A Writer's Journal

A Writer's Journal

 

As the lightning came closer thunder came with it--the sound seemed to roll over them like giant boulders. Mouse flinched, and Newt began to flinch too. Then, instead of running across the horizon like snakes' tongues, the lightning began to drive into the earth, with streaks thick as poles, and with terrible cracks.

 

Around midnight I was in bed, reading Lonesome Dove, and listening to the soft patter of rain through my open window. Just as I got to the part where the cattle drive is caught in a terrible storm with its thunder and lightning, it began to thunder and lightning over this valley.


I love it when that happens.

 

 

 

[First posted: August 10, 2019]


I am pleased to announce (ecstatic, really!) that my novel about the AIDS epidemic, 
As If Death Summoned, will be published next autumn by Amble Press, an imprint of Bywater Books.

The story is set in Portland and Australia during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and '90s. Much of it covers the early years, before there was a diagnosis, or a test or treatment, before it was even called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The story ends in 1995, when protease inhibitors turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable chronic condition. By that time, 300,000 people had already died in the US.

I sent the manuscript to Bold Strokes Books, who had published my dark psychological mystery, The Unforgiven, in 2012.

Sandy Lowe responded, saying she liked it but didn't think that BSB, who primarily publishes mysteries, thrillers and romance, had the right market for it. She encouraged me to send it to Salem West at Bywater Books and then told Salem about the book.

On April 1st (Yes, April Fool's Day) Salem wrote to me:

 
Hello, Alan.

It might be April Fool's Day, but this is no joke.
 
I had a meeting with the other two owners of Bywater Books this morning, and we were all in agreement that we want to offer you a contract for As If Death Summoned.
 
Personally, I loved your book and read it cover to cover in one afternoon—it perfectly fits our publishing focus: Smart. Richly textured. Beautifully written. Full of heart.
 
 
My sincere thanks to Sandy for taking enough interest in the manuscript to recommend it to Salem, and to Salem for believing in and championing it. The long-awaited novel (well, long-awaited by me, anyway) will be coming out next year, just in time for the 40th anniversary when what would come to be known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome first appeared on the nation's radar screen in 1981.  With expected pathos and unexpected humor, the novel testifies to the power of grief to erode a life, and—for those who can find a way through their grief—the power to rebuild and renew it.
 
Stay tuned...
 
 
 
 
 
[First posted: June 5, 2019]

 

 

Lazy afternoon,

sprawled on my bed,

book and window open,

reading to the rain's syncopated rhythms,

     dozing,

                   dreaming,

                                         waking,

wandering through mind-drifts of memories

              ...the farm at Barwon Downs,

              ...hiking Mt. Takao in autumn,

              ...planting the chestnut with Dad,


while listening to the rain, reading.

 

 

 

 [First posted: October 25, 2015]

 

In a recent Writer's Digest article, David Corbett, author of The Art of Character, writes:

"People don't turn to stories to experience what you, the writer, have experienced--or even what your characters have. They read to have their own experience."

Note to self:
Write to give the reader an experience--of joy or sadness or fear or excitement--instead of merely reading about someone else's experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[First posted: November 27, 2015]

 

 

I usually recommend reading a book before seeing the movie version. But I am re-thinking my position after watching Ron Howard’s film, In the Heart of the Sea. I’d just finished the book by Nathaniel Philbrick and loved it—about the ramming and sinking of the whaleship Essex by an enraged sperm whale in 1820, the inspiration for Melville’s Moby Dick. I was eager to see what Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13) would do with it.

The film was certainly spectacular, with gee-whiz special effects and a taut tension running throughout, but I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read the book first. I was continually distracted by the film's departure from historical accuracy. “That’s not right,” I would murmur. “It didn’t happen like that.” “They made that part up.”

To make matters worse, there were all these rude people sitting around me in the theater, going, “Sh-Sh-Sh.”

 

 

 

[First posted: November 23, 2016]

 



It is a delicious thing to write,
to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating.
Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress,
I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves,
and I was also the horses, the leaves, the wind, the words my people uttered,
even the red sun that made them almost close their love-drowned eyes.



Gustave Flaubert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[First posted: December 12, 2015]

 

 

 

 

 

 

At WordFest this week, retired physician Dan Roberts read from his novel in progress, a medical thriller titled The VRSA Syndrome.

Dan shared that when he sent out his manuscript, an agent responded with thirty pages of notes for re-working it.

Thirty pages? I'm just happy if the form rejection letter sounds heartfelt.

 

 

 

 

 [First posted: July 10, 2015]

 

 

 


Reading Dickens' unfinished novel,
The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

 

Hurrying to see how it doesn't end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[First posted: May 19, 2015]




The shortest book review I ever read was for David Leavitt's 1998 novel, The Page Turner.

"It's not."

 

I admire Leavitt's writing and suggest that one would do better to start with his novel, The Lost Language of Cranes (1986), or his short story collection, Family Dancing (1984).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[First posted: April 12, 2015]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 











I will be making a rare appearance at the next WordFest on Tuesday, March 3, 6:00-8:00 PM, reading my short story, “The Conquest of Mt. St. Helens: A somewhat true account of the harrowing 1999 assault on the treacherous peak.”


Like so many movies now announce at the start, it is "Based on a true story," as in "The Hobbit--Based on a true story."

WordFest meets on second Tuesdays at Cassava Coffeehouse, 1333 Broadway in Longview.

Can't make it? You can also read the story and see photos of the ascent here: The Conquest of Mt. St. Helens

 

 

 [First posted: March 2, 2015]