Month: August 2012

Are writers crazy… or courageous?

Are those of us who write — with the purpose of being published and read by strangers — out of our minds?

I ask this of myself many times, since writing, fiction or not,¬† is hard enough. Unless you’re already under contract, your the one who gets to decide when the project is ready for public consumption. You have to put the word out, market yourself, tell everyone and anyone about your book or store. Brag.

Lunacy or abject bravery?

You write a book and bark out, “Look at me! I made this! I wrote a book!”

You’ve never heard the sound of crickets laughing?

“Well, I know you don’t know me, but I promise it’s good! I mean, hey, it’s on Kindle so it has to be good!”

Well, that’s way too many exclamation points, someone said.

Piss off!

Then someone reads what you have done — wife, father, friend, complete stranger — and you realize that you just exposed yourself and your precious creativity to the outside world. That you want the reader to like the book is an understatement. You want the reader to love it, almost as much as you want that person not to hate it, because if they do and they’re part of your inner circle, you’ll get an awkward but polite smile and a halfhearted pat on the head. If your reader is a stranger…look out.

Many believe that the hardest part of writing is the re-writing, the editing. I say it’s the promotion. The selling. It feels so good during the writing process (at least it does for me), why ruin things by having to get out there and grind away at trying get other people to read your most personal work? What are we, a public service? Who cares if anyone sees it? Is it all about money? Ego?

No.

Whether it’s romance, pulp, sci-fi, fantasy, chick lit, satire, literary fiction, sports, current events, SEO-heavy web content, biography, articles, blogs or even advertising copy, there is still one common thread, one reason for it all to exist: Telling a story.

We as living, thinking creatures have told stories since cavemen drew on walls, since writers and painters worked under the weight of poverty and never finding fame until their bones had turned to dust. Storytelling is an effort to relate or elicit emotional responses, to find out that we’re not alone in our thoughts or fears and that there is something connecting each of us.

I plan to continue telling stories to anyone within earshot until I turn to dust, crazy or not.

Then there’s this other thing…

Okay, some of you have been reading my food blogs, done mostly to exercise my blogging skills as well as just have a little fun. Some of you are in this space for the first time.

As the comedy troupe, Monty Python, once dubbed a film: And now for something completely different…

Sometimes, I write for money (being paid or not is another story). Most of the time, I wear the hat of sportswriter, covering football, both pro and college. However, for the purpose of this particular blog entry, I also write fiction and there are a few things I need to share.

You see, a while ago, my father, Dave, a far more prolific writer than I am, was working on a novel. He had hit a wall, it seems, since I hadn’t heard him talk about it in quite some time.

“So, how’s the book coming?” I asked.

“Eh, I’m kind of stuck.”

I paused, not knowing what was behind the door I was about to open.

“I’ll help,” I said.

A few days later, I was in the middle of an adventure, both on the page and in my life. Of all the writing I had done, I had never touched anything that resembled a geopolitical action-thriller. And yet, there I was at the computer, reading his outline, trying to expel the delusions of literary grandeur from my mind… it was time to grind it out.

The result, finally, is the novel, “Tel Arad.” It’s written by the two of us and the cover features a shared byline. I cannot, nor can he (I imagine) describe the significance of that fact alone. We did it together and now it’s real.¬† I don’t know how many times my name has appeared in print under a headline, but the co-authorship of this book is worth more than anything.

I don’t know what readers will think of “Tel Arad.” I hope they like it. I hope we do well with it. The real glory, the true value, was found in the work. It cannot be judged or taken away. Someday, the book will be forgotten by others, maybe even ourselves, but the teamwork, the father-son effort it took to make something together will live on forever.

While we toiled, there was a dusty pile of papers under my desk, calling out: “Don’t forget about me.”

And so, I did not forget. When the work on “Tel Arad” was done, and we saw that it was ready for public consumption, I broke out that pile of papers, which in truth was a “dusty” computer file, made some changes, tightened up a few loose ends and sent it out into the ether as an e-book.

“Clean Like Tomorrow” was written too long ago and instead sat marinating in my own fears. I sent it out once to about 10 agencies. The responses ranged from “Well-written… but not for us, thanks,” to the equivalent of a blank stare. I meekly put it away. Don’t ask me about its category because I have no idea where it should fall, though it’s all about a woman, a son, a friend, lives in crises and characters trying to reconnect by changing their lives.

For those of you read one of my earliest posts (hell, there aren’t that many) I am working on something new and different. Hopefully, I will be done writing in a few months, the complete story finally revealed to me and ready for I-don’t-know-what. E-book? A literary agent? The empty spot under my desk?

And now for the advertising portion of this tale: You can find “Tel Arad” on Amazon as POD or Kindle, and “Clean Like Tomorrow” on Amazon Kindle with POD coming soon.

Another night of cooking (local) by the beach

We welcomed friends, a formerly local family now living the life fantastic in southwestern France, to our tiny beachfront apartment the other night for dinner.

Question 1: Cook a French-style meal, to give them a taste of their new home and us of the Old World? A good chance to practice the technique.

Question 2: Give them a real New Jersey shore meal to show off what we here can do within a mile or two of the Atlantic Ocean when it comes to perfect food. A taste of what they’d left behind, if you will.

Yeah, Question 2 was answered clearly and resoundingly: YES!

Since my favorite seafood and vegetable markets are less than a mile from our place, not to mention the herb garden on the deck, this would be easy.

The local ingredients included: clams, chiles, corn, lemon thyme and scallions for the entree. A little olive oil and butter, garlic, onion, the white part of the scallions, chiles and a dab of bacon fat went into the pot to start cooking out the rawness before the clams made their entry. In a smaller saucepan, a corn cob simmering in water to build a quick sweet corn broth, the corn that I had cut from it waiting in the wings. Grand finale: clams in, corn in, broth in, beer in (I used lager, some ales and stouts can make the dish too bitter).

The result, which was served over spinach and fresh pasta, looked like this:

Our new favorite summer salad is as simple as it gets: local tomatoes, both heirloom and basic Beefsteaks, a cucumber, shaved red onion, good olive oil, lemon juice, cracked black pepper and flaky sea salt.

Here’s what “easy” looks like:

When the food was gone, the conversation began…