Tonight I was a force of nature. 1336 words in 1:15. First night like that in ages. I also had enough energy to clean out my cubbyhole of poetry. I discovered I can drink black coffee and be conscious for 16 hours without sleeping half the time away. I can promise the two were unrelated! All by cutting carbs. Of course my blood sugar was still sky high, and there was a near-constant background of almost-threatening voices, but still. It was a good day.
So yeah. About that novel. As many of mine do, this one topped out at 56K. I have not been able to hit the magical 80K-and-readily-agentable mark in some time, so it's likely, with edits and additions I have yet to enter, Comes the Flood will be around 60K, which will limit my submissions strategy somewhat. Still, I think it's a good book, or will be when I've polished the shit off its heels. I finished this novel in May. Since then the pandemic's gotten worse, I spent a month in a partial hospitalization and have slept the large part of those days in total withdrawal mode. Without the kids and Heather I don't know what I would have done. As a result, Tough fell behind and the lion's share of the reading load and all of the editing fell to Tim Hennessy, to whom I am eternally grateful. We're catching up and back to postiing stories, and will be adding three new staffers this week so we hopefully will never have to take time off again. I have a chapbook tentatively due out beginning of the year and I'm taking some time off from the novel to write some last poems for it. Here's hoping.
I keep buying books as if I'm going to read them, and I just haven't been able to keep up my usual pace, even with poetry. I'm going to top off this year at about eighty. Plans for next year include more reading, 150 books read, two written and completed novels, one of which will be the final book in the Ridgerunner trilogy. I'm getting my first tattoo. I'm 51 in a month. I'm tired of fucking around. Now if my brain just cooperates.
Tonight felt satisfactory. It wasn't a big fat adrenaline dump like last night's writing, but it went well. I could have written more, but I didn't want to leave it all in the page and flat-out exhaust myself either. A plot turn's come up though, and my outline is no longer viable for the second half of the thing, so tomorrow I'm drafting a new outline. I'm a little scared of doing it, frankly, since the writing's been going so well. I just need to stay vigilant, not let myself get a couple days out of sorts. So tomorrow there will likely be no update, as I'll be working on the outline all night tonight and most of tomorrow outside of my family commitments. It'll all be fine, right?
On nights like this, there isn't much to say. Heather had half the day off so after mending fences from last night in the earlier part of her shift and because of being on the phone near-constantly in our new Covid-normal in the second half, I started writing much earlier than my normal 9:30 PM, and so by dinnertime now I've gotten my words in and may even be able to write again later on during my normal time.
I do have a normal time to write. 999 times out of a thousand, I'm writing at 9:30 PM every night, and I write until I get to 500 words within the hour or a thousand, or sometimes, rarely, more. More often than not when it's going well, I get a thousand words, so that's what I judge by: 500 minimum, the Graham Greene prescription, as described in The End of the Affair, but a thousand marking out a good strong day's writing. More than that, the Muses are smiling on me. Last night, a bad night that made me feel shitty until I sat down to write this afternoon, like a hangover. Tonight? Something else again. The only way through is forward.
I'm going to read now, and drink coffee, and maul a cat while I do. On deck, Cocaine and Blue Eyes, by Fred Zackel, Simple Justice by John Morgan Wilson and finally, Stoneburner, by William Gay. I'm halfway through the Zackel, a third through Simple Justice and I haven't begin Stoneburner yet, though I've owned it and started it a few times. I can already tell it's not top-notch Gay, but it's interesting, as the master's minutiae often are.
Edit in: 11:23 PM. Got an extra thousand words in for over 40K now. Halfway.
Not a good night. Rough on the family, rough on me with John Prine dying, just pandemic closeness rubbing everybody, well me, the wrong way. I didn't, couldn't write last night, and I'm in a shitty mood, so I'm counting these words as desperate and pleading with the muses to give me just a few more over the next month or so. And I want to apologize to my wife publicly for being such a prick. I'm sorry, baby. That's all. You all can call this the confessional blog.
It sucks sometimes, all the time, but most of the time you have to do the work anyway. But not always. Sometimes, like last night, I couldn't imagine doing it, and I'm paying for it in guilt all day anticipating when I can get to the keyboard and make it right, and words won't come, like tonight. Waah waah wahh. I didnt have to do it. I could stop. But I'm not going to.
Tonight was a comedown. I had lots of time over the weekend and took advantage of it, and tonight–not so much. Heather and the kids are sewing masks for family and friends so there are dueling sewing machines on either end of the living room table. Challenging writing environment, but I'd rather be in the middle of things trying to write instead of the cliched lonely writer in his garret keeping company with rats and roaches but with no other distractions. I like my life occasionally, depressed and psychotic though I am most of the time. Thanks be to therapists and doctors and other miracles of pharmaceutical origins. I'm not going to go on at length except to say that I worked for my words tonight, and I can only hope the struggle doesn't show when I get to the final draft, however far off or uncertain that may be.
Hello. One of the things you'll notice that's consistent about this blog is its inconsistency. A new year or a milestone hits and I'm eager to blog it and talk to the world, most of which I've been doing lately via Instagram and Facebook, leaving this, my main site, static and uninteresting. So here I go again, pledging to update with relevant news.
What's going on here right now is my stretch run toward novel number seven, four of which have seen the gray light of publication. Number seven promises to be my most complex and longest novel yet. No more of the shortie novels, at least not this time around. What I'll say about it right now–it's called Comes the Flood–is that it's unfashionable as hell. It's a PI novel set in Revere MA, where I have lived since 1996, provides lots of local color in a time of very exciting and dynamic times, some of which I hope to comment on via the main action, though the tourist board and chamber of commerce is not very likely to point to it as a guide or pinpoint accurate representation of the absolutely lovely city in which Heather and I have chosen to raise our children.. I'm 36.5K into it, long enough to be able to see that it's sustainable over the long haul, and early enough that I remain carefully excited about the possibilities. It's time for the hard slog of the middle now, and I hope to document daily or near-daily progress reports here.
Today was a weekend day, which meant I had a little longer to write. I got 1717 words in two sessions, and what I'm most interested in is getting back to the outline. I had a productive side-spin on the plot which sustained me for couple days, and now it's time to come back to the main thrust with additional momentum. This is the first of my six, soon to be seven, novels to be outlined. I won't do another novel without one, I don't think. It's been two days of high-energy movement and promises to be even more fun going forward. I hope. So welcome to the blog, the blog with newfound purpose. I come to it as I do to many things, a day late, unfashonably so, and a dollar short, but with a lot of enthusiasm. Hit me up if you have questions.
So it’s been some time since I updated. It’s been a hell of a year. My health went to hell in a hand-basket, and I wrote a ton of poems as a result. I read many books, and bought many more. The family went through some junk, and I went through some junk. Boy howdy.
On to the important stuff: even through the hellish landscape that has been 2019, I have gotten work done since my last update. A poem appeared in Black Coffee Review’s Fall 2019 issue called “Pissing In Public Urinals,” which was received with many quizzical looks and sidelong grins, but generated more praise than many things I’ve written more recently. My story “Easy Tiger” appeared in The Desperate and the Damned anthology. ‘The Russian’ appeared in Mystery Tribune in Summer 2019, and finally, the pieces de resistance, the two books I have that have come out this fall, Kraj the Enforcer: Stories, out in October from Shotgun Honey/Down & Out Books, and Apocalypse in A‑Minor, a miscellany of poems,from Analog Submission Press, due out on November 18th. Here is the cover copy for Kraj:
Meet Kraj—pronounced krai—a low-level errand boy and hit-man masquerading as a bouncer for Tricky Ricky Gutierrez, nefarious owner of the Twist, a club in upstate Elmira NY. A place that has both a LGBTQIA night and a cowboy country night, this cockeyed corner bar in northern Appalachia supports Ricky’s illegal schemes, and serves as a rural balm for Croatian-war refugee Kraj.
Kraj plies his trade over a short span, moving from petty theft to strong-arming tips from people at the door, breaking up redneck fights, protecting the club’s nubile female staff and collecting gambling debts owed Tricky Ricky. Kraj eventually gets sucked further and further into Ricky’s underworld plans, where he wants to be seen as a man on the come-up, but he has problems moving up in Ricky's organization will never solve. His sister Ana, missing since the Croatian War for Independence, never strays far from his mind.
Kraj, together with his sometime girlfriend Cami, newly become manager of a franchisee McDonald’s, and his manager Mikael. negotiates his way through underground fight clubs, prostitution rings, drug deals, petty thievery, and of course, murder. Tricky Ricky gives Kraj a great deal of rope and autonomy to operate.
Will he hang himself with it or swing?
As far as the future goes, I have two stories in the final stages of consideration for different anthologies, plus the story “Big Poppa” coming out in Goliad Review. I also have a novel. The Enforcer’s Revenge featuring Kraj, the protagonist of my most recent book, in edits. I said I’d given up on that one due to a number of complicating factors. but I may have found ways around. It will take time and opportunity that I don’t have right now, so it may be a year or two before I can fix it. I also have another full, if short, novel finished, one whose bones are strong, but no agents are interested, because it only runs 55K. Too short for submission. It’s called Sunset Approaching, and it hearkens back to my earlier work, a more Appalachian book in setting and tone. I hope to place that with a university or independent press sometime in the near future.
And finally, I’m in the midst of collecting a bunch of Appalachian stories that I’ve published in various journals since Mostly Redneck came out, some crime and some not. They fit pretty well as a collection, so I’ll be shopping that around soon enough too. I have a private investigator novel I’m working on sporadically. set here in Revere, where I live and write. I have high hopes for that, at least high compared with my goals for 2019, which was basically to survive. I’ve done that, despite innumerable challenges, and I remain hopeful in spite of crushing depression, anxiety, and psychosis, and I only hope I stay well enough to do the work that is in me to do.
I promised to post more during this period of time, but…stuff got away from me. On the publishing news front, I've managed to place poems in four journals over these last few months, Plumb, Ginosko, BEAT to a PULP amd FRiGG. I'll also have another Kraj story in Mystery Tribune coming up soon, and another in Goliad Review this fall.
I'll be at Bouchercon in the fall too, late October, early November, so look me up or drop me a note via social media beforehand. I'd like to get together, as I don't get to mingle very often. That's about all for now.
I pledge to post a little more, which means I have to have news to share or pertinent info. You can find two recent stories, one in Goliad Review, a long story I'm particularly proud of at 9000 words, and another in Mystery Tribune. Otherwise, I've added a page for my newest novel The Last Danger, sequel to Ridgerunner, in which Matt Rider gets into even more trouble with the renegade Pittman clan and clings to his instincts to the detriment of nearly everyone around him. Jay Gertzman wrote up a nice précis of the novel on Amazon if you care to look it up. I'll reproduce some relevant bits here.
_Ridgerunner_, the first novel in this proposed trilogy, showed Matt Rider as a man capable of protecting his family from the belligerent, bullying Pittmans, who control the regional drug distribution in upsate NY and PA. Matt confronts them with the steely (as in guns) resolution of a Western homesteader protecting his domain from cattlemen who want to run him off it. Perhaps the name Matt Rider is meant to suggest this kind of classic rural American independence, which came through violence. The Pittmans kill Matt’s brother and Matt has killed two of them. As _The Last Danger_ opens, Matt knows he is a hunted man. He also knows, as another fighter against criminal says, PI Phillip Marlow says, “I was part of the nastiness now.”
His brother, wife, and daughter all wonder what Matt has become. Traps are many-layered in this novel. The Pittmans have forced him to do drug runs. That at least protects wife and daughter. But Matt exposes them, and his loyal best friend, to increasing dangers as the novel proceeds. So his desperate need to protect just increases a quicksand-like immersion. His own violence increases, and he relishes it. The more he tells himself he is protecting the family (which is his chief aim), the more his behavior makes that sincere conviction a Kafkaesque entrapment.
I hope to publish even more in 2019, including a collection of Kraj stories as well as some poems and short stories. I'll attend at least two, possible three conferences in 2019, so getting to hang out and have a beer with some of you is a very real possibility. Thanks for hanging in there with me, and here's hoping for the best in 2019