My book of short stories, vignettes, and poetry, Undercurrents, should be ready for public consumption in December. It’s being proofread, mostly to confirm that my compilation and formatting didn’t introduce errors.
Some of it is available online, some has been shared with newsletter readers or members of other forums, but this is the first time I’ve created a compilation like this with it all in one place.
Oh, the poetry part? No, I’m not really a poet. There are some bits from long ago, two real poems, and scads of song lyrics which more than one trusted reader has assured me reads like poetry.
It’ll be my first ever digital only book. A stopgap, in fact, to prevent this from being the first year since I started publishing that I didn’t have a book to release.
If it becomes my bestselling book I promise I’ll have it formatted for print, if that matters to y’all like it does me.
After finishing his latest fiction I’m rereading Stephen King’s On Writing which, although not precisely instructional, is the most inspiring book I’ve read when it comes to staying the course as a writer.
Last night this reminded me why:
“I was ashamed. I have spent a good many years since—too many, I think—being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who as ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent.”
“. . . in my heart I stayed ashamed. I kept hearing Miss Hisler asking why I wanted to waste my talent, why I wanted to waste my time, why I wanted to write junk.”—from Stephen King’s On Writing p50
I’ve stayed up past midnight 3 nights in a row to finish Stephen King’s 11.22.63. Yes, it’s that good (and that long; nearly 900 pages.)
Not a fan of horror, but this one is fantasy/scifi rather than his usual genre. It has time travel. It’s a historical novel. It has romance. In the end notes it has a nod to Time and Again which I agree with King is the best time travel book written.
One small but vital character interested me because of a parallel to Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle. It seems guardians of time travel are a common idea. I’m giving a little away here, but you can’t read the first few chapters of King’s book and not realize that the yellow card man is going to be more than a bit player, no matter how few lines he speaks.
So there you have it: Stephen King is starting to write like me because we like the same time travel book.
My dad’s bigger boat, a Lightning with a 27′ mast, wasn’t ready for sailing yet so we took the little 12-footer. It was a buoyant little beast, capable of carrying four adults: Brett and I and our dad, and our friend Paul. Paul loved sailing and as a result was rooked into a boatload of unnecessary adventures. He spent a lot of his time with us wet.
We always packed food because sailing made us hungry. It’s only a mile across San Diego Bay from the boat ramp where we launched so we sailed over to Silver Strand State Park to have lunch on the beach.
I was at the tiller because Dad wanted to be the first one to step ashore. I realized as we were approaching the shore that the bottom inclined so gradually the rudder was going to hit ground before the bow touched the sand.
and, overnight, fall
fall the leaves
fall the mercury
fall the crisp carpeting dead to begin the blanket
fall the snow another blanket to hide beneath
to lie beneath
what lies beneath
Country folk have odd recipes, but we always eat good.
My mom had two cakes she introduced us to when I was a kid. She called them Mayonnaise Cake and Tomato Soup Cake.
Yeah, that’s how we reacted, too. Allow me to expand: the mayonnaise is used as a substitute for eggs and oil in a chocolate cake with coffee in the batter. A thick, dense, moist explosion of coffee-chocolate flavor. Frosting would be pointless. Vanilla ice cream works. We’d stir them together, unknowingly creating a cookies and cream experience 30 years before anyone was selling it.
My father was most precise in his speech. It was from him that I learned to look for the right word, the difference, for instance, between “loping” and “trotting” or “thinking” and “pondering” and such shades of meaning which give depth and clarity to our communication.
(That’s called “setup” so you’ll wonder, as I relate this, where it comes into play.)
Railroad ties make a good retaining wall. Heavy and thick, they’re impregnated with creosote so they’re nearly rot-proof. Peg them together with 3/8″ rebar and they’ll be there 20 years later (according to this picture. Neighborhood has sure run down since I lived there.)
The process is to lay down the first layer of ties, drill holes where the pins will go through, lay down the next layer, drill, and repeat. Somehow, I kept performing the miracle of drilling the holes exactly where they needed to be. Stupid confidence sometimes turns into wild good luck.
I’d finished the fronts of the walls, tied into the sides next to the steps. I do not remember why (trauma, perhaps) but as I neared the end, I asked my teenage son Tristan to come help.
“Here, hold this,” I said, with a 3-foot chunk of rebar placed in the top of the hole in the railroad tie.
We worked in the back of a great big van, more like a delivery truck. Not as big as a moving van, but far bigger than a passenger vehicle. Workbenches, grinders, air and power tools of all kinds, bins of parts and whatnot. It was convenient for work, being totally mobile. For driving, not so much. The van was awkward, felt top-heavy, and it as a nightmare to back up. I could always hear stuff shifting, rattling, pinging as we hit bumps or turned corners.
After lunch at a new place one day I headed out the back exit of the parking lot.
In this week’s 21st Century Creative podcast Mark McGuinness and guest Laurie Millotte discuss creating a global business. Laurie’s challenge to listeners was to create a round-the-world trip based on your creative desires. Here’s what I wrote:
Before Best Beloved and I spent a year traveling the US and Canada doing house sitting, we’d already built a location-independent business. As a result, we’ve already done a fair bit of traveling. But this week’s challenge has me thinking.
1. San Francisco. The entire city, but especially the waterfront and the trolleys, fire up my creativity. I’d want to start my trip with a total immersion in a city that has always inspired me.
We sat in the dark back seat, watching the digital clock (made of actual light bulbs) atop the bank in Chula Vista. It was a long red light. We’d seen the time change from 7:03 to 7:04 and all four of us started counting the seconds until it changed again.
Quietly, in the back seat: “57, 58, 59” and then, not quietly at all, the four of us shouting “Now!”
At that moment, the left turn light changed to green.
I printed out James’ notes on Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle.
Three pages of small font.
Much of it is rumination in the moment, notes taken as he read it. He had some concerns about this, that, and the other thing, and our usual difference of taste in certain areas.
Today’s task is to go through those notes and determine what needs attention, what could use a little nudge, and what I can leave as it is.
Assuming, after a quick scan, there are no gaping plot holes, the next step will be to write out the story I’ve already summarized for his review. I know, that sounds like oversimplification, but at this point, putting the words down is easy part. If I can maintain my old pace of 3,000 words a day I’ll have Jake’s story wrapped up in a month.
Let’s call it “by end of summer” just to be safe. And sane.
We read in order to learn how to face life’s challenges.
A book without challenges teaches us nothing.
The greater odds our hero faces, the more we learn from their success (or, to be fair, failure.)
I’ll confess that the young boy in my current work in progress is me, and I’m using the book to work through some childhood difficulties I’ve never been able to shake; nothing world-shattering, just the usual pains of being different and trying to grow up.