April 30, 2012
January 1, 1966
It is New Year's Day and my own mother is not talking to me because I did not get home until this morning. She knows the car would not start. She knows it was only 5 degrees outside. But, it's all about Teddy. Always about Teddy. It isn't fair. I try so hard. I think Momma and Daddy actually hate each other. Daddy is so mean to her. He doesn't talk to anyone. He just sits in that ridiculous red chair watching TV. I found out that he had a big yelling fight with Kevin last night and threw him out. His own son, he throws him out on New Year's Eve. How could he do that? I was not there so Momma was probably in her room just crying and feeling alone and blaming me for it. It is not fair. I hate this so much. They have not spoken a word to each other in months. Why don't they just separate? She makes him supper and I have to give it to him. If he needs something from her I have to get it. I'm supposed to keep them together? For what? The whole thing is insane and I can't talk about it at all, even with Teddy. Teddy? Oh my God, she wants me to go out with Bert. Bert's a jerk. All wrapped up in himself. Just because he goes to NYU and is going to be a doctor. Teddy is just a "stupid construction worker". Well, I don't care Momma, it is my life. What am I supposed to do? She always is sick and says she has chest pains and is dizzy. If something happens to her I'll get blamed by everyone. Oh sure, it will be all my fault. I don't know what to do. I really love Teddy but I don't want to kill my own mother. Oh my God---I have to put this down. Happy New Year diary, Sarah
April 27, 2012
First of all, I am a bit of a "pantster." That is, I fly by the seat of my pants when I write. If I am going to outline I more than likely do it after the fact. Probably not a good thing but, it is me. Many writers
have character charts and they may profile a character before they begin to write about them. They want to get to know them first. For example, they may list: male/female; height/weight; age; ethnicity; hair color; eye color; single or married; child or teen; religion;; education and so on.
When I get in the writing mode and words begin to pour out of my pen onto the paper, (yup---pen & paper, the keyboard comes later) all sorts of thoughts start floating before me. Many may consider that a chaotic way to develop a story, no less a character. But my main character is in my head already. I know him/her. Their development and personality is almost a given when I begin. As I go along, this person has to interact with other characters in the book. Many of these characters just happen to come along, unexpectedly, as I write. Then, having met them, I begin to know them. For example, in "The Priest and The Peaches," the character of "Fadeaway" Walker shows up. I have no idea how Fadeaway came out of my pen. But---he did. Suddenly he is a pathetic -0 year old, sort of a lost soul, soft spoken and gentle. But his incessant visiting of the local taverns never having any money and trying to get someone to buy him a drink has turned him into someone most of the guys despise and want to avoid. But then "Pops" comes along and all of that changes. There is a poignant scene at Pops' wake when Fadeaway quietly steps to the casket and slips a pint of whiskey under the lid. Tears coming down his cheeks he whispers, "Thanks Yimey, Happy New Year." No one sees him and he leaves.
The point is, Fadeaway Walker came along unexpectedly and I ran with him. I never planned on his showing up but there he was. So, that is how it goes with me. I will admit that sometimes so much stuff comes out of my pen that unscrambling it and figuring it all out can be quite the challenge. So, if it works for you, develop a character chart and use it. Outline first if you must. Here is one thing I do know; we are all different so we must do our work in the most efficient way possible that fits who we are. Ultimately, we all have the same goal, to be able to write "The End."
April 26, 2012
Understand this---writing and books have come after the fact. I was 15 when my mother died. Strangely, I could hardly remember a thing about her. The sound of her voice, what she liked to eat, her favorite color, favorite actor, etc. The only thing I remembered was that she loved the "I Love Lucy" show. That was it. Even writing the book did not jar the memories loose. What has freed some memories from their dark cave has been posts like this one. They have forced me to think about what has been. This is a place I rarely go. I mean, I do know that this place exists but I avoid it. Sometimes I think that sub-consciously I have done this as an act of self-preservation. I'm not sure. We are all so uniquely different yet we are all so similar. Fascinating--
I have personally experienced the death of my folks when I and my siblings were quite young. I have lived through the death of my daughter at birth, the death of my first wife from cancer, the death of my kid brother and the death of my best friend. My second wife is recovering from chemo treatments and her cancer is in remission. I have had major surgery for prostate cancer and, after almost five years, I am cancer free. I also have MS which, for five years, left me almost unable to walk. That was 25 years ago and today I am doing great and walk around just like most folks. How all of this affects my writing, I have no idea. I guess it must and maybe someday I'll figure it all out.
Here's the thing and I know you guys are a lot younger than I so, take some advice from an "old guy". The key to overcoming adversity, first and foremost, is having faith in God. Now, I know a lot of folks think that is "gobbley-gook". But many know I am right. Faith is that great intangible. You can't see it or touch it or smell it. But, it is the greatest of all gifts and all one has to do is ask God to walk with them. He'll DO IT! Once you do that you have laid the very foundation to build an inner peace that will transport you through any adversity you may encounter. Then--write your little heart out.
April 25, 2012
Let's start with "plotting". For me, I have the idea in my head. The more I think about this idea the more vivid things become. It is as if I am picturing a house I want to build. I know where the foundation will go and I can see the finished product with its roof, windows, doors, shutters and even shrubs. But, I have not been inside that house nor have I painted the outside. I still have to install plumbing, heating, electrical, cabinets, sinks, decide on colors etc. That's what it is like for me when thinking the story through from beginning to end. Where and how all of those necessary parts and pieces will fit together I do not know. It happens as I write and there are many changes that continually take place. By the time I have actually finished I have re-constructed that "house" many times before I even considered moving in.
As far as the characters are concerned, (the people living inside this house), you have to get to know them quickly but only enough so you want to know more about them. As I write, these folks develop and sometimes even I am surprised when I find out who they really are and what they are capable of. Actually, it is the same as meeting real people. Sometimes you may meet someone and become life-long friends. Then there are those who initially impress you but you find out soon enough that they are trouble and you quickly distance yourself. But, you never know that immediately.
As far as dialogue: I try to write just the way people speak. I use slang ie; "ain't got" or "I dunno" depending on the character speaking. I also try to dialogue interaction where there is a minimal amount of "he saids" and "she saids". I try to do it in such a way that the reader knows who is speaking even though you are not saying who is speaking. That can be a bit tricky at times but I think it is important to do. Also, try to avoid long winded dialogue and speeches. Get it done in one or two sentences if possible.
April 24, 2012
My favorite places to visit are Civil War battlefields and, without a doubt, Gettysburg, PA tops the list. If there is anyplace I love to spend time it is at Gettysburg. This place is truly hallowed ground. The battlefield is immense covering many square miles and over 50,000 young Americans died here from July 1 through 3, 1863. When I visit Gettysburg I am overwhelmed by what happened here almost 150 years ago. If you go up to "Little Round Top" and stand next to the statue of General Warren you can look down at the "The Devil's Den" and "The Peach Orchard" and actually sense the fury and chaos that went on there on day 2 of the battle. Standing up on "Cemetery Ridge" you can look out across the vast field that leads to a line of trees. Picture 15,000 Confederate soldiers, under the command of Gen. George Pickett, stepping out from those tress and heading toward you. Imagine waiting and waiting as they slowly advance across the several mile long field. Then, all hell breaks loose as thousands of muskets and cannon began blasting away. "Picketts Charge" fails and the division is almost wiped out. This was the final battle at Gettysburg and the beginning of the end for the Confederate States of America.. Four months later, Abraham Lincoln, delivered the Gettysburg Address here and you can visit the boarding house where he stayed the night before as he finished up the two and a half minute masterpiece. Of course there are other battlefields like Fredericksburg, VA and Chancellorsville and Antietam and Fort Sumter off the Charleston, SC coast.
Well, I guess I just like history. Sometimes, when you go these places, you can just feel it.
April 23, 2012
I said that the book is a work of fiction and it is. The antagonist in the book and the priest, two main characters, are complete fiction. Many of the incidents are fictionalized but based on reality. Being 'orphaned" and on our own was true. So, I ran with that and the actual research involved consisted of some translation from German to English and from Latin to English. There was also a bit mentioned about the dreaded illness called "pancreatitis". This was only mentioned in dialogue and since I knew quite a bit about it (three family members had it) I just confirmed what I had written by checking various medical sites on-line. I am no expert.
The sequel I am working on will actually require a bit of research. This book is fiction also but there will be places I go and things that happen while writing it that will require definite research. Maybe next year I can come back and tell you where I have been.
April 20, 2012
First of all, I have always wanted to be a writer but my journey followed a winding sometimes circular road in getting to my destination. I spent 15 years working in the building trades in NYC with the Metal Lathers/Reinforcing Iron Workers until I was forced to leave that business when an insidious little demon known as MS (a handy little acronym for Multiple Sclerosis) attacked my central nervous system causing me to begin stumbling around like a drunk and then leaving me almost unable to walk at all. That was 30 years ago and today, after a lot of prayers, hard work and therapy, I use no walking aids of any kind and get around like most everyone else. My wife, Loretta, my three kids and I moved to Florida (doctor’s advice) when this was all going down and I have been here ever since.
Loretta died nine years ago from cancer (melanoma) and I married a widow, Marty, about five years ago. Marty spent almost all of 2011 undergoing chemo treatments for cancer (Lymphoma) and, thank God, she is now in remission. I myself had prostate cancer and, in May, I will be five years out. It seems that cancer is like Al-Queda—always sneaking around and attacking people trying to kill them. Fortunately, due to incredible advances, cancers are not nearly as successful as they used to be but there is still a long way to go before, like Al-Queda, they are eradicated.
I began to write seriously about four or five years ago and my first book “Slippery Willie’s Stupid Ugly Shoes” (children’s) was released in January of 2011. My first novel is “The Priest and The Peaches” and was officially launched January 1 of this year. So, I am a husband, father, grandfather and officially a “senior citizen”. Experiencing the life of a writer is my “permanent senior moment.” It’s ALL GOOD and I am not turning back.
April 19, 2012
I feel that writing for the YA market is not just about story telling it is also about being responsible to your youthful audience. There should be a sense of the finer human traits we possess like caring, camaraderie, loyalty, honor, and selflessness woven throughout the narrative. It does not have to be blatant, just subtle, enough for the reader to sense it and be impacted by it. You never want to be "preachy". Sexual interactions between a boy and girl should be approached carefully and gently and never be explicit. The reader will get the idea without all the pronounced description. We are human beings after all with feelings, emotions and the ability to reason. I think it is important to show we are not just creatures primarily controlled by our desires but rather that we, as people, have the right to say "No" or "Stop" and in return hear back, "Okay" or "Yes" and that this type of behavior is honorable and deserves respect.
Let me finish up by saying that the YA level of writing should probably also be an enjoyable read for adults. I have found some great reads at the YA level and I would recommend that adults who have not tested the waters of this genre ought to "jump in."
April 18, 2012
Plans for the YEAR. I’m not kidding, I do not project past the day I have been blessed to have. I know, I know–I have to schedule appointments and such and I do that sort of thing. But, for me personally, I’m happy as a clam in my little corner of the world. Bottom line–I have everything money can buy. I drive a 92′ Chevy with 170k on it and it runs great. Does the same thing a new Caddy does without the “bells & whistles”. I do admit that it could use a paint job and I know that I’ll need new tires in the next month or so–big deal. I have a roof over my head, a nice bed to sleep in, a refrigerator with food in it, a TV, a computer, a DVD player, a cell-phone, a microwave, a stove and oven, a washer & dryer, friends I can count on and family that always has my back. Most importantly, I have good health and so does my wife who spent most of 2011 undergoing chemo treatments and is now in remission. The way I see it is I have all of the stuff that even a Donald Trump has. He just has bigger and better. I don’t care. Good for him.
So–my plans for 2012 are as follows. I will be voting (if I am still here) and I will be writing and trying to get better at it. Otherwise I am going to enjoy the rest of today. Tomorrow will be here soon enough.
April 17, 2012
Honestly though, the streets, the stores, the behaviors, and things like that are vivid memories for me even today. Of course, there were things that I did have to research; For example, the Tridentine Mass (the Latin Mass of the catholic church) was replaced by the Novus Ordo (new order) Mass by the Second Vatican Council that took place during the 1960's. The Novus Ordo Mass put things in the "vernacular" meaning, for us here, English. For other areas of the world the local languages were to be used; Spanish, French, German, etc. But that was not implemented until 1969 so I did have to research to make sure the small amount of Latin I used in parts of the book's dialogue was correct. Also, the clothing and hairdos of the period are still quite vivid to me but I could not remember what they were called. That had to be researched and that is how "Bee-hive's" and "Bottom Flips" and "Shaggy Cuts" were found and also the old "Empire " dresses and "Dollie" dresses to name a few.
One thing is for sure. With the world-wide web and its gaggle of Google, information on most any topic known to humankind is available with the click of a mouse. I guess I am lucky. Since I am a historical person I have over 60 years of "stuff" inside my own true PC, my brain. The problem is, sometimes I have trouble downloading the information I need and have to use my mouse to fetch it.
April 16, 2012
So, as I write this, what's the first thing I remember. The candy stores. They seemed to be everywhere. Right down the block from our building was "Harry's Candy Store". Two blocks east on Morris Ave. was "Red's". Two blocks west up the hill on Sheridan Ave. was "Raines". Down the block from Raines was "Loddies". There was another one on 165th St. Can't remember the name. These were candy stores all within short walking distances from where we lived. And candy stores sold more than candy. Yes sir, they sold all sorts of stuff we kids could not live without. Besides candy there was bubble gum, baseball cards, comic books, candy buttons, model airplanes, school supplies like erasers and pencils and bottles of Waterman's Ink so we could fill our fountain pens. They had skate keys (yup, we had to tighten clamps onto the soles of our shoes to keep the skates on) and replacement skate wheels (our skates had metal wheels that wore out on the sidewalks). And, of course, candy stores supplied us with the greatest rubber ball ever made, the Spalding. I don't know if the game of stick-ball would have ever survived without the Spalding. Most of them also had soda fountains where you could get an egg-cream (a NY original) or a vanilla coke or a cherry coke or an ice cream cone or a hamburger. Finally, we cannot forget the newspapers. Many of the neighborhood men would be outside a candy store around 8 p.m. waiting for the one star edition of the NY Daily News or The Daily Mirror. This was the next day's news an evening early and it never made any sense to me how they knew what was going to happen tomorrow. Hey, what did I know. I was a kid. If you waited until morning the three or four star edition would be available.
We kids would get home from school around 3 p.m. and within ten minutes we were changed into our "play" clothes and back outside. Stickball, curb-ball, stoop-ball, roller skating, ring-a-leevio, Johnny-on-the-pony, we played something all the time. We also wandered all around the neighborhood and I guess our folks did not worry about where we were unless we did not arrive home at 5:30 for supper. It was amazing how the street always seemed to empty around that time. We all knew better.
You know, I could really "run" with this. It is conjuring up memories from "back in the day". So I had better stop. To answer the question, How did growing up in the Bronx influence my writing of the book? , well, all I can say is---"Whut, are you kiddin me? Fuhgedabotit."
April 13, 2012
Let me start with my book, "The Priest and The Peaches." It revolves around five newly orphaned kids. Those five kids are based on my brothers, sister and myself. Trust me---there was some serious adversity going on there. Reading the book (which is fictionalized) will give one the idea.
Moving right along, my wife, Loretta, and I were foster parents when we lived in New Jersey. We were considered a "short term placement home." Consequently, many kids aged anywhere from two to 16 spent time with us. Each and everyone of them had serious issues and all were dealing with adversity, especially the ones who believed that their parent(s) had given them away. (Can you imagine thinking that as a child?) Yet some were up-beat and some were "mad at the world." Even kids deal with adversity differently and can handle it differently depending on attitude.
For me, personally, I came down with Multiple Sclerosis 30 years ago and could barely walk. I was told that I would be blind, incontinent and live my life in a wheelchair. Nice prognosis when you are a 35-year-old construction worker and have three small kids. My attitude helped. I told them that they "were full of crap." The most important thing that reinforced my attitude was faith in God. I have absolutely no doubt about that. So, armed with faith in God and using the weapons of prayer which buttressed my contrary attitude I forged through intense therapy and now, 30 years later, I can sing that little jingle, "Look at me I'm walking. Look at me I'm talking." Oh yeah, I am also a cancer survivor, five years out from prostate cancer. In addition, my wife, Loretta, died of cancer (Melanoma) nine years ago and my new wife, Marty (we married five years ago) spent most of 2011 undergoing chemo treatments for lymphoma. Right now she is in remission and has maintained a GREAT attitude throughout the entire process.
I'm sorry, I might be getting a bit wordy, but I would like to share one last thing. I have been a member of the St. Vincent De Paul Society for almost 20 years. Our mission---to help local folks in need. Okay, about 12 years ago my wife and I went out to visit a single mom and her two kids. Their electricity and water had been shut off. We took care of that and it was turned back on within a few hours. To the point--our parish was having its annual Fall Festival that week. Rides, food and lots of FUN. As president of the SVDP Society I would always secure ride and food tickets for families who could not afford them. One of these families was Jake's. Jake, age 7, suffered from "Brittle Bone Disease" (Osteogenesis Imperfecta) and many low-energy impacts would cause one of his bones to break. On Sunday afternoon the family met me in the parish center. I had wrist bands put on the kids so they could ride all day long and I gave mom a bunch of food tickets. She asked me if I could just watch Jake while she took her daughter, Nancy, to the bathroom. I walked out side with Jake and there was a small step down, maybe four inches, like a street curb. Jake stepped down and groaned. His leg had broken. All the kid wanted to do was go on the merry-go-round. I sat down with him and he was crying and then I was crying and my arm was around his shoulder and all sorts of people were walking this way and that and he says to me, "Don't worry, Larry. It's okay. This happens all the time. I just wish mommy did not have to go to the hospital today." He was worried about her.
Talk about attitude and perseverance. I'll never forget Jake, ever.
April 12, 2012
You asked what might be five things people do not know. What I have discovered in my brief writing career is the fact that most folks have no idea what the life of a writer entails or the work involved, especially when you write a book. They seem to think that you sit around with a pen in your hand or a keyboard on a big wooden desk that overlooks a pretty lake with swans slowly moving about while you pen or peck away creating fabulous prose. Yeah---right! They do not know about the hours upon hours of re-writes, of editing, of proof-reading and then doing it over again and again. The do not know--well, to be fair, I guess I don't know a lot about their stuff either. I do know this---I'm not about to trade places with anyone.
April 11, 2012
Let me begin with the character, Joanie. She is a high school senior. I am a man old enough to be her grandfather. So, for me, becoming Joanie is not an easy transition. But once I begin to dialogue her I begin to understand her. Suddenly I become Joanie and understand her thought processes, her anxieties, what she feels, what her fears are, her hopes etc. Then I turn off the switch, turn it back on and become six-year old Joey. I am now living in Joey's world which consists primarily of his home and immediate family. He does not know much more than that and at that moment, neither do I. Until I turn the switch off and turn it back on, Joey and I are one.
I believe that this interaction between me and all of the characters is an ongoing process as I write. I am not looking in at them but rather, I am in the pages with them. From Father Sullivan to the drunken lawyer, even the antagonist, Beatrice Amon, and Dr. Rothstein, the cops, Dancer, Scratch, and so on. Wow, talk about multiple personalities inside of one person's head. Thank God I can turn off the switch.
April 10, 2012
The way I see it, inspiration is triggered by the people, places and things that we encounter and experience. A friend of mine might introduce me to a friend of theirs and my mind will begin a journey, intrigued by the way that person said, "Hello," or by the manner in which they looked at me or the clothes they were wearing or whether or not their shoulders were slouched or not. They will be unconsciously placed in my mental rolodex for future reference as a possible character and I do not even know it at that moment in time. Some one else would never give that person a second thought.
In the final analysis we are all different, all unique and I guess we all have inspiration that fits who we are. Some of us join forces with our inspiration (some call it Muse), others may talk about it for awhile and others ignore it completely. We certainly are interesting creatures.
April 9, 2012
Teddy Peach is 18 and the oldest. He is determined to keep all of them together as a family. His sister is 17 and his brothers are 14, 10 and six years old. Outside forces are already at work determined to get the three younger boys into a "properly supervised environment."
Enter Father Tim Sullivan, the local parish priest. A tough, street-wise man from the "Hell's Kitchen" section of Manhattan, Father Tim also has a kind and gentle way about him and possesses a simple faith that allows him to see God's love working even amidst chaos. He uses his faith to help guide the Peach kids on their quest to remain together as a family.
This book shows the value and importance of familial love and how powerful it can be, especially when faced with crisis. It also teaches lessons in taking responsibility, being unselfish, caring about others and "loving your neighbor." Finally, it portrays the manner in which so many priests have stayed true to their faith and vocations by being there for so many in times of need.
April 6, 2012
Teddy is the protagonist. He is 18 years old and had graduated from high-school the previous June. He left his graduation with a college scholarship in his pocket and immediately went to work in the construction business as an apprentice carpenter. His family needed the money, he was the oldest of the five kids, and it was the “right thing to do”. He willingly took the detour to his unexpected future. However, down deep inside of himself, he had begun to harbor a bit of resentment that his life’s choices were not being decided by him. But, being responsible and taking care of family took precedence over one’s own needs.
When Elizabeth Peach died a few years earlier, Joanie, 13 at the time, had been thrust into the role of “pseudo-mommy”. Similar to her big brother, she had a deep sense of responsibility to her family. On Saturday mornings, when Joanie’s friends were sleeping in or doing sleep-overs, Joanie was pulling the grocery cart home from the A&P just like all the other moms in the neighborhood. She did not fit in but she too, like her brother, knew it was the “right thing to do” and willingly did her best to take care of her four brothers. The fact was the Peaches had been instilled with a deep sense of family love and, for Teddy and Joanie, that sense of family and looking out for each other took precedence over everything else, especially when the chips were down.
April 5, 2012
You know, I always wanted to be a writer but it took me a very long time to actually get here. I make no excuses for that because I was where I was when I was needed and always tried my best to do the right thing when I had to do it, even if it took years. As we enter 2012 I am enjoying what I call, "my permanent senior moment." I am, at last, a writer. Ain't that something.
April 4, 2012
Before I get to the topic at hand, I would like to mention, The Priest and The Peaches. It is in e-book format and the publisher is Tribute Books. This is a work of fiction and I would like to let you all know that, in my own way, I have tried to compliment, praise and elevate the priesthood with this work. In fact, part of the dedication is to the priesthood. The truth is, I’m sick and tired of all the anti-catholic, anti-priest stuff that has been smothering everyone, and maybe, in my own small way, I might be able to counteract that. Anyway, if you might want to take a peek at the book you can go to http://www.thepriestandthepeaches.com. Okay–to the point at hand.
I have been fulfilling numerous requests for “guest posts” on blog-sites. You know how that goes. They ask you to write 300 to 500 words about such things as writing habits, inspiration, character development, character interviews, etc. etc.. One question I was asked was, “Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?” So, let me “fess up” about me and outlining.
I think they call someone like me a “pantser”. That is because I do go along for the ride and “fly by the seat of my pants”. I outline the book after I’m done. I mean, I do have a potential ending in sight when I start, but, like some of those remodeling jobs I have done in the past, I never know what to expect. I might tear out a wall and, lo and behold, there are plumbing pipes staring at me. Where did they come from? You don’t want them there but you cannot get rid of them so–you adapt and change things. Consequently, as I write things become clearer and clearer, and anticipating problems and glitches happens more quickly.
Ultimately, I outline when I’m finished. I understand that, according to all the “poohbahs” out there, I am doing it all wrong. Well, my goal is to get to the finish line. For me, getting there is all that counts. If I fall down ten times, bust myself up and wind up bloodied in the process, I don’t care. Look, I am probably the type of writer you do not want to emulate. But, when all is said and done, we must march to the beat of our own drum and I have always had a hard time keeping in step with the beat.
April 2, 2012
Having said all of that I now admit that I experienced an enhanced range of rolling emotions when "The Priest and The Peaches" launched. "Slippery Willie's Stupid, Ugly Shoes", my first published book and a children's book, was introduced in January of 2011. That provided an emotional ride but this time, well, this is a novel and I am being tossed about by unpredictable waves of feelings. There is a personal pride in the work accompanied by a sense of accomplishment. There are feelings of excitement knowing you can say you are an author. There is definitely a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for those who encouraged and supported me (especially my wife, Marty, and Nicole Langan at Tribute Books). Finally, and this is the under-tow or mini tsunami coming the other way, there is a nagging feeling of insecurity that keeps whispering in my ear, "You wrote a book?---you gotta be kidding". Once I get that "whisperer" to shut up I'll be "good to go".