Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion.
Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.
Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.
I first wrote for publication in 1995, let it drop for a few years, then resumed in 2014. It's my pleasant escape and the thing I especially strive to accomplish well. We all need that -- something we work at more than anything else, something we call our own. This is mine.
My literary peer review process is to send work to journals, most of which have not yet published me, and most of which have a 3% or less acceptance rate. This has served me well in gaining authorial confidence.
My first novella:
The Query from Port Yonder Press (July 2020), #1 in the Maddie Hill Mysteries series of novellas.
A small press publisher. Pan Am Flight 103. A strange manuscript query. How does it all fit together? Maddie Hill is passionate about her book press, but when last day submissions happen, she's also relieved. That is, until she receives several confusing emails, phony names, and veiled threats. Not to mention, she misses Sasha, though she’d never admit it. And is her mentor really who he says he is? Everything eventually comes to light after several cat and mouse hours of who-did-what-and-why.
First couple of pages follow.
Maddie couldn’t recall a time she didn’t love words. From listening to her parents speak immersive German and fragmented Gaelic at the dinner table to the thousands of delicious words she poured over in her quest to explore the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica as a child, letters put together in pleasing combinations gave her reason to dance, both mentally and physically. And now in her mid-30’s, she could cut the proverbial rug.
The batteried-clock ticked on. Into a mind that rarely rested came thoughts such as misuses of language, slang, the proliferation of profanity over the well-chosen power-packed and rare sizzler, clichés and lines that boondoggled on and on, the beginnings – who first put it all together, a tower of babbling, precision vs primadonnaishness. So many of them.
In her waking, good friends came to mind too, the few, the long-lasting, what she called “the understanders.” Made sense that they all seemed to value language and wordery as much as she did. Another neologism. She was proud of herself.
Her inbox would be full. She needed to rise, wash, and slap on her kind but firm attitude for the substantial task ahead. And she would laugh because she finally could again.
8:07 a.m. First queries of the last day
She opened the first email in her inbox and added it to her now-burgeoning Worst-of files. The game was afoot.
Dear Editor: The spirit of Elvis Presley possesses an Indian priest … with astonishing results. After a trip to tour America with his thrown-together band, The Brahmin-Beats, Pandit Banerjee discovers gaming, self- exorcises Elvis, develops a smash hit video game, and becomes a millionaire. When he returns to India, however, he is stripped of his priestly robes and imprisoned for offending the gods. What happens next is pure anticipation. Possible titles: Indian Elvis; Elvis & The Gamer; Elvis Lives Again
Maddie exorcised her spirit of sleepiness and opened the next one.
Ms Hill, Can animals really communicate with each other? Yes, they surely can! Through this book, Said the Cobra to the Cow, I document the process from sight or smell, to movement and “speech,” to acceptance, rejection, or budding friendship. I visit a zoo, a no-kill shelter, and a nature preserve. This docu- drama is sure to inspire and renew faith in the animal kingdom. Please seriously consider my submission.
When elephants fly, said the cobra to the cow. Next.
Maddie sat at the computer, stretched and rubbed her eyes. She was weary, yes, and invigorated, and bored, and excited. Everything and nothing all at once. She loved reading these queries, though if she were honest with herself, few pinged her genuine interest. Maybe she had read too many over the past seven years and it skewed her thinking in the matter of those not quite up to snuff.
Dear Editor, I have written a book. In this science fiction thriller I’m calling The Taking of Billy Bud, a young man leaves home to work on a pecan farm in Louisiana but is soon after abducted by aliens. Follow along with Billy “Bud” Williams as he travels to Mars, Venus, Uranus, and regions beyond.
“Your anus,” Maddie said aloud. “Worst of the Worst and regions beyond.” She couldn’t help herself. It was too early on.
Singing the Land: A Rural Chronology from Shanti Arts Publishing, Maine (May 2020), a collection of previously published essays reformatted into a month-by-month look at rural living. Autographed copy link below. If you happen to go this way, thank you. Know how much I appreciate it.
Barnes & Noble, Amazon
"A ... meditation on the wonder of small moments, artfully told." Kirkus Reviews
I more compiled than wrote this, though I did write each essay contained in the collection. What it is is a compilation of about two dozen previously published essays (and a few prose poems, I think) reformatted to fit the chronological theme, month to month, season to season. The only thing that doesn't fit that daily format (though no month contains all the days) is the introduction. See it below.
An hour, once it lodges in the queer element of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length; on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented on the timepiece of the mind by one second. Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography
A Brief Discussion of Time
The shadow under the wall clock is in the shape of a mountain connected to an overhanging cliff. A thin crevice runs north and south and joins the two— the mountain to the cliff. About halfway down the crevice another rock juts out, leaving only a marginal line of light, wide enough for a small fly or maybe two or three legs of a spider. Eventually the shadow blurs and disappears. The mountain turns to plain and the clock ticks on. Another day, and I’ve already considered dying, heaven, the likelihood of absolute truth, and this weekend’s company. There are no guidelines in this land of time, no rule book to interpret such a scene, so we live them on a hunch and the proverbial prayer, but always at the precipice of discovery. This is day. This is the next item on the agenda. I prepare a grocery list.
A day is made up of this thing called time, measured in microscopic increments by which we mark our happenings. It’s a quantifiable medium, and there’s a method to it all, called chronometry: the science of time. Want to impress someone? Tell them one of the shortest measures of time is called a yoctosecond (10–24s) and the longest, a yottasecond (1 septillion seconds, or about 31.7 quadrillion years). That should do it.
Decades ago, Native Americans would estimate time by how long it took a small boat with a hole in it to sink. Today we have clocks and keep our boats for fishing. Further, there is no word in the Sioux language for “late.” Imagine never having to use that excuse with your boss.
A tribe in South America dismisses the notion of past and future, living only for the present. It’s a freeing life, observers note, albeit shallow as shown in their limited activities of hunting, gathering, having sex, babies, and then dying. They have no numbering system and use only a few vowels and a handful of consonants. They whistle conversation, or hum it, or sing it. Why would they need a concept of time when they live in the lyricism of the present? Missionary Daniel Everett spent years with the Pirahas and left no closer to convincing them of their need for a clock.
Time discipline is how we view our passing seconds and years. This desire to measure our moments is believed to have sprung from a religious emphasis on daily rituals and a religious view of the hereafter. Canonical hours, prayer schedules, and the now-ubiquitous phrases such as “don’t waste your life” drove the need for devices to calculate time. From the sundial to the hourglass to the candle or 35 Singing the Land pendulum clock to the clepsydra all the way up to the ultra-precise NIST-F2 atomic clock (which is accurate to within one second in 300 million years, on a bad day), we, as a people, have sought to number our days.
Dale talks about time in an early episode of the television series The Walking Dead. This may not seem poignant at first, but when you consider the setting is the end of the world, it is. It’s the end of the world, no one is likely to survive very long, yet Dale continues to wind his watch at the same time each day. This is both memorable and good writing; this is the stuff that makes us stop and consider.
Most believe time is unidirectional, that is, it flows forward, from present to future, but never backward. Such a belief would seem to make sense. We cannot return and change the world, though our imagination easily dreams up such scenarios in our stories. In Hindu mythology, Talmudic accounts, and Japanese tales, time travel has been a common motif dating back many centuries. In books like Terry Pratchett’s Thief of Time and Isaac Asimov’s The End of Eternity, history has its guardians and time must be protected. These stories give us control, “ . . . [and] time travel suggests that Everyman and Everybody is important to shaping history, to making a real and quantifiable difference to the way the world turns out.”
Is this why Dale continued to wind his watch when time was considered irrelevant, and why Blaise Pascal tied a pocket watch to his wrist with a piece of string before wrist watches were a thing? And is this why most of us find wall space in each room of our house for a clock of some pleasing shape and size— we want to “make a real and quantifiable difference in the way the world turns out.” Or, less nobly, we simply don’t want to miss our favorite TV show.
In these moments, stories rise from the simplicity of our lives, for days are not all big ideas and bold self-revelation. Slides in the slow cool gasp, the sneaking-up wonder, an ant hulking crumbs across a hot concrete driveway against the backdrop of a crisp starry universe. We make notes and recollections. Our past becomes our book of knowledge, our present the well from which we draw.
If you'd like an autographed copy for yourself or a friend, I'd love to send it to you. Just click the Buy Now button below and follow the instructions.
The Farm & Environs (corn is not ours; planes are not ours; everything else is, including sky, clouds, and sunset)