds like a good fit for Cid Wymann and Open Wounds.
Panel 2: Crossing Boundaries – novels about family drama, love, and loss beyond borders – with N.M.Kelby, Jacqueline E. Luckett, and Elizabeth Nunez (and me). I can’t forget me. Also adult novels but I think I’ll fit in with Open Wounds just fine.
The festival is on March 21-25 and I’ll be on panel 1 on Thursday the 23 and panel 2 Friday the 24. If you’re in Charlottesille VA around then… come say hello. I’ll be the author with the big smile on his phiz.
And here’s the real kicker. The panels will be at a Barnes and Noble. They won’t carry my book normally in store (although they do sell it online) but I’m betting they carry it for the festival. Oh yeah. Uh huh. Oh yeah. I’m still stopping at indi New Dominion Bookstore – oldest in VA. That’s going to be even cooler. Maybe I can convince them to carry my book…
Here’s the link: Virginia Festival of Books
Open Wounds was selected by two review sites as best book of 2011. This is cool.
With small distribution to bookstores and mostly online sales the fact that my book has reached so many people (enough to get a second printing and hopefully, soon, a third) is a testament to my publicist JKS Communications (Julie Schoerke, Marissa, and Samantha) and all the review sites they were able to get copies of my book to. Evelyn Fazio at WestSide also had a lot of faith in my book right from the start and gave it as much of a push as she could.
Joemamma’s review from Life Happens While Books are Waiting was one of the first bloggers out there who reviewed my book and I had the wonderful opportunity to meet her, her daughter Jennifer, and her granddaughter Victoria for lunch when I was in Denver last spring. I had the best time talking shop with the three of them and it really set the marker for me in meeting reviewers and getting to know the review side of the marketing puzzle. They are book-lovers and good people. Getting listed on her site as best book she read in 2011 is an honor.
Megan’s review site is Leafing Through Life and I met her at BEA last year. Her review of Open Wounds just came online. It’s funny because she was hesitant about picking my book up to read and once read says it’s the best book she’s read in 2011. There is nothing quite like finding treasure buried beneath an unsuspecting cover. Check out her review using the link.
Not a bad way to start out 2012.
Here’s three words I never thought I’d hear when someone talked about my book, Open Wounds: hyper-masculine, Rambo, and Terminator. I did an interview with Dr. Beth Erickson that will be airing today Monday, January 2nd. This was a difficult interview for me. Dr. Beth had some very specific ideas about how my book played out and on how it represents the role of fatherhood. I don’t agree with all the things that she said but I liked that her ideas were provocative and made me think about my work in new and interesting ways. People bring the most amazing things to work they read. Dr. Beth’s clinical background gave her an angle I’ve not experienced before and it made me uncomfortable. If anything, that’s a good enough reason to listen to the interview – my discomfort as entertainment.
The Terminator Cid.
The hyper-masculinized man.
Here’s the link for the interview:
It’s two days before Christmas. I’ve done little shopping for some and finished for others. I’ll be scampering around NYC today finding last-minute gifts for my son. He’s been introduced to Dungeons and Dragons and he’s told me my gift for him (in addition to Amulet #4, Pokemon Black and White Cards, a Techdeck pack, and miniature radio controlled fighting tanks) can be a fully realized dungeon for him to adventure in so he can play. I’m up for it. I bought a small notebook with graph paper inside and a fine point pen – you have to have the right pen for these kinds of things. I’ll have to dust off my dice and look at the rules again. I think I’m missing page 36 from book one. It could be important but I can probably make up the rules as I go along.
A literary Christmas gift has been given to me by Kitty Bullard from Great Minds think Aloud Literary Community. she’s written a wonderful review of Open wounds and recommended it to her community. When a review starts with: “I feel “Open Wounds” is one of the greatest adventure books I’ve ever read,” I feel as if I’ve done all right. Thank you Kitty.
Check out her review at: Great Minds Think Aloud Literary Community.
I read at Espresso 77 last night. My son sold books for me and gave out free mugs as gifts. Four friends, ten customers, and three employees listened in. I read the opening six pages of Open Wounds and the first five pages of the second part, The Bells of Hell – where Lefty is introduced to the reader and to Cid – the protagonist.
The shop turned off the music.
The customers looked up from their conversations and laptops, took out their earphones, put away their phones.
Just about everybody tuned in for twenty minutes. It’s hard not too in such a small space.
I stood by the register with my back to the milk and condiment cart. The owner’s art-work surrounded me on both walls.
I love this place.
I wore my Espresso 77 t-shirt which says, “I love espresso,” on the front and Espresso 77 on the back. The writing is in white and red. The t-shirt is black. I wore my special, thick, writer-ly, wool coat. It doesn’t have elbow patches. It is slate black. And it is cool.
I may not be cool.
But my jacket is.
My son sold three books – two to friends, and one to a customer who got into the reading and decided to give it a try.
It was just about perfect.
Earlier that day my son and I went to a local pool hall and played ping-pong – 30 pool tables, 5 ping-pong tables, 2 air hockey tables, and one foosball table. I introduced my son to foosball. He liked it – a lot.
If the sun had come out and it had rained diamonds it couldn’t have been a more perfect day.
My son asked me if I had a nickname when I was growing up. I told him yes. When I played rugby I was called Joe Nose, usually accompanied by, “the Nose knows.” I broke my nose 9 times on the rugby pitch, so often that the last few times I had to push it back in place myself before it swelled and I had to go the doctor for rearrangement. Rugby players all have nicknames. I don’t know why. One guy we called IDK because whenever someone asked what his name was none of us knew. “I don’t know,” became IDK.
In Open Wounds Cid calls Winston Arnolf Leftingsham, his cousin from England who comes to get him from the orphanage he is stuck in for five years, “Lefty.” Winston has no left arm or leg (the leg is a wooden replacement) and is badly scarred on the inside and out from mustard gas fighting at Ypres in the First World War. Cid never calls him “Lefty” to his face because… that would be wrong. But the nickname sticks.
My son has had some nicknames so far, like Maximum Max, Maximo, and Maximillion, but nothing that has stuck yet like Lefty or The Nose or IDK. I hope he gets a good one. They’re good for character and myth building.
In case I forget later, I’ll be at Espresso 77 in my neighborhood on Sunday evening 7-8pm reading and talking about Open Wounds. If you’re in Jackson Heights, Queens, come on by and have a latte with me and talk books.
Open Wounds was reviewed today by a most unusual book blogger and his mom. This Kid Reviews Books is a book blog run by a young gentleman named Erik and his Mom (otherwise known as Erik’s Mom). Normally Erik reviews all the books but he’s 9 (just like my son) and Open Wounds has some mature themes (rated 15 and up) that would not be appropriate for him. Fortunately for me, Erik’s Mom loved my book and reviewed it for him in a tag-team project. Erik interviewed me on his blog along with her review. His interview questions are unique and original.
Stop by his blog to check out the review and interview and drop him and his mom a comment to let them know what you think and to enter the contest for a signed copy of my book.
I’m doing a reading at my favorite coffee shop in Jackson Heights called Espresso 77. I have one of their mugs and a t-shirt at home. If they were a football team I’d be a fan. If they were a rugby team I’d play for them. As it is I’ll just have to settle for being a frequent customer.
Afzal and Julie are the owners and they are both wonderful people who’ve helped build community in our neighborhood through good coffee, food, and cool atmosphere. My wife and son and I hang out there a few times each week – and have done so since they opened up three years ago. I walk by it every day going to and from work.
I did an interview with the Queens Tribune on the bench outside the front door last summer. My son showed some of his artwork there thanks to Afzal (who is an artist also) and now I’ll get a chance to do a reading of Open Wounds.
If you’re in town and want to come by, it’s a small shop with Gimme coffee from Brooklyn (which is awesome if you like coffee) and well-trained baristas that make just about perfect cappuccinos and lattes every time. I’ll be drinking their seasonal Honey Bee Latte and reading/talking about Cid and Lefty and the Open Wounds gang for an hour. Most of the time I drink tea but once a day, late in the afternoon, when my energy is low and I’m on my way home from work…
There’s nothing quite like doing something this personal in your favorite neighborhood hangout.
Sunday Evening from 7pm-8pm.
A third review in one week! The Gods are smiling on me. It’s a reviewers hat-trick (three goals in a hockey game).
This is a review from Bryan Russell, writer, blogger, and one of the alchemists of Alchemy of Writing blog. Bryan’s review is one of my favorite. The last paragraph about historical novels in general and how Open Wounds fits into his view of them is all by itself, worth the trip to his blog. It’s insightful and wonderfully specific. Thanks, Bryan, for the kind words about my book.
Bryan mentions that he usually doesn’t read YA and that he was surprised by my book. So many people don’t read YA books because they perceive them as children’s books or not adult books and so not worth reading. I wish there was some way to help people get past that. My life is richer for reading books such as, Ghost Medicine, Marbury Lens, Stick, Sunrise Over Fallujah, The Subtle Knife, the Edge Chronicles, Hunger Games, and Crossing the Tracks.
Targeted marketing or the creation of genre ghettos?
I wonder which it is?
This is so cool. I never dreamed I’d get reviewed in American Fencing Magazine. Kathryn Schifferle wrote the review and it’s on page 44, under Product Review. Here’s my favorite part:
… This is a complex, well-written story. Although targeted to young adults, the descriptions of pre-World War II era New York are compelling. I could not only visualize the period, but the pain and excitement that Cid Experienced as he learned the way of the sword. In addiction the characters are diverse, multidimensional, and live in my mind still today…
Check it out! Here’s the full review.
I thought my time had passed for a review of Open Wounds in the School Library Journal Review but it seems it hasn’t. My wife caught their review on the Barnes and Noble .com site and then looked and found it in the Journal’s October 1 reviews. I’m really pleased with it. Here it is in its entirety.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 10—Seven-year-old Cedric Wymann is raised by an alcoholic, violent father and a stoic, bitter grandmother. Going to the movies with her, he becomes entranced by the sword-fighting scenes in Captain Blood and other films of the day. A chance meeting with a famous swordsman cements his fascination with the sport. Eventually Cid and two friends fight off the neighborhood bullies. After the disappearance of his father and the suicide of his grandmother, Cid spends five years in a brutal orphanage before being claimed by a British cousin who suffered the loss of an arm, a leg, and an eye in the trenches of World War I. “Lefty” becomes a caring father figure to Cid and, along with a drunken, retired Russian fencing master, guides him through the next few years as he learns to fence and studies the great works of Shakespeare. At 16, he is hired to teach local actors how to perform swordplay on the stage. Fate brings his childhood friends back into his life, and they again face the bullies they fought off years earlier, but their tormentors are now under the protection of a wealthy businessman. Of course the final face-off is at a fencing competition. Lunievicz does a good job of portraying the New York City in the 1930s and ’40s that teems with violence and hard living. However, there is a lot going on in this novel. At times it seems too crowded with characters who symbolize many different aspects of the times, but they are generally well drawn and believable. In the end, this is a novel about fencing, and the descriptions of the instruments, the action, and the finely choreographed movements of this elegant sport are riveting.—Karen Elliott, Grafton High School, WI
Thank you Ms. Elliott for reviewing my book and for the good word on it. I’ll take “riveting” as a final word any day.
At the New York City Department of Education Library Services Conference in Brooklyn (that’s a mouthful) I was invited to do speed dating with librarians. I’ve done this before. At BEA in NYC . At ALA in New Orleans. As a matter of fact one woman I speed dated at ALA liked what I said enough to invite me to this NYC event. I feel like I can get a librarian to date me (or read my book which is probably more important). Well, you know what I mean. Connections, connections, connections. It is about relationships.
So these are the rules. There are tables full of librarians and in this instance all the authors were grouped together at one side of the room. There were some dozen tables and about 14 or 15 authors. I have to say I had to fight the competitive response. Because as soon as the microphone sounded authors sprang into action to find the biggest table first.
I shared my first table with a more established writer. We were nice to each other. Cordial. Smiled. We shared our time. But I could see it in her eyes. Neither one of us was going to share a table again.
When the buzzer sounded to shift tables you had to be fast or you wouldn’t get another table and would have to wait or share your time. I have to say. I’m slow and I need to get faster. Either that or talk less. At the least I have to be more aware of the buzzer. Because if you’re slow you miss the chance to get a seat at another table. The woman in charge took pity on me and found me an empty table three times in a row. Thank you, un-named librarian who helped this author to find his groove. Five librarians bought my book that afternoon – always a good thing. By the last table I, having to skip one round because I wasn’t quick enough to grab a seat, waited behind an author at a large table and as soon as the buzzer rang, took her seat. Another author raced over to try to sit in what would be my seat. I looked at him and shook my head slowly. Not this time. He moved away with a strained smile.
Some events just bring out the best in me.
Why did you write a historical novel and why did you want to write about fencing? This is a question from Ms. Maddy Black’s 8th grade class last week.
The truth is I had no desire to write a historical novel. I had no idea I had one in me. As I realized my story was going to take place in the past I even fought against it. I knew I would not be able to rely on my contemporary point of view for the novel and since I’d never worked without that before I grew overwhelmed by the concept of a historical novel very quickly. How could I possibly speak with confidence about what it was like to live in 1936 or 1942? I wasn’t even alive back then. And the more research I did the more overwhelmed I became. It seemed in order to be an expert on the era, or to feel competence in my knowledge of the era I would have to read an incredible number of heavy, thick, dry-looking books and microfiche newspapers.
But at some point my curiosity and interest in the period overcame my anxiety and I began to write. I even became so involved in the research that I overdid it and had to cut about half of what I looked up, out. I even found I enjoyed the details of life from that time period. I found it fascinating.
Also, my protagonist, Cid Wymann, was 7 in 1936 so I either wrote about him in 1936 or wrote about a different character. I’ve written before about the vision I had of a 72-year-old Cid dueling with épées on the roof of the Chelsea Hotel so I won’t go into it here – but those were my constraints. I either wrote about him when he lived or I wrote about someone else. but no one else haunted me the way Cid did. That image wouldn’t go away.
Andrew Smith (author of Stick, The Marbury Lens, Ghost Medicine, and In the Path of Falling Objects) says his stories come through him, as if he was a medium for a story that had to be told. I see writing very much the same way. The characters gnaw at me. They worry me like a dog with a bone until I start to tell their story. Writing for me is then very much a journey to figure out who the protagonist is and what his story is that needs to be told.
And why fencing? I have been in love with swordplay since I was a kid, fenced since college, and taught stage combat to actors. I find I write about things that I do, that I feel a passion for. And so the man on the roof of the Chelsea hotel was fencing and his tale began when he was 7 – when Aldo Nadi, the greatest fencer of the 20th century, perhaps of all time, came to New York City and gave a fencing exhibition at The Plaza and on the same weekend that Errol Flynn’s Captain Blood premiered. I guess you could say I had not choice. Open Wounds would be a historical novel and there would be swordplay in it.