How to write a book

Poor back up policies - note to self;
The next time you spend countless hours writing and researching a book idea,
back it up on a good CD
double check that it's right.
Do it twice and put one copy
in a safe place.

Writing is very cathartic for me and for millions of other aspiring writers as well. Some stories churn in your gut like a bad piece of meat. You can hear it gurgling and twisting its way through your bowels and you just have to get it out. My last book attempt had me writing in my sleep. I don't know if I coined the phrase or not, but I was sure living it as I came to a point of, "going Hemingway". Late nights, drinking hard, the story taking over my every waking moment. It was a pleasurable hell. And then I had to put it down for a spell. And when I took it back up, I found that I had lost most of the book and the task of starting over seemed daunting and perhaps a waste of time.

However I still feel the need to write above and beyond my "more often than not" unedited blog. Perhaps something that you would want to read. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Yet recent advisories have suggested that I get into something a little more on the light side. Something funny or interesting (?) and to shy away from my usual deep, spiral laden and morbid tales.

A few excerpts: Does one story tidbit shine above the rest or do they all just (a-hem!) just suck....???

From -  Caleb Green
As my only source of warmth, I rode my steed through a night of blinding snow and blistering cold. We traveled as ordered in single file, each hoping that the one before us did not lose the trail. As the sun rose, the wind and snow bowed in obeisance and bothered us no more. Our approach did not silent the winter's Jay and I took comfort in the new day.
We rode over the crest of sparse wood revealing tall pines stabbing at the sky. The sound of anxious riders sounded with coughing and snorts. I stood in the stirrups to lengthen my spine as the Captain signaled us to form ranks. Seven men and horses wide and ten deep, we took to the hill top.

Captain Josephus Moore liked to quote from books and poems and authors known and unknown to spur us on.

"Now this is the Law of the Jungle
as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper,
but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk
the Law runneth forward and back
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf,
and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack."

No one was sure what and the hell he was saying. I didn't try to figure it out. I just liked the way it rolled off his tongue with such authority and prose. He always seemed satisfied that his recital fulfilled its task. In some strange way, I had to agree.

"Upon these kinsfolk meeting for battle, my limbs go weak and my face withers. Trembling comes upon my body, and my hair stands upright, my bow falls from my hand, and my skin burns. I cannot stand upright; my mind is whirling. I see evil. I see no blessing from slaying kinsfolk in battle."

"Know who said that?" said the Captain one night around a low fire "A king who lived hundreds of years before Jesus. War is always with us and our responsibility as soldiers will never change!"

We looked down the hill with our kinfolk lying but five hundred feet below us. The Captain readied us with his glare. In a brief moment we would be a parcel of hooves and shot delivered to their front door.

There were two things that took my notice and will forever be branded upon my memory and will alight my mind's eye. A large Raven stood not seven paces away upon a lone stone outcrop of ragged boulders. As my head turned his way, my eyes became fixed upon a blue cloud that wormed it's way through the branches of a ragged evergreen. It was the report that followed that awakened me and we looked to Captain Moore for the order to charge.

Captain Josephus Moore sprayed the snow white hillside with a deep contrast of red. If he intended to give the order it had morphed to a cough of propelling proportions, as if a deep clearing of his throat would allow him to do so.

The pack was no more as the Captain fell unnaturally backwards and his horse broke back for safety. A barrage followed and the warmth that coated my neck revealed a loss of my right ear. I did not feel anger nor did I feel fear. My duty was duty. As the Captain had said, "Ours is not the reason why, ours is but to do or die."

I drew my broadsword and made contact with an enemy officer cutting a new smile only inches below the old one. My pistol stopped an approach on my left while my right heel was as effective on my right. Moving on instinct, I began to daydream and disassociated my thought from my actions. Enveloped in smoke with a palatable taste of metallic, I leaped from my horse. Broadsword met broadsword. I countered with a sweeping undercut and followed with my right leg acting as a scythe reaping a late summer hay...........and like a flash in the pan the battle ended and we tended the wounded and buried our dead.

I smoked a pipe of a fine cut tobacco and sipped from a jug of good whiskey. The leaves turned themselves in anticipation of a mid day rain.
I felt neither good nor bad. I watched the day unfold and thought of Captain Josephus Moore.

From The Parade

The long anticipated fourth of July had finally arrived. While most of the kids in our small town wore Keds, Nick had Thom McCann's handed down to him by his father. Slightly larger than his feet, he ran slower than everyone else. There was that time that Mr. Fortier chased us for climbing his apple tree and Nick lost one of his shoes during the chase. He didn't dare come home with only one shoe because his mother would endlessly shame him and his father would kick his ass. Like an action packed James Bond thriller Nick made a miraculous dive to retrieve the lost Thom McCann. Mr. Fortier had Nick in his grasp! And yet, somehow, Nick dove and slipped away like the proverbial greased pig later catching up with us at the Catholic Church woods. This heroic effort earned him the nickname Thom McCann, a name that still sticks with him today.

But it is Bucky Addams that stands forefront in my memory. His family moved into town long after the rest of us and he had the unenviable task of trying to make new friends in a new town. With jet black hair, a small framed body and a slight French Canadian accent, he made up with mouth what he lacked in size. A few years older than us, he spoke with the voice of experience about girls, beer and fighting. After all, his father had "the gloves" having once won the Golden Glove boxing title as a lightweight sometime during the fifties.

Bucky didn't come with Keds or Thom Mccanns. He came with a pair of boots. No shit. A pair of boots!

The second child from a family of four and the only boy, he found himself under the thumb of a very loud and large mother. To memory, I can hardly recall hearing his father say more than ten words. So much for "the gloves." His mother could often be heard to command the girls to rub her feet and make her a highball. Especially on Saturday nights when Lawrence Welk was on the television. Dad sat silent as Mom ruled the home as she saw fit. Bucky stood his tallest when out of the house and away from his mother. But insult his mother. And to his face. A sure way to start a fight. I've never seen anyone get so off the cuff when it come to protecting a mother's holy name. Never much understood it. Maybe it was a catholic thing like the whole Hail Mary, full of grace stuff.

Oh, but the boots.

Evey kid gets up and runs out of the house as they slip on their sneakers (except for Thom McCann) to play ball, or play Army or just to hang out on the wall in front of Amy's house. We all ran the neighborhood over until the sound of the noontime whistle when you would run home for lunch. After lunch you repeated the same process until supper arrived. After that, the call home at night was the streetlights going on. If you noticed them that is...

Well anyway, Bucky it seemed, would never join us without one of us going to his door and to invite him out. We would have to go through the process of getting by his mother and we then wait for Bucky to perform his morning ritual of putting on the boots. He would retrieve them from a box that was tucked into a small utility closet. They had a coat and shoe closet mind you, but Bucky had this special place where he would box and place his boots away each night only to retrieve them from his safe spot again the next morning. The boots come a full five fingers above his ankle. Not really black or brown, they had the look of old but well maintained leather. Bucky would reverently take them out of the shoebox, wipe away any dirt present or not, and then he would line them up before the stoop leading out into the sun porch. He would slip in a foot and pull at the laces from the the toe to the ankle until they were perfectly aligned. Then he would cross the laces through the open clasps up to the top of his boot. An adjustment here, a wiggle there, and he would at long last tie a perfect knot pulling his pant down over his fine work of art that he so studiously perfected.

In hindsight, I envied those boots a little. They never came off no matter what trouble we found ourselves involved in. His feet never got wet. Even when we walked through the drainage pipe that ran from the pond and under the road down to the river. He did stand taller than us and he sure seemed sure footed. 
Bucky taught us how to pick out who was and who wasn't a virgin amongst the girls. He was the first person I ever knew who was legitimately addicted to smoking cigarettes. He was the first one to get a driver's license. Soon after that the old gang was lost in his dust. We didn't see much of one another after that. Occasionally we would hang out but this was the time of emerging personalities. Some gravitated towards being jocks, some to being rebels and long hairs and freaks while some sought to retain the look and appeal of the old motor heads. Everyone seeking to find his own way in the quickly changing world of the late sixties. I last saw Bucky when he came by to tell me that he joined the Army. He was home on leave. He no longer spoke with a French Canadian accent. In fact, to memory, he sound like a boy from Tennessee or the Carolina's.

It was the summer of 1969. I was fifteen. Hair to my shoulders. I do believe that I invented the mullet. I wasn't sure where Bucky's original boots got off to or to their origin for that matter. Sometimes I think that they were what his father wore in the ring. Perhaps they were just a pair of boots that had no meaning at all. But I readily admit that I found it deeply unnerving, or perhaps poetic,  or maybe just plain spooky to see those boots placed upon his casket among the flowers. He died far from home and came home to rejoin his boots in a grave not far from where my father was buried. I always think of those boots lying beside his body when I visit go to visit my family plot. I know that they're better preserved than his body is and the thought seems so weird. Almost mocking and intrusive.

Oh. I was saying that it was the long anticipated fourth of July before I went off on the whole shoe thing. Happens a lot when I'm trying to tell a story. Mind races off in all directions. I was going to tell you about our band, the fireman's fair when my mind just ran to Bucky's boots and Tom Mccann.
I began to tell you about the fourth of July when the "all volunteer" Fire Department would set up a row of games, hire a small carnival of rides, and set off a fireworks display. There was food, a sound stage and various vendors and hawkers. Since this was the biggest thing going all year, everyone would come to play, eat, have fun, and raise money to support the fire department. It was cool when that kid from Columbus Ave got a dart stuck in the side of his nose. But that's another story.
What I wanted to tell you about was our garage band. "Ten Cent Nickel Bag". I owned a Jazz Master Fender, Al had a Silvertone that could play a good rhythm and bass. Bucky played the drums. As I remember, Bucky wanted to play the fireman's sound stage. "Great way to get to get laid," he would say. This idea scared the crap out of me. Playing before a crowd and getting laid. But Bucky was determined and he kept after us day and night until the Fourth came out of the calender and just stood there. We were going to play.

We played one song that I wrote called, "She's the one." If I were to liken it to any song in memory, it sounded like the "Stray cat strut." Maybe Brian Setzer heard it and ripped us, I don't know. But I did the song first! We did a spazzed out Inagaddadavida. sans keyboards, of course. We did a "Sunshine of your love." and some fun nonsensical Jamming and that was it. Bucky thought that was all we needed.

In hindsight its funny to think that all we had for amps was a 50 watt Silvertone amp and some 40 watt something or other amp. At least the Silvertone amp had some cool re-verb. I had a wah-wah pedal but was too confused and without talent enough to use it properly. If not for the cheap sunglasses, I would have fainted. In my mind no one really noticed us but that did not stop Bucky from telling every other girl that we were "in a band" like Jimi's. When we sang "Fire" instead of saying "Move over rover and let Jimi take over," we sang, "let Timi take over."

Oh brother!

We were forced into playing. As soon as Bucky began his drum rolls and the cymbal banging, we had to do something. It was an awful rendition of the Iron Butterfly song; without the drum solo. It seemed that we kept playing and playing it because we were too scared to stop. Then we went on to massacre Cream. Then we went on to my song. Ugh! But then we went on to jam. Just plain screwing around. When we began to have fun, and forget ourselves, we sounded pretty good. My body loosened and I actually began to move like a rocker. Al blazed some bass/chords while Bucky slapped those toms and snare like a slinky descended the stairs. We drew quite a crowd! Like speaking in tongues, we started as a babble and by the end we started to make sense. Satisfied, we packed up and joined the crowd for the evening.

It did seem to help us with the girls. They were friendly. Some guys would joke about knowing us before we were famous. Bucky disappeared into the night and we all went our separate ways. As the fair began to wind down, Bucky's father came to pick up our stuff in his car. Bucky wasn't around, so Al and me decided to cross the river and cut up through the woods to go home. We sat on my front stoop recounting the days' events when at long last Bucky arrived to join us.

"Smell my hand," he demanded, pushing his fingers into our faces. "Smell my hand!"

"What's that," we demanded, not really smelling anything.

"Smell my hands. They smell like cunt! Smell!"

That was Bucky. Bucky, all the way.

Chapter six-The passions of Mr Bostwick
  • The two men stood over a corpse that looked hastily thrown upon the top of an old meat cutter’s table. With bare hands and garden tools, the two skillfully pulled the dead man’s innards out onto the floor, while a pig calmly grazed through the dead man’s remains. Mr Bostwick did not look so gentlemanly now. Not as he did on his trips back to England. His eyes were glazed and his arms and torso were covered in blood. His long fingers seemed destined for a surgeon’s calling. His usual neat and trimmed mustache drooped in the heat and sweat and his nose flared from the stench. It appeared that he enjoyed his occupation immensely.

The victory of Britain over China, in the war of opium and trade agreements, opened four more ports in the turbulent year of 1842. Regardless of the English victory, opium was still considered banned by the Manchu Government. Smuggling opium into the heart of China could be a torturous event, and being caught was avoided at all costs.

“What better way could there be to transport opium into the interior? “Just carve out an occasional coolie and stuff him like a holiday goose!” Bostwick would joke in appropriate company. “This one is ready for stitching. Wash and dress him and we’ll get him ready for his trip home,” snorted Bostwick. Tell Chou X’ing we have three going up river today.”

The unrest caused by the “Sabbath Keepers” justified this brutal guise in the mind of Bostwick. Since their rise from obscurity in 1847, the trip up the Yangtze river required out foxing the keepers in an all out effort to avoid risking death either by a brutal flogging or beheading. By the month of May in the year of 1853, Bostwick could only safely deliver as far as Nanjing, where his opium stuffed corpses were delivered to their “grieving families” waiting to be processed for distribution. By this point in time, Bostwick dared not risk going up river himself and had to trust that his assistants were acting trustworthy. In all truth, Bostwick sacrificed the least, risked the least, and profited the most. He felt damned proud for having arranged it so.

“What are you going to do with the boy?” inquired his cadaver slicing assistant. “He is too sick to be of any use.”

“I will get my use out of Master Isaac. I will get my use,” Bostwick murmured. “I can’t do anything until Chou X’ing returns, so it’s holiday until his return, huh?” he said more to himself than to his assistant. “Clean up and double lock these doors. I will contact you when I need you. And make damned sure you don’t leave this bloody swine in here. Christ, mate! Bring him over to Chou X’ing’s wife and give it to her as a gift from me. She’ll eat every last knuckle, I’d imagine. Nothing I want to see, he laughed. Nothing I want to see!”


Mr. Bostwick unlocked a small drawer beneath the wine cabinet and pulled out a bottle of a creamy, white substance and poured some into a glass of wine. He swirled the glass until it was fully dissolved and poured a little more than one half into another glass and topped it off with more wine. He then poured a little more of the raw opium into the opened bottle of wine and replaced the cork. He gently swirled and poured himself a glass and quickly drank it.

Isaac Stearns had recently learned through one of the Chinese housekeepers that he was in the port of Shanghai. This young housekeeper spoke broken English but Isaac suspected that she could speak more English than she let on and he made a game of trying to trick her. Since the dismissal of the old Chinese woman who had been responsible for Isaac’s daily care, Mr. Bostwick had been true to his word and took good care of Isaac. He brought him fresh clothes and food each day, and prayed for his recovery. After a night of sweats and fever, Mr Bostwick would lovingly wash him and give him words of encouragement. Isaac was began to believe that he would eventually get well and began to stop resisting his illness and adjusted to letting it take its course. Each afternoon, Isaac would take comfort in the library and made a commitment that he would read every book that it contained. The afternoons were pleasant as Mr Bostwick had presented tea each day and further presented himself as being very nurturing.

“Master Isaac,” Mr Bostwick soothingly stated, “I have a little treat for us today.” He had with him a tray with two glasses of wine already poured, and an important looking bottle of wine beside them. “Isaac, let us have a little wine and enjoy our solitude, huh?” and passed a glass to Isaac. Mr Bostwick appeared calm and serene with a slight smile of pleasure upon his face. It made Isaac feel relaxed and hopeful that he would soon recover and repay Mr Bostwick for his kindness. Although never particularly religious, Isaac found a renewed faith due to Mr Bostwick’s prayers.

“Why, thank you, sir,” Isaac stated with great appreciation, and sat up straight in his over-sized chair.

“Isaac,” Bostwick sighed, “Feel free to call me Richard. I want us to become quite familiar. We are in one another's good company until you are well! We might as well realize that we’re the only God fearing Englishmen for miles. We only have each other to rely on, don’t you think?”

“Richard it is!” Isaac voiced with exuberance as he drank a fully enjoyable honey sweet wine.

In a short time, Isaac realized that he could hardly feel his body. Yet, he could feel it, and the feeling disturbed him not. There was no alarm, for he felt as comfortable as a baby in it’s mother’s womb. He didn’t refuse as Bostwick refilled his glass. Isaac leaned back and smiled. There was little conversation. With Bostwick, it was typical to show his care and attention through deeds and not by words. Isaac would often think that “Richard” was so “Christ-like”.

“Drink up, Isaac. We’re on holiday,” Richard said soothingly.

Isaac slowly drank his wine and realized that he had never felt better. He tried to stand just out of curiosity. He could think “stand” more than actually achieve standing, and he didn’t care. He relaxed every muscle as Richard stood and began to rub his hands through his hair. He felt like a balloon as Richard carried him to the large red-fringed day bed. Richard loved him so, he thought. He relaxed into Richard’s touch and soon found his clothes being removed with an already unclothed Mr Bostwick laying beside him. It felt wrong to refuse him and Isaac decided to relax with the wine’s effects rather insult his gracious host. Richard kissed, groped, and grunted like a man possessed. As Richard’s sense of frenzy increased, he rolled Isaac onto his stomach and with a painful thrust he found his mark.

In the morning, Isaac awoke in his room and struggled to shake off his slumber. His head felt both heavy and light. As he moved to stand, he felt pain from his back sides and noticed some blood and feces on the sheets. After a quick knock, his door opened and Richard stood with a basin of wash water with linens draped over his left arm. In his usual non-conversing way, he began to wash Isaac from head to toe, front and back, and toweled him dry. Isaac feared reaction as Richard delicately cleaned his private areas, particularly the source of the bloody sheets.

“Lord God Almighty. Bless your humble servant Isaac with health so that he may, in his strength, walk the hills and valleys of the yellow heathen, and spread your holy word. May his health come swiftly so that he may glorify your name. We ask this, in the name of our blessed savior, Jesus Christ. Amen!”

Isaac did not feel like returning to the library for his afternoon of reading. The look upon his face revealed contorted emotions and he tried to find his place in this unusual predicament. He recalled how some of the older boys at Coll’s school would wrestle together under the bed sheets late into night. He did not solicit this, did he? Is he the male mistress of Richard Bostwick? To rid his head of these disturbing thoughts, he decided to explore the rest of the lower level. He felt better now than he had in recent weeks. Other than the courtyard that overlooked the garden growing within and without the walls, he had not once strayed outside. He had confined himself to the inner courtyard where the lack of a roof allowed the rooms of the house to be warmed by the sun. He would only go to the small room off the courtyard declared as the library. He would spend time in his room. He never felt the need or felt well enough to explore anything further. Until today. He tried to open the many doorways into several of the rooms of the house but found all of the double latticed doors locked. One room gave off an unusually sweet yet pungent smell and Isaac felt his curiosity piqued. It was at the back of the house. The house contained many rooms, some upstairs, some on the lower level. Isaac retreated to the pantry and found a suitable knife and ambitiously returned to his point of focus hoping to force the door open.

“You no go there,” the housekeeper interrupted. Isaac ignored her and continued to jiggle the knife between the door and doorway. “No. You stay out!” she persevered. “Master man no like!”

“I no speak English,” Isaac teased. “I no speak chop-chop!”

The housekeeper inserted herself between Isaac and the door quite effectively. She was no more than five foot three inches tall yet there was nothing frail about her. In her peasant clothing you could see the outline of a very attractive feminine body that on most days Isaac could easily ignore. Her face was perfectly round with eyes that looked determined to stop Isaac from going through that door no matter how high the cost. She looked oriental, but not Chinese.

“You tell me why I shouldn’t and perhaps I’ll listen. Perhaps, I won’t, he giggled." Her skin was as soft looking as anything he had ever seen. Clear, clean, without a hint of powder used by the girls back home. Naturally beautiful. He pressed his lips against her soft cheek and surprisingly she did not flinch.

“You go! You go!” she insisted.

Isaac smiled and peered into her eyes. She was very attractive. He had not fully realized this before now. He slowly leaned in and kissed her mouth. She grabbed him by the hand and led him through the inner courtyard to a door placed below a step recessed into the wall. She led him through a short closed alley and up a stairway that opened to the roof. The roof area was a leaning walkway. This was where the upper hall and lower hall of the house were joined. The roof overlooked a splendid view of many homes and buildings leading out towards a river, or perhaps the sea, filled with what looked like thousands of boats large and small sitting almost a mile away. She turned Isaac towards her and began to kiss him feverishly. Isaac placed his arms around her and rubbed her shoulders and back. She pressed herself tightly against him while Isaac could not resist touching her breasts as they pressed out from her heavily padded peasant’s smock. As his breath became heavy with the lust of the moment, she broke off.

“If you ever try and go through that door again, you will not have love with me. Understand?”

“I thought you couldn’t speak English,” he asked, amazed at the entire event.

With a giggle that sent chills of pleasure down his spine, she proceeded back down the stairway to the main house leaving him breathless. Isaac regained himself and began to take in the view. Although it seemed to be at least a mile from a very busy waterway he saw that the house where he now resided was enveloped in a crowd of homes and businesses that led to what appeared to be a very modern area of commerce at the water’s e. The weather in May was very comfortable and even at this late hour activity everywhere was very apparent to him. He was startled by the contradiction of Bostwick’s words as he saw many non-Chinese and English men walking the narrow streets nearby. Looking off towards the southern point of the roof he could see what looked to be a medieval walled city. Satiated with the pleasure of fresh air and sunshine and a kiss and a promise, Isaac laid down on the roof to bathe in the day’s last rays of sun.

Isaac slept.


baroness radon said…
I was wondering when you were going to get back to this. The question is which one stands out and grabs YOU. That's probably the right way to go. (I need to spend some serious time on my own novel...)