Saturday, November 14, 2020

From the Horse's Mouth:

Authors on Writing

Writers, like seasoned comedians, know, not only how to take a swipe at their profession but also how
 to poke fun at themselves. Sarcasm, self-mockery, and half-truths are some of the ways by which writers offer the public an insight into their take on themselves and the art of writing. When Thomas Mann said that “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people,” he was acknowledging, with great cunning brilliance the complexity of the art of writing even for those who do it for a living. 

Not that poking fun at oneself requires artfulness or subtlety, sometimes straight talk does it just as well. Take Charles Dickens who neither minced words nor offered a tongue in cheek aside when deriding the work of other writers. “There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts,” or Martin Myers who threw in a remarkable self-own, “First you’re an unknown, then you write one book and you move up to obscurity.” Sometimes funny and sometimes delightfully direct, here are writers in their own words:

“There is no idea so brilliant or original that a sufficiently-untalented writer cant screw it up.” ~ Raymond Feist

“A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.” ~ Sidney Sheldon

“This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back again.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“I just sit at my typewriter and curse a bit.” P.G. Wodehouse

“The first draft of anything is shit.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

“There is no mistaking the dismay on the face of a writer who has just heard that his brainchild is a deformed idiot.” ~ L. Sprague de Camp

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Inspiration is a guest that does not   willingly visit the lazy.” ~ Pyotr Tchaikovsky

“Some stories have to be written because no one would believe the absurdity of it all.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

“When a work appears to be ahead of its time, it is only time that is behind the work.” ~ Jean Cocteau

“There are three difficulties in authorship: to write anything worth publishing -- to find honest men to publish it -- and get sensible men to read it.” Charles Caleb Cotton

“There is no idea so stupid or hackneyed that a sufficiently-talented writer can't get a good story out of it.” ~ Lawrence Watt-Evans

“Writing is a socially accepted form of schizophrenia.” ~ E.L. Doctorow

“Most editors are failed writers - but so are most writers.” ~ T.S. Eliot

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Writer's Block:

Facts & Fallacy

“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?”

Kurt Vonnegut

Of all the things that have been said about writer’s block, I find the English humorist, Terry Pratchett’s take most amusing: “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.” I suppose he’s referring to Hollywood, a not-so-subtle dig at screenwriters. But he isn’t the only one who disparages the idea. “I don’t believe in writer’s block,” Peter Arpesella, an award-winning actor, writer, and published author, says. “If I can’t write, I go out and live. Then, if I’m a writer, I’ll find something to write.”

But writer’s block is real. It is a condition in which authors suffer a creative slowdown that causes them to lose the ability to produce new work. It could be poetry, songwriting, fiction, screenplays, et al. And contrary to what many think, it is not measured solely by time passing without writing, it is primarily determined by time passing without productivity in the task an author has embarked on. For example, a writer may choose not to write for a year or more for any number of reasons without necessarily suffering from writer’s block. But a writer who takes on a new project—songwriting, movie script, television show, fiction, or poetry—and produces little or nothing as time passes, is suffering from writer’s block.

When that happens, usually, some writers offer excuses that range from a flight of inspiration to problems with day jobs to family responsibilities to juggling too many ideas that make it difficult to decide on the best approach to the story, which, not surprisingly emboldens cynics in their belief that writer’s block does not exist. The American novelist and journalist, Norman Mailer, who’s written 11 best-selling novels, puts it bluntly, “Writer’s block is only a failure of the ego.”

If that sounds harsh, perhaps a subtle take on the issue by the essayist, Orson Scott Card, might be of some comfort, “Writer’s block is my unconscious mind telling me that something I’ve just written is either unbelievable or unimportant to me, and I solve it by going back and reinventing some part of what I’ve already written so that when I write it again, it is believable and interesting to me. Then I can go on. Writer’s block is never solved by forcing oneself to “write through it,” because you haven’t solved the problem that caused your unconscious mind to rebel against the story, so it still won’t work - for you or for the reader.”

British comic book writer Warren Ellis doesn’t share such sensitivity. “Writer’s block?” he says. “I’ve heard of this. This is when a writer cannot write, yes? Then that person isn’t a writer anymore. I’m sorry, but the job is getting up in the f--king morning and writing for a living.” Except that some people don’t write for a living, they write for a hobby. But for those who do, the author, Barbara Kingsolver has a word of advice, “I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.” Why? Well, because, as the ghostwriter, Larry Kahaner, says, “Professional writers don’t have muses; they have mortgages.” And that probably explains why social activist, Jack London, insists that “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

However, for many writers, that’s easier said than done. For them, writer’s block is as real as day; but then, so is that elusive element called inspiration, both of which can be hampered or boosted by the same factor - adverse circumstances in the writer’s life, such as a broken relationship, financial difficulties, or pressure to produce work not attuned to their natural inclination, like an unsuitable genre, for example. What to do? Sometimes it helps to “walk away” for a while and concentrate on other things, but often, what transforms writer’s block into inspiration is extensive research. It also doesn’t hurt to pick someone’s brain on a particular subject-matter. 

“The wonderful thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting,” says J.K. Rowling. “The terrifying thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting.” 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The saga of a broken mind #MFRWHooks

Love is a mystery ... an indecipherable   MYSTERY 

#Love #Betrayal #Vengeance

A compelling backward journey through a broken mind.


Paige Lyman, an accomplished psychiatrist, is on the verge of madness but she doesn’t know it yet. The madness begins when she gets it into her head to write her memoirs. As her brilliant mind assembles bits and pieces of her life for the book, ugly skeletons, long forgotten in the closet, rear their heads.

It had all begun with a simple act of love. And love, for her, was a blond-haired Irish boy named Bill, so when Bill abandoned her for priesthood, the world around her collapsed. Seized by a different passion—vengeance—she seeks her proverbial pound of flesh in the beds of various priests.
But that was before she met Stern W, a medical researcher who swept into her life like a hurricane and married her. And they lived happily after until he died in a helicopter crash and she discovered the startling truth about who he really was. Now, transformed from a psychiatrist to a patient, Paige is saddled with a damning memory that she must decipher to be free.
Take Back the Memory is the saga of her compelling backward journey through her own life on a psychotherapist’s couch.

The Hook - {Book Excerpt}

       The door of the consulting studio swung open at 9.00 a.m. and Dr. Wilson, a slender, pipe-smoking clinical psychologist stuck his hoary head in the doorway. His face lit up at the sight of Paige sitting cross-legged in the cozy waiting room.
        “Hello Dr. Lyman,” he smiled courteously, “I had no idea you were here already.”
        Paige glanced up, her face a frozen scowl, and gazed at him. She had expected them to be on a first-name basis this morning; the unexpected formality fazed her quite a bit.  
        “Good morning, Dr. Wilson,” she said wryly. “Sorry I’m early, a habit, I guess.”
        “Oh, that’s all right,” he said quickly, the smile on his lips waning. “I’ll be with you in a minute.”
         She nodded and looked away as he disappeared back into the consulting room. Left alone, she gazed across the lounge. The psychotherapist’s studio was illuminated by the sun’s rays through an opened Venetian blind, and the balmy sunlit ambiance fascinated her. 
         “Like the cheery whisper of an admirer after a heartbreak,” she said wistfully and rose.
          As she did so, echoes of distant traffic momentarily brought her to a state of mental alertness. Palms sweaty, Paige walked to the window and opened it. She gazed, mesmerized, at the sun-drenched avenue on the breezy late September morning and noted the peak time for fall foliage in New York was weeks away yet. She closed the window.
Shrugging, she walked back to her seat and plopped down. Her hand trembled slightly on the black zebra-print clutch bag in her lap.
“Darn,” she mumbled, her thoughts turning to her daughter who had convinced her to come.
“I shouldn’t be here, Diane,” she whispered savagely. “I just shouldn’t.”
Anxious to gain control of herself, she heaved a sigh and leaned back on the comfortable davenport, puckering her lips.
She was wearing a rose-tinted shirt with a low-cut neckline that revealed abundant cleavage. A cherry, handcrafted silk scarf encircled her neck. Her knee-high black boots matched the color of her fringed skirt, accentuating its beauty. Angry with herself for letting Diane convince her to come, she started at the sound of a latch unfastening as the door of the consulting room swung open again.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Dr. Wilson said from the doorway and then walked to where she was sitting.
Paige rose slowly. Her eyes on his face, she smoothed her skirt and noticed his courteous smile had not waned completely. Without altering his gait, Dr. Wilson thrust his hand in front of her. Paige took the outstretched hand and shook it gently.
“Can I come in now?”
“Yes, please do,” he said, gesturing with his hand.
Clean-shaven, he wore no tie. His fawn-striped shirt, unlike hers, was buttoned up. Expensive clothing testified to a successful practice. He wore black semi-brogues and walked with a slight shuffle. Paige followed him into his office, full of expectation.
“Please sit down,” he indicated a black, buckskin couch. “Would you like some coffee?”
“No, thank you.”
Paige sat on the familiar couch, and as she gazed at him from the corner of her eyes on the chair that should be hers, the magnitude of the moment escaped her.
In the magnifying silence of the room, Dr. Wilson sat composed on his standard, comfortable chair, the tip of his pen held against his lip the way men who smoked would usually hold a pipe. His eyes remained on her, and hers were on his. For several seconds their eyes locked; at first warily, like two professionals trying to find a meeting ground, a starting point.
“Diane made me come,” she said, frowning. “Frankly, I don’t know why I’m here.”
“You’re here to talk to me,” he said, crossing one leg over the other. “I guess both as a colleague and as a patient, and I’ll love to listen to you as much as I’ve loved reading your work.”
She uncrossed her legs and quickly re-crossed them, and then she leaned back on the couch, her fringed skirt shifting upwards. She noticed his eyes, unlike those of most men, remained on her face and not on her legs.
“Don’t patronize me. Even my daughter thinks I’m going mad. Don’t lie to me. You think so, too, but I can still sit on that chair and listen to patients.”
“You certainly can,” he responded indulgently. “You were one of the best. However, we both know things aren’t the way they used to be. If you were on this chair, the first thing you would tell the patient would be to admit their situation and talk to you about it.” He paused a moment. “I think you have admitted that much within you,” he said without looking at her. “That’s why you allowed Diane to convince you to come. So, let’s talk, my friend. Let’s talk about the situation.”
Paige regarded him suspiciously. Let’s talk about the situation. Talk about the situation? Dr. Wilson’s words jangled in her head like the howl of a campanile. What was there to talk about?
Irritation rose inside her like the beginning of a toothache. Yet, she knew he was right. Things were not the way they used to be. In the course of her checkered life and career, especially in recent years, nothing was the same. It hurt her quite a bit the way everyone seemed to think she had gone mad, the way she had been transformed from psychiatrist to patient.
“Be frank with me,” she said. “Do you think I’m crazy?”
“Aren’t we all?” he laughed mirthlessly. “Come on, this is not about you being crazy.”
“What is it about?”
“It’s about you and me having a nice little talk so we can understand how things are.”
She was silent for a while. She wished he could give her a reason to scream. She wanted desperately to scream at someone this morning, so why not this psychotherapist with calm, upper-class manners? After what seemed like a long time, she realized, not without some satisfaction, that he was determined to be courteous with her this morning.
“I’m at a loss,” she whined and turned on the couch to face away from him. “I don’t know where to begin. I don’t even know what to talk about. I mean, there are so many things to explore.”
“Let’s start with the endearing subject of your book. Are you convinced you want to tell it as it is?”
“Every little detail.”
He watched her calmly. “I know you’ve never been afraid to bare your mind, but between me and you, is there any aspect of this memoir that disturbs you a bit?”
“Yes,” she turned and smiled at him. “But an autobiography has to be frank. What’s the point of writing it if you are going to shy away from the ugly part? I can’t keep it all inside. I want to let it out.”
“Very well,” he said, his eyes agreeing with her. “Maybe we should talk about some of the traumatizing aspects of the experiences you have recalled and want to write about.”
She gazed at him without a word. Her mind began to tumble backward slowly, very slowly.
“I think it all began with a simple act of love,” she said at length, her voice surprisingly nostalgic. “A simple act of love,” she emphasized, “between me and Bill when we were kids.”
“I’m listening.”
She sat upright on the couch. “My life is like a soap opera,” she muttered, grimacing. “A distressing mélange spiced with love, heartbreak, and vengeance. It will silence your thoughts.”
“I take it you loved this Bill.”
“Don’t interrupt me,” she snapped at him and the psychotherapist pursed his lips but did not smile. “What Bill and I shared wasn’t a sensual scream, okay? We were kids.”
“Okay,” he mumbled, nodding.
“We grew up together in Kenya,” she told him. “We were on an unending safari. Bill was a handsome Irish boy. You must understand, there weren’t many white boys around to connect to, so I fell desperately in love with him and thought I would marry him someday.” She paused and stared at the rug on the floor of the consulting room, her thoughts a riot.
She hated to remember that back then while she was nursing her infantile dreams of matrimony, Bill’s father was formulating a different program for his son. “Into the service of God you’ll go,” he had told the boy. “A priest, that’s what you are going to be.” Paige glanced up sharply and thoughts jangled in her head. It might have been different, she mused, if Bill had been a Protestant Irish and not Catholic.
She gazed at Dr. Wilson’s shoes as memories flooded her mind. She tried to speak
and her voice broke, but the psychotherapist’s gentle manners soothed her. She and Bill had attended the same school for expatriate kids in Nairobi, she explained. After the boy’s primary school education, his father bundled him into the junior seminary in Ireland and the world was never the same again. With all contact between them lost, she willed herself to be heartbroken for long, sad years while Bill went on to earn a degree in Theology and was subsequently ordained a priest, or so she thought.
“Did you eventually recover from this heartbreak?” Dr. Wilson said.
“Maybe I did, in my way.”
“What happened when you recovered?” His voice was wary.
Her eyes didn’t meet his, “A different passion engulfed me then.”
“What kind of passion?”
“Maybe you’ll call it vengeance.”     
“Was it vengeance?” Dr. Wilson, like her, uncrossed and re-crossed his legs.
“Yes. A strange kind though.”
Their eyes locked. “A strange kind of vengeance, you say?”
Paige nodded and looked away. “It was priesthood that caused Bill to jilt me,” she said in a defensive voice. “So, I figured a settling of scores might heal me.” She paused, sighed, and then spoke. “I decided to wage a very personal war against priests.”
Dr. Wilson narrowed his eyes. “You mean, like secretly assassinating priests?”
“No,” she frowned, staring at her skirt.
“But a personal war...”
“A personal war that made nonsense of their vow, if you know what I mean.”
“Not really.”
She gritted her teeth. “I seduced them, damn it, and then I made them suffer.”
Wilson gaped at her, “You seduced priests to get back at Bill for abandoning you for priesthood?”
“Yes.” She looked up at him now. “But that is only a small part of the story.”

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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Greatest Gift #MFRWhooks

Electrifying Poetry Collection

#Poetry #Odes #LoveSongs

A #MustRead for anyone who has ever experienced love, pain, defeat, or joy...

An International Book Awards Finalist -


Flashes of Emotion is a book of romantic poetry, considered both timely and timeless. The selection allows us to tap into the poet’s insights on a wide variety of topics from life and love to death and drudgery. It is contemporary poetry with a classical, electrifying edge, highlighting a lively, refreshing, and innovative style.

Amazon Hall of Fame says the poems glow with musical invention and the manner in which the poet elects to place his words on the page enhances the meaning and the beauty of these works... Liquid flowing music from a poet who understands passion. His eloquent poems speak to each of us as private as a whispered conversation. Brilliant.

And the Kindle Book Review says the poet’s style may take a bit of getting used to, but that voice produced several favorites in my notes. 5-stars it is, and extremely recommended.

The Hook - {Poem Excerpt}

Autumn in Florence
is a mélange of the elements of charm,
a yawn away from the steady shivers lying beyond
At dusk, a wistful stroll along eclectic memoried boulevards,   
with echoes of church bells in tow
unveils a canny sense of things
A nostalgic glimpse of old things,
old people, old places,
bequeathing their secrets unreservedly,
at the end of a tacky, melancholic day

It is autumn in Florence…   
even the blind can tell,
for a whiff of that dry Tuscan air,
disguised as a romantic breath on the cheek
now wafts soothingly, alluringly,
like the caressing whisper of a lover at dawn
The gaiety, the gossip, 
the veritable quality of the decline of the year,
all of it a mishmash of this season of gloom,
and caught in the midst of it, you and me,
‘cause in our souls, a conscious dread had sprung      
It is autumn in Florence…
even a tot can tell
from the inexorable surge of parched foliage and withering flora
now palpable like a beauty queen wilting with the passage of time
as an impotent sun looms
with a staggering degree of poetic frenzy, like a bad omen
over that little piazza that I call lair and you call refuge  
Jaded, like the dream that steered us here
nadir, like our possibilities, and poised to snap,
like the fragile thread holding our sanity together

It is autumn in Florence…
even the inebriated can tell,
for the Tuscan sky is daubed with gray-hued awnings
a kaleidoscope of waning streaks, epitomizing
the artistic finesse of the heavens,
a subtle connotation, a riveting verity that
four times a year the seasons change without fail,
that now leaves must turn sallow and plummet, and flowers must wither
And with them, everything except us,
must leap beyond their prime

It is autumn in Florence…  
Spanish edition
even a troll can tell,
from that lingering mystery of vitality and lethargy,
so exquisite, so sophisticated
which no longer obscures the daunting haze that strains the air
In the flush and bloom of early womanhood, you …
radiant like a new moon on a starlit night
cunningly oblivious of the secrets of my tears
paying no heed to the disheartening dread that swathes me,                  
for in this season, with every leaf that falls,
and every flower that withers, your days are numbered

It is autumn in Florence…
even an obtuse can tell,
from the stunning sight of Fiesole transformed into violet by the magic of twilight
And now, here we are—you and me—ensnared by a dream
unraveled by a foe, invincible and vile
like injured rebels ferried home to roost
Desolate hands too volatile to reach
ardent eyes too doleful to watch
as your frailty eats you up with delicious cruelty 
the way a vulture does a prey
causing every fantasy within the limits of our amorous deeds  
to evaporate, along with the last breath in your lungs

It is autumn in Florence… 
even dreamers can tell, for
the vestiges these bleak nights amass were once stacks of hope
on which now abide memories undimmed 
A better friend than you life never gave  
you were the bloom that autumn failed to erode 
the warmth that winter couldn’t pinch from me
the wind that summer could not smother
the flare that’ll forever be my spring
But more than all this, my love, 
You were life’s
Greatest gift

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