Monthly Archives: June 2013

Going On The Account: Forty First Street Blues

So this is what life without a novel to share is like…

It’s been a rough few weeks.  In addition to the mundane concerns competing for my attention with personal memorialization of Richard Matheson (and believe me, I wish I could have gotten something better out there to share about this than this note), there was the letdown from finding a bit more time on my hands.

I couldn’t believe how not having a spot on the calendar to fill every Thursday morning, making sure the links were up and notices posted to the blog, would seem so depressing.  I have other projects I’m working on, getting some more rejection notices from paying markets and assembling something I can talk more about once I finish figuring out how to work this dang doo-hickey here, but getting the novel online, keeping hose plates spinning…

Why am I missing this?

I mean, I thought having more time was supposed to be a good thing, right?  A chance to sleep in a little, work on the next project(s), re-acquaint myself with how to be a bon vivant around town, going down to watering holes in the Village to spout off, finding myself within half a block of the Algonquin by accident and deciding on the spot, “What the hell?” and going to the bar to get a round and toast the ghost of Dorothy Parker, one BS artist to another…

I should be doing something else and enjoying the chance to do that, right?

Is it the lack of structure, not having anything to pimp hock promote?  The lack of something to define me?  Do I need the definition?

Something I considered this morning as I made my way along Forty First Street.

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Everyone knows of the thoroughfare one block north, the two-way street that goes past Grand Central Station and through Times Square, celebrated in the novel, film and musical named for the way.

Forty First Street?  Not so much…

In fact, the street is famous for how much of it is not that navigable.  The street’s east end is on a rise that forms a 20-foot cliff overlooking First Avenue.  Going west, if you walk you need to take care when you get to Park Avenue, which you go under as you’re forced to one side of the street, as they only put one sidewalk under the bridge Park is carried over the street on.  You hit Fifth Avenue, you go right up the steps of the main branch of the New York Public Library; you need to circumvent Bryant Park to get back on the street.  Once you find the trail again and skirt Times Square, you then run right into the Port Authority Bus Terminal at Eight Avenue, the last detour before you finally find your way to the Hudson.

Not the best river-to-river street in Manhattan, and frankly it feels more like an alley behind its brasher sister street a block north.  That gets all the tourists and paparazzi, while Forty First gets a lot of folks just pushed off to the side for them.

And yet it’s still there.  It is still on the map, it still has signs on the corners that are left, it’s just as much right to be walked upon as anyone any place else in the city.  It may not be your main way across town, or even that high up in your mind as a place you can conceptualize, but it’s still there.

And it has its place.  It has its purpose.  It may not be the place you meet those dancing feet; hell, the only dance you ever do there is the one where you avoid walking through the remnants of someone’s failures, a meal that couldn’t be kept down or a dog that should have been cleaned up after, maybe a pet that could be loved a bit better by being walked in the park instead.

But it’s still there, and by just being there it reminds you that even without a clear way, a few detours and you’re back going in the right direction.  Maybe not as elegant a symbol of perseverance as Bob Dylan’s approach to it, but we’re letting the melodic crap go one block north, here…

And walking the forgotten street, it reminds you that some things that you do, that you embrace doing, they never go away when you stop.  They are still there to get back to doing once the detour is navigated.

So this means I’m publishing something online again?  At some point, yes; Bryant Park and the Bus Terminal may need to be walked around first, but a few turns at the corner, then…

 

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Going On The Account: Not Letting Go

So as I try to get myself jazzed for what comes now, as the last project has seen its official end*, I found something that relates to the old work:  an assessment of different cities’ plans for the inevitable inundation to come.  In a nutshell:

Rotterdam:  Imagine Venice with pot cafes…

Venice:  Hey, the whole ruins motif worked for Rome, so why not…?

London:  And if these barriers don’t work, there’s always Oxford upstream…

Miami:  Oh yeah, we’re screwed, but hey, we’re Miami, we can make this work for us…

New York:  Yeah, we got a plan, youse got a problem with that?  Huh?

Bangladesh:  We had problems before we had this sheit to deal with…

Maldives:  What, you didn’t know we had a problem looming?  What kind of colonial bastard are you?

Bangkok:  Yeah, like you really care about us…

Cuba:  As if you ever thought about us…

Mbeere:  As if you ever heard about us…

Proof that yes, the novel may end, but the issues may go on well after the “-30-” date…

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* Mind you, as I say “end,” there’s a few things that nag at the back of my mind, among them:

– Where mothers who abandon their daughters can go in a post-climate-changed America

– How readily a big enough launch can navigate the waters among the islands of Nunavut

– How much global cooling we can see from potential nuclear strikes that hit the Russian and the Chinese industrial centers

– What a post climate-challenged Caribbean might look like when the word gets too hot, and then suddenly too cold

– How much hate mail I’m going to get from teasing you all this badly and blatantly…

(Here’s where we see who really reads this and who just casually checks in…)

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Going On The Account: A Round of Thanks

And so we’re finished here.

And not a moment too soon, you might say.  Thing of it is, so would I…

I had someone ask me during a Q&A after my reading at NYRSF what year Red Jenny took place in.  Coyly, I declined to give a year, citing how both George Orwell and Arthur C. Clarke got hobbled by tying some of their better-known works to a date on the calendar.

Truth be told, the way things were going, there was every chance that a lot of events happening around us were going to make the novel look dated months before this moment.  Between March of 2011 and today, we’ve seen federal sequestration leading to government disengagement from its citizens, a major storm slamming the New York area and a realization that we’re going to lose a lot more land to inundation than we thought, an explosion of gun violence that would not be that uncommon in the time of these pirates, serious challenges to our access to medical treatment, a worsening relationship between the U.S. and her neighbors; hell, the Peace Bridge just became a flashpoint between both sides….

Despite plenty of evidence in literature for years that trying to project near-term developments by a writer is a sucker’s game, I still put a couple of bucks down for some action, thankful I was able to walk away not that much lighter at the end of it.

So wrapping things now worked out pretty well.  In fact, I’d say my timing was pretty good; a few weeks ago some press was being generated by the coining of the term “cli-fi,” having the novel in the right place and time as everyone considers the subject and allowing me to drastically cut down the time for my elevator pitch…

Speaking of getting everything in, I feel like a writer getting an Oscar and finding he’s only got 20 seconds left before they play him off to start thanking everyone for getting there.  If you don’t find your name here, we’ll talk:

* My wife (and editor) Susan, and son James:  The non-writers out there can relate to the misery of being around someone who needs time to create and gets snarly if they can’t be with their craft often enough, and the two of you put up with a lot from me.  (And you writers out there reading this with someone with whom you share close quarters: Take a second and let them know how much you love them.)

* Cheryl Mortensen, who encouraged me not to sit around too long after Raging Gail was finished to share this one; as it happened, the timing worked out pretty well.

* Susan Rocan, author of Withershins, whose interview with me was a big highlight of the whole experience publishing this novel.

* Tim O’Mara, author of Sacrifice Fly, and host of the We Three Productions reading series, who gave me the first opportunity to read from the novel and offered me a chance to share the work with a wider audience.

* Jim Freund, radio personality and host of the NYSFR reading series, who took a gamble on giving me a chance to do a reading from the novel at literally the last minute; if that isn’t a great stress test of your skills as a writer, I can’t think of any better.

* Everyone who came to or ended up at both readings; having you as an audience was gratifying, and I love the warmth that you all showed.  And hey, count your blessings; better you hear me reading than singing…

* Last but not least, everyone who logged in and read the book.  I enjoyed your comments when they came, though just having you read along as it came out was more than enough for me.  It’s to you I owe so much; thank you.

I had at one point the wild idea of a big wrap party when I got to this point, but not having a Harvey Weinstein-sized budget for a soirée, I’ve had to scale back; dammit!  I’m still scaling here as I write this, so even if all I end up with is coming home alone to a can of Genesee and one of those stale cheese-and-cracker packs you get from a vending machine on the New York State Thruway, I can at least have this out here to show my thanks.

Who knows, maybe someone reading this may decide to take me out for a drink or two, just to say thanks.  I can promise I’m good company and that I won’t be that embarrassing.

And I might even share with you a sneak peak at the next project…

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Going On The Account: RED JENNY Part One Hundred Sixteen – the Finale

The conclusion has come:  Part One Hundred Sixteen of RED JENNY AND THE PIRATES OF BUFFALO, the final chapter, is now up, and may be read here.

I’ll have something more to say later tonight; it’s too damn early right now at post time to be making sentimental statements before I’ve gotten some coffee in me…

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Going On The Account: RED JENNY One Hundred Fifteen

Part One Hundred Fifteen of RED JENNY AND THE PIRATES OF BUFFALO, the penultimate chapter, is now up, and may be read here.

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