Showing posts with label writers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writers. Show all posts

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Beneath the ice

Monet-The Break-up of the Ice
      I want you to think of the book you're reading right now as a river, frozen in the night. You can read everything on the surface of the river. That means all the craft
which were yesterday busily plying the river, which have now come to a halt, frozen in place. It means fallen branches and other riverside detritus, partly submerged in the ice. Most important it means the general shape of the river, sinuous and taut at the same time, easily followed and anticipated, at least until the river bends out of sight.

     Perhaps you can spot adventurers on the ice, those familiar enough with its depth to risk ice-fishing or skating along, carving out their initials with the blades of their skates.. It's not for everyone, but watching them explore can help you understand the river better.     

     You can also see something peculiar to you, which is your own reflection, your surroundings, your sky, yourself. You are part of the river, a vital part. You bring your positioning, your angle, your history, without which the river is not complete.

     Here's what you rarely glimpse, though, unless you happen to be a writer, versed in a special way of seeing the river of the book. What we see is the the river beneath the ice, still alive, still flowing, still breathing, still teeming with all the aquatic life. We see words not chosen, passages scrubbed, streams converging and parting, rising and falling. We can't see them crystal-clear, of course, but we are always conscious of the book as a living, ever-changing, ever-busy thing, and we understand how mud or sand or rock in the river-bed fashions the entire river, how the entire-eco-system blends.

    For the writer, a book is never a finished thing, it's always wriggling in the hand. Is there another way to accomplish this attitude? I can't answer that question yea or nay. I'm not even sure it's useful to the reader, no matter how dedicated. But one thing I'd like you to keep in mind: the book is ALIVE.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Research to Schnitzel

 The truth is, I do a hideous amount of research. This is mainly because my plots are fairly wild, and I use historical facts, from events of worldwide importance to what kind of socks men were wearing that year to anchor my stories in reality.

Roulette Salon, Monte Carlo

     Am I methodical? Not in the least. Basically I have one text file, into which all my historical facts are thrown like a meat grinder to be turned into sausage later. Some of it's meat, some of it's spice. Would you like a glimpse at some of the ingredients? I thought you might. 

    Here's a small sampling of my notes (in no particular order) for my present project, 

The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart:

Gould married Sinclair on May 1, 1922.

November 9, 1922 — Tomb opened

They were married in December 1922 Ali Famy

On March 14, 1923, they legally remarried— Rudolph Valentino, divorced in 1925.

cartouche by Terry Ward

the nearby tomb of King Seti II, with 

cluttered trestle tables and Thonet bentwood chairs pressed tight against the ancient relief

“Well, sir, if it isn’t too great a liberty, I am a neighbour of yours, for you’ll find my little bookshop at the corner of Church Street, and very happy to see you, I am sure. Maybe you collect yourself, sir. Here’s British Birds, and Catullus, and The Holy War—a bargain, every one of them."

There was a sensational shooting affair at Leeds Tuesday sequel to the death Miss Helen Mary Nind, the music teacher, wha found poisoned in a Leeds hotel during the week-end. 

Dr. Scott's results in the examination of the brown marks upon the walls of the tomb are interesting - his examination proves them to be of the nature of mould from infection of some kind.

Arthur Mace never returned to the tomb. He contracted pleurisy which led to pneumonia. He nursed his health assiduoudly, but died in 1928.


London taxi, 1920s
62 mph


Beginning in February 1924, she accompanied Valentino on a trip abroad that was profiled in 26 installments published Movie Weekly over the course of six months`

State - How much fuel you've got. Mother requests, "Say your state". Responded to in the form of hours and minutes of fuel onboard til you "splash". You respond"State one plus two zero to splash" = 1 hours and 20 minutes of flying time remaining.

Flying in the 1920s was also an uncomfortable experience for passengers because it was loud and cold, as planes were made of uninsulated sheets of metal that shook loudly in the wind.

Junker interior

The average journey time by train between Paris Gare de Lyon and Meiringen is 6 hours and 53 minutes, with around 20 trains per day.


The pictures are, of course, research as well, and I download a LOT of them. These I treat with so little method that I usually have to wind up seeking them out again on the internet when I need to consult them. It may seem like chaos, but that's an accurate reflection of my mind. In the end, it's schnitzel.

Friday, February 11, 2022

You say goodbye, and I say hello.


Which one are you?
As an artist, which are you?

Lennon or McCartney?

The raw or the cooked?

I mean, there are those artists who want to dig into themselves, confess themselves, use themselves as their source material. And then there are artists who hide behind their art, who use their art to please, to put on a hundred different masks. I think it's true no matter what medium you work in: writing, acting, painting, etc.

Of course art by it's very nature is a kind of hiding; even if it is a revelation, it's always at one remove. One can always deny it if questioned by Pilate. Yet it is also an invitation to follow the clues, no matter how tortuous or obscure, to the soul. So there's a dialectic involved.

I adore Lennon, but I'm definitely a McCartney, hiding behind the mask of Dr. John Watson. (Not that an artist can't occasionally break the mold: McCartney's Yesterday or Lennon's For the Benefit of Mr. Kite.)

Friday, February 04, 2022

John Crowley


“Learning to decipher words had only added to the pleasures of holding spines and turning pages, measuring the journey to the end with a thumb-riffle, poring over frontispieces. Books! Opening with a crackle of old glue, releasing perfume; closing with a solid thump.”

--John Crowley

Lagniappe: From Poem to Screen

 “Who’s on line two? Bob Frost?” 

    “Bobby, how’s it hanging, baby? How’s Vermont? Sap still rising?” “Oh, mending walls, eh? Make sure you get a good contractor. This guy Sophie got on the guest house, he’s a goneph. I swear, I’m pouring money down a rat hole.
 "So what have you got for me, baby? A new poem? Pitch me! Two ears, no waiting.” “Stopping in the Woods on a Snowy Evening? Great title. Says it all. Three teen-age couples, cabin in the woods, axe-murderer, chop, chop, chop, big box office, I can smell the money, these kids can’ get enough of the crap!

For the rest check out Lagniappe

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

For Writers: B. Kliban

 Familiarity with the work of B. Kliban is fading fast; which is a damn shame. He was one of wildest minds and most influential cartoonist of the 70s and 80s till his death at 55 of a pulmonary embolism.  He entertained us with such collections as Cats, Never Ear Anything Bigger Than Your Head, and Whack Your Porcupine. When Gary Larson's The Far Side gained notoriety, Kliban fans knew we were getting toned-down Kliban; Larson acknowledged his influence.

This is my favorite B. Kliban cartoon. So much so that years ago when I lived in Houston with my friend the Rainbow Trout, I reproduced it on one of the walls. I don't think we got our deposit back on that apartment.

It strikes you as laughably simple, right? a man is working on a 4-piece puzzle of a yin-yang symbol. He appears to be giving it far more thought than necessary. His brow is furrowed. Ha-ha, dumb guy, right?

 But think about it for just a second. Don't we constantly overthink, making mountains out of molehills, second-guessing ourselves, making the simple difficult?

Now look at it again on a yet another level. He's contemplating how the elements if the yin-yang symbol mesh. Yin-yang is a powerful, highly complex symbol.

Two opposing forces: active and receptive, male and female, before and behind, light and dark.  The duality of nature.Yet are the two forces opposing each other or chasing one another, alternating? And each force contains the embryo of the other, each giving birth to each other: the oneness of nature. One might well hesitate over such a conundrum.

So the moral of the story (yes, there's a moral) is: when you're writing, don't get caught up with the simple or obvious. But realize that few things are simple or obvious.

To hear this song, click here.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Goodreads Gods

 Well, my Goodreads giveaway is over. 2800 people vied for ten copies of my autographed novel. There must have been blood in the streets.

 And I thought I'd contact the winners to see if they wanted any particular inscription.  The personal touch, you know? And I did contact a couple of them. But then I got this message from the Goodreads gods:

goodreads warning`

Well, fair enough. I don't want to spam anybody. But if there's a chance in hell any of the winners read this post and would like a personalized note, contact me sooner than later. Congratulations! I never win these things.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

For Writers: Rubik


Think of your story as a Rubik's Cube (though each story has a different method of solving, so you can't just memorize one), but you've got to keep twisting and turning and observing the results from every angle. There is one correct solution for each story, one which is satisfying, so don't be afraid to scrap your progress and start all over again.