fadedpicIt’s the last day of November, which means I’m down to the end of the novel I’ve spent the last 30 days creating on fast forward. During the course of this month I’ve gone through the highs and lows of novel writing — the weights and balances that make the process of writing so dynamic, and why I love it so. But as tedious as it was in places to keep going day after day, to hit the deadlines I set for myself, to hit 50,000 words in 30 days, it was also an adventure in forming a narrative I would like to read myself someday.

Its working title is Faded, testament to my lack of creativity when it comes to working titles, and yet somehow it seems to fit the constructed narrative as it now stands. In some way the entire thing is all about an experience that happened twenty-five years before the events in the present day, a faded memory that never truly fades, because they never do. And the characters need to adjust to their memories of that time, to bring it back into focus so they can deal with the repercussions from it that have come home to roost.


A girl shows up on Glen Davidson’s doorstep with a sad tale of death and disappointment, begging him to show her mercy, to offer up a leap of faith on her behalf. He does so, but unbeknownst to him the story is a lot murkier than she’s made it out to be. Can this investment banker beat the odds and discover this girl’s secret before it’s too late for her… or for him?


Sally Groves claims she’s Glen’s long lost daughter, that she needs money, and that he’s the only one who can help her with her current problems. The only hitch: she isn’t who she claims to be, and the trouble she’s in is beyond her means, even with his help.

Glen Davidson is a man who made a huge mistake twenty-five years ago, and it’s haunting him now in the form of the girl who emerges from the shadows to make him second guess everything he thought he knew about himself. In his fight to protect a girl who doesn’t want his protection he might just lose himself.


He can see the tears in her eyes again, and he wonders why she didn’t come to see him before now, why it took something so drastic to look for him after all this time. She rises, and he does too, but things are awkward with them, as they are at the very beginning. He reaches out his hand to her, and she takes it in an approximation of a handshake, but it lingers for a moment before she lets go first. Then she is gone again, out of the room and down the hall like an apparition floating on invisible wings. It’s easy for his subconscious to believe for a second that it didn’t just happen, that he didn’t just meet the child he never knew he had. But his conscious mind is busy dealing with the ramifications of the words they’ve just spoken to each other, the aftermath of it all.

When others hear that I am doing the challenge this month they have so many questions, but what I usually tell them is that it’s a labor of love, that it takes a commitment I didn’t think was possible, to forge ahead even when the words aren’t there. It takes a kind of perseverance to go day after day with so many words still to go, the countdown moving on and the word count hopefully going up at an exponential rate. But when I hit 50,000 words, and I realized I had gotten where I wanted, the satisfaction was so sweet.
Now I’m kind of sad because for the past month I’ve had a goal, a destination firmly in mind, and I’ve been so focused on reaching it. But now that I’m here at the end it is the beginning of “What next?” and I don’t know the answer to that question. I suppose I will work hard on re-drafting this novel from start to finish, then start on something else, because a writer really never stops writing.
Even when the madness of National Novel Writing Month has faded.


“It’s the fear that you’re past your best. It’s the fear that the stuff you’ve done in the past is your best work.” ~Robbie Coltraine

I guess it’s about time I had a midlife crisis. All the signs are there, after all:

  1. I’ll be 40 next month
  2. I’ve been married for 13 years
  3. The gray hairs are taking over
  4. Fie, how my bones ache
  5. My car is red

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about age and where I fit on the scale, which makes a kind of sense, I suppose. After all, things I used to do with ease are now a bit of a challenge even though I can still do them. My memory isn’t quite as solid as it used to be. And I’m trying to grow my hair but I don’t think it will quite reach the afro heights from my heyday.

All of which would be fine if I weren’t feeling so out of sorts. Maybe things would be better if we were finally ensconced in our house instead of being boarders for over a year now. Perhaps I would feel a little more settled if I had the kind of spirituality I used to have. I drink my coffee religiously but that’s the extent of the spirit moving me lately. Maybe I need more of that in my life.

If I can live until 80 then I’m firmly at the middle of my life, and what have I done to this point? That’s what it’s all about after all, isn’t it? What have I done? I married the love of my life, had two amazing kids, and finally have a job teaching college. Add to that the fact that I’ve published three novels and I’ve done a lot of the things I wanted to do by this point in my life. But those weren’t all of my goals, which is probably why I’m feeling incomplete.

I would like to have more security. While I’m teaching again, and on the college level, I still need a second job because I’m not on tenure track yet. I need that. I need to feel necessary to the process and I’m not there yet. This house, while it is a labor of love, isn’t done yet and that makes me weary every single day. And then there’s the lack of time for the things I want and need in my life.

I want to get back to something physical. I need to fish back out my tennis racket, to dig out my golf clubs, and find people to play with me. I need to rediscover my friends, or find new ones who are good for me, who help me achieve my goals while I help them with theirs. I need a chance to breathe, to sit back and explore my own thoughts in the midst of this chaos that is life.

So I don’t need a mid-life crisis to save me from myself. I need to find myself again and help myself get better. I need to be grateful for what I have to this point but keep striving for more. Because while things may be harder than they used to be, I’m still alive, and I need to keep striving.


The First November

NaNo Poster2.47Four years ago I decided I was going to just go for it. I decided I was going to try my hand at the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I had tiptoed around it for years, doing the complicated dance of feinting like I was going to do it, and then backing out at the absolute last second. I knew if I did that one more time that would be it; I would never do it in my entire life.

So I went for it. I started on November 1, 2012, with nothing in my mind but the ghost of an idea, a head full of imagination, and some half-formed characters begging to be set free on the page. It was the first time I would work with a deadline in mind, at least when it came to my own creative writing, and I didn’t know what to expect. But I quickly realized it would be a battle of word count goals.

30 days. It seems like such a huge amount of time until you get into it, and then it goes by like quicksilver, fast, then faster, then fastest. And getting behind in my word count goals was not an option, even if my word choice and narrative suffered for it, which I’ll admit happened sometimes that first November. There were some days when I was over 2,000 words in and nothing was on plot.

But I kept writing, which was the goal. I didn’t care about being perfect; that had to be thrown out the window pretty quickly when it hit me how much writing I would honestly have to do. And life got in the way too, the way it often does when I’m trying to get places. Some days it was work, and the rigors of an eight hour day working retail. The last thing I wanted to do when I got home was put my creative brain in motion, but I did it anyway. Then there was spending time with my children, which I love, but it also took time and energy from the writing process.

But I maneuvered around those things, and I kept writing. Some nights that first November I was up until nearly midnight (I always observed the rules of word counts for each day ending at 11:59), but I always got my count in. In fact, some days I was able to bank bonus words to help me when I knew I would have a hard time the next time generating text. I’m not saying it was easy, because it wasn’t, but when all was said and done I had gotten to 50,000 words before the end of the month.

It is a labor of love, the setup and execution that it takes to get to that word count, not just at the end of the month, but every single day during it as well. And as I finished another 50,000 words this November I felt like reflecting on the month that started it all. I’m so glad that I persevered, that I finally took the challenge I had put off for so long. I know I’m so much better for it.


I Appreciate You

I appreciate you because you’re not fake. When I ask you if I look fat in these jeans you will tell me, even if you break my heart.

I appreciate you because you will give me my space. If I need you and you’re not around I know it’s because you were putting my needs first.

I appreciate you because you accept my faults. I love how you always point them out, especially when I don’t see them, so I can accept them too.

I appreciate you because you give to the poor. Even though I have no money you make sure you give me nothing because it would hurt the friendship. But that guy on 42nd Street got some new Timberlands because of you.

I appreciate you because you value affection. You constantly say that you love everything without really doing anything to show it.

I appreciate you because no one else seems to, because too often people go the other way to avoid you, and I just can’t do that. I learned a long time ago that everybody’s somebody, that even people who alienate others deserve appreciation for the person they can’t help being.

I appreciate you because in the grand scheme of things life is too short to distance yourself from others, no matter how acidic their personalities are. It’s not beneficial to me or to you for me to hold a grudge based on your conduct and reactions to others, and ignoring you never works.

I appreciate you because I can. And that’s enough for me.


The Process | Part 3


Writing is not a sedentary enterprise because my brain is always working overtime to keep up with everything that’s going on in the story, like I’m spinning plates. The characters become my friends sooner rather than later, sometimes poking me in the arm by page 3, ready to drive their own storylines and hoping I will let them. Even the antagonists have a way of getting beneath my guard and forcing me to embrace them, which is why I have to remind myself often exactly who each character is, how they’re supposed to act towards others, and why I wrote them the way I did at the outset. It keeps me on my toes.

This November is no exception, with NaNoWriMo now halfway over. I’m always amazed at how my characters take on a life of their own. My protagonists are in the midst of telling their tales, and living their lives, but it’s in the telling and the living that I see them for who they really are. My antagonist is also well defined, but I can’t quite bring myself to hate him. That’s because my antagonist is a multi-faceted individual who has some positives to go along with the negatives. While “pity” is not on the table, at some points “mercy,” and “condolence” are.

As I hit the halfway point this year I can tell that things are different from the past four. Even though I “won” those years (meaning I hit my 50,000 word goal in 30 days), I haven’t felt like things have always flowed from start to finish. There’s generally a wall I hit at some point that I need to get around, that I need to figure out before I move on. I hope there’s some wood around here because I may need to knock on it, but this year I haven’t had that impediment, not yet anyway. Perhaps it won’t rear its head, but even if it does I always get around it at some point.

Now it’s time for the back stretch, and the process is intact. I’m excited for the rest of the tale, which I’ll tell you about next time. But I’m even more excited for the characters to keep speaking to me, to keep giving me their stories in bits and pieces until it’s all been told. Those are the best of times.

Word count: 30,604 words.


There She Goes

“There she goes. There she goes again. Running through my brain… and I just can’t contain the feeling that remains.”

Rearview mirrorSo, there I was, driving up Route 12, heading home when I saw a pair of headlights behind me. I glanced in the rear view and vaguely recognized the make and model of the car behind me — because it was the same as my wife’s. But I try to stay focused on the road ahead when I’m driving. Yet something kept dragging my eyes back to that car, and I saw the driver waving at me.

You guessed it. It wasn’t just the make and model of the car my wife drives. It was my wife, in the last place I would have expected her at 3:15 in the afternoon out on Route 12, directly behind me. My heart leapt in my chest because it was her, it was really her, and I can’t explain just how I feel every single time I see her. It’s especially true when it’s an unexpected encounter.

I’m sure it’s just me, that not every man has those first encounter flights of adrenaline like I have when I see my wife. I mean, it’s been 15 years since we first started talking, and we’ve had our ups and downs, but that feeling never goes away. Perhaps I’m just a sentimental guy. After all, I celebrate the day she first emailed me, the day she first told me she loved me, and the day I first moved here to Central New York. So why not celebrate every time I get to see the woman who chose me?

I try to tone it down from time to time, because I know she’s nowhere near as sentimental as I am. Which is okay. I knew this about her when we first met. And I have to admit it makes me that much more excited in those moments when she is sentimental. Of course I hope she doesn’t get overloaded with my exuberance, but she knew this about me when we first met. And she’s stuck with me nevertheless. I think it makes for a good combination.

So, there I was, driving up Route 12, heading home when I saw my wife behind me, waving as if she was excited at the coincidence. In that moment I could feel her excitement that rivaled mine. In that moment. And I felt a thousand warm and fuzzies coursing through my body as I waved back and blew her kisses. She makes me want to sing a karaoke duet with her, but I wouldn’t because she would hate it. But it still makes me feel good even wishing that we could.

We parted a few moments later, me still heading home, and her going about the course of her day, but there she was, and there she goes. Which always makes me smile.


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