Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Excerpt from a draft scene  in "Clarity" between sculptor Helen Rice, 67, and potter Anna Pietersen, 63, their growing relationship a parallel theme in the novel:

Helen Rice guided Anna Pietersen into the Benwood Art Museum in Oquaga City, under the logo “BAM!” on a blue banner hung above the windowed entranceway.  
“We’ll see where they positioned my scarecrow sculpture and later look at ‘Still Life’,” she said. “‘Still Life’ is really a joke; I was surprised they added it to their regional collection. You’ll see why. It refers to a practice by people in the U.S. who made a home brew known as ‘moonshine’ and ‘white lightning’.”
“I know a little about that. Our jajem has a similar tradition, but it is made from malt rather than corn.”
Rice waved a greeting at the desk attendant and entered the main hall, architecturally lighted from broad slanted and vertical windows that faced the Susquehanna River, light that reflected off brushed steel and aluminum walls interspersed with light oak irregular panels. Her sculpture, titled “Scarecrow Threat,” was set so it greeted visitors to the museum’s interior sculpture gallery.
“That’s satisfying,” Rice said, smiling, hers and Pietersen’s arms interlocked as they strolled.
“It must be,” Pietersen grinned.
“Sandra has a work here, too, a small Claes Oldenburg styled work called ‘Collapse,’ stuffed white vinyl arranged in a way that makes a viewer feel as if might fall.”
“Very funny. Tell me more about ‘Scarecrow'."


Really like the organizational power of Scrivener software for novel writing - also applicable for other genres ... Below, where I was up to in "Clarity" when screen shot was 'captured.'

Monday, July 23, 2012


Draft excerpt from a scene in my novel tentatively titled "Clarity," sequel to "Stringer" and "Turned Loose."

Matty Dimmock grumbled to himself inside the Nanticoke Crossing gas station and convenience store. Damned part-timers, he thought. Bliss is late again. I put in the long hours for PetrolCo. They come and go as they please.
He continued to slide packs of cigarettes into an overhead tray when he noticed the prison guard pull up in his Chevy pickup. What’s it this time?, Dimmock thought to himself. Cigarettes to smuggle inside? A message? I don’t know how they can employ someone so heavy and out of shape.
The guard, Phil Knowland, pushed open the store’s door and almost knocked over a stand of newspapers. One stack fell to the floor. He ignored it and walked to the counter.
“Two cartons, slime,” he said. “And here’s a little love note for you.”
“Be nice to know who my suitor is,” Dimmock replied.
“Don’t get your nose in this. It’s liable to get cut off.”
“What you make on the smokes?”
“None of your damned business what I do with these, sleaze.”
Knowland paid and left, stepping on the papers on the floor. Dimmock read the tiny folded scrap of paper: “Cabin = Ashes.”
“Somebody’s going to get burned out,” he said to himself. He tapped a text message into his cell phone to a number he was supposed to send these messages to and sent it. Then bent over to pick up the newspapers, The weekly Courier, special edition. He looked at the headline. Okay, they’re on Jesse again, he thought. I’ll read this later. He stuck the scrap of paper in his pocket. Keepsakes, he mused. Bliss McConkey pulled up in an old Honda and parked.
“About time,” Dimmock said when she entered, thin, heavily made up, in jeans and a red blouse, hair dyed black, 60 years old, always late.
“Car’s screwed up,” she said. “I had to get somebody in the trailer park to give me a jump.”
“Log in. I’m going out back to eat my lunch.”
Dimmock unwrapped his sandwich, took a bottle of cola from a case, and sat at a small metal desk. He looked at the inset photos on the front page of the weekly. Earle, Alicia Lys, Gil Stephens, with a patch on his eye, Helen Rice, the namelines read. Two stories about Earle, one on suspicions he’s operating schemes from inside Seneca Lake prison, the other about attacks on the other three, with the idea that Earle might be behind them.
“Old Jesse’s gonna be pissed off about this,” he uttered.
Wait a minute, he thought. That’s Alicia, the lady who used to bring meals to that guy in the wheelchair who lives in the single-wide up the hill. She’d stop in here for coffee. Nice looking. He read on.
“There’s been attacks on the old guy’s cabin,” he said. “Holy shit.”
He looked at the scrap of paper again. “Cabin = Ashes.”
Dimmock stood up. Crap. I’m in the middle of this, he thought. And I just got the letter with the 25 bucks in cash to relay the messages. That fat guard’s mixed up in it, too. And he knows it. And they’re aiming to burn down the guy’s cabin. What the hell do I do now?

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Ten-thousand words into the next novel in the series, started with "STRINGER," and followed by "TURNED LOOSE," both now available -- working title is "CLARITY" ...

Using Scrivener software for this one, and used it for part of the last - a lot easier to organize chapters and scenes than Pages or Word in the writing phase.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Revised cover design for TURNED LOOSE -- (online proof)

Proofing the novel's text - amazing the errors I missed in previous reads. Style has noir touches --

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Beginning third novel of the series started with "Stringer" and next with "Turned Loose" -- working title is "Clarity" ...


TURNED LOOSE now has its own web page at:

Friday, July 13, 2012


Brief characters' reflections from "Turned Loose" - The first paragraph is Todd Redding's; he's a weekly's owner - Next paragraph is a brief narrative referring to Mike Hancock, a mental patient - The last are from Helen Rice, a bisexual sculptor married to Gil Stephens ...

Things are falling apart all around me, Redding thought. Why did I let myself get pulled into this? He walked to the window and looked out. Two young men in long dark coats, black hair, faces streaked in black, walked by, looked into the window, waved with an abbreviated gesture, and continued on. Omens of evil, Redding thought. What else. He began to pace.
Stephens suggested they bring Hancock to his apartment for his medications. Rice said she’d stay with Redding, obviously distressed with his choices.
All these imaginations seeing it differently, she mused. We coalesce into a temporary consensus. Believe we proceed from there as if it were a potentially fixed proposition. Often without examining the fiber of the consensus. I don’t think Todd has it in him to see the transformation of his newspaper through. He’s going to bail out. Down from the Hill will be aborted. Then what for Gil, for Alicia. I’m only tangentially involved. My career is on track, and at my age, that’s a wonder. I’m still someone the university wants to keep around. Now, enterprises are playing with the notion of “strategic dynamism.” Long-term goals disappear as quick fixes take over. I could live 30 more years, it’s part of my heritage, the genetic mystery that codes the timing. Like Gil, his take a little different, I think the imagination rules. In ways people don’t fathom. I’m really glad I don’t have children. I’d be so fearful of what they’d face on this planet; what my imagination conjures will lie ahead.
She thought of the Moody Blues line from “Nights in White Satin”: “We decide which is right and which is an illusion.” Maybe in some cases. If we can figure out where we’re coming from.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


FROM "TURNED LOOSE" Writer’s note: Alicia Lys and Gil Stephens, more intimate than just good friends now, settle down in a hotel room in Madrid - One of the mental patients had spoken of the Diotima sequence in Plato’s “Symposium” - Alicia asks Gil to talk about it a little --

“This part of you is vague to me,” she said. “I want to know more. Let’s sit on the couch.”
Stephens let her take his hand and guide him, watched her sit with her feet under her facing him, an arm on the couch, the light of the floor lamp behind her.
“Okay,” he sighed.
“I forget how Plato brings this dialogue to Socrates, but a key idea Diotima expresses is that Eros, born of Resource and Need, is a mediator, even a trickster, who connects the human with what lies beyond representation. First it is Beauty, then the Good and the True, supposed mysteries of the divine, Plato’s forms. Yes. That sounds right.”
Lys sipped her wine. “I remember the forms from a philosophy course I aced.”
“You did. Interesting.”
“Go on, Dr. Stephens.” She pretended to lower a pair of eyeglasses over her nose.
“Eros is unruly, this is attributed to Need, his mother, who lived in poverty. He comes in disguises, too, a master of artifice. He’s barefoot, homeless, sleeps out in the open or in doorways. On the other hand, born of Resource on the day of Aphrodite’s birth, he brings to his mediation, as a form of love, the aspect of beauty. Or better maybe, the expression of beauty as a loveliness of the body, and beauty also in other forms of knowledge, like law, institutions, if you can imagine these being open to that, especially with what we’ve encountered.”
“It’s not easy, that’s for sure.”
This is sounding like a Socratic dialogue, Stephens thought.
“Anyway, this mediation becomes a founding event in the human soul, Diotima says. Only Eros can connect the human with wisdom beyond representation, tough to conceive but I imagine intuited. He mediates, in the way humans generally think, between subject and object, subject and predicate, and lover and the beloved. The other forms of love are filios, kinship or friendship love, and agape, transcendental love beyond reckoning. But another key point Diotima makes is the idea that Beauty itself is a loveliness that is everlasting.”
“Not like as us.”
“So far as we appear.”
“But like something in us.”
“Gil, I love this. I don’t want to lose it. Today. The last few months.”
She walked to the window, looked out into the night, and turned around.
“Who’s the trickster here?” Stephens asked, smiling.
Lys laughed, walked to the couch and clasped his hand.


This is a working cover design for my novel TURNED LOOSE ...


New title for my novel-in-progress. It is TURNED LOOSE. Working title was Down from the Hill.
Any previous reference to Down from the Hill will refer to Turned Loose ...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


A reflective moment for Gil Stephens, a main character in "Turned Loose" and "Stringer":
Sunday, Gil Stephens mused. Loose ends hovering over the morning. The psych center stories. Helen and Alicia and the conflict he felt. The way he’s lurching around as he rises out of passivity to a more proactive creativity. Moonset outside on a light coat of snow, sky clear. First light and an occasional illumination from the motion sensor light on the cabin from a foraging animal passing by. The aroma of coffee, warmth of the pellet stove and the hum of its fan. The moment, the now that never leaves him, the way that awareness slips, disappears, returns, present. Spirit. The notion that each being, each entity unfolds the creative edge, a contour that to his spatial sense seems irregular, but what could he possibly know beyond what his senses allow to enter a brain with limited capacity. Now his eye and his nervous system’s adjustment to a new way of seeing he’s gradually getting used to, able to negotiate with as he moves through space. Gravities and orbitings and the cosmos unfathomable, as science struggles to understand. So much learned and yet to learn. The planet, its fragility, how temporal it is, the solar system too, so dependent on the Sun, itself doomed. His conversations, even prayers, with and to an entity he likes to think of as a guardian.
Then the philosophical world he’s had fascination with, the postmodern, perception, interpretation, cultural study, the political morass, more loose strands hovering. A passing movement behind him into the bathroom, the scent, the soft sounds, the touch on his back. The creak of the loft’s steps as another movement descends, breathing, touching, reaching for coffee, sitting alongside him as the other movement returns and does the same. How is it, this? All this, and just this, now?


One aspect of the novel is a weekly's publication of a special report on a psych center's reduction of its population. Below is a fictional straight news story by one of the characters:

Excerpt from a story by Holston:
 “Demands mount at Crisis Center - last resort for help”
By Reginald Holston
Courier special correspondent
   When life falls apart for a mental patient, or the system does, the last resort is often the Crisis Center.
   Anyone spinning in the whirlpool of a mental crisis - those who are suicidal, in extreme depression, with a psychosis erupting, or suffering extreme anxiety -- may show up at the agency’s doorstep.
   By its formal name, it is called Emergency Mental Health Services, located at Oquaga General Hospital. Its other nickname is EMHS.
    “We are the key entry point for the unattended patient,’ said Dr. Pierre Dejardin, the center’s director. “We see the same patients over and over again, know their names when they come through the door.”
   Some are violent, some are so injured its hard to tell where the mental illness begins and the injury ends, and others have illnesses that need medical intervention. It’s up to Dejardin and his staff to “deal with it,” he said.
   Last year, more than 3,000 patients arrived at the center and almost half of these needed inpatient care, according to the agency, which is part of the state’s mental health system. And though he and his staff are state employees, they are sharply critical of the state’s policy on deinstitutionalization.
   “We have 21 beds on the fifth floor of Oquaga General,” Dejardin said. “We have to try to send some back to the very institution that put them out on the streets to handle the overflow. Does that make sense?”
   Further, he said, with the state policy accelerating, the already overwhelming situation is getting worse ....

Monday, July 02, 2012


The Kindle edition of eFiction, where my short story "Scooter" appears in the July issue of the literary magazine.

With that, three poems "declined," one short nonfiction story - "Fidel's Gift" - and poem - "Orbits - published in a Chattanooga online journal, "The New Writer."