In a very real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.”
~ S.I. Hayakawa
I have a real treat in store for you loyal readers today. I’m going to give you some of that unusual type of information that we’ve all garnered where you think you know something, but you actually only know part of it. This was the case for me as I researched this article, but in addition to that, I’m going to give you a bit of insight into my personal life.
In 1965 I joined the navy, and having successfully completed recruit training, was designated for the rating of Radioman, the contemporary term for the navy’s communication specialists, and sent to sea for several months of “seasoning” before the next term of communications school started. I was sent to a minesweeper on the east coast, based out of Charleston, SC, which seemed incalculably wasteful, as all of my other service was performed on the west coast, or out in the Pacific, but <sarcasm>I’m sure they knew what they were doing.</sarcasm> Serving on that wooden ship, and experiencing the traditions of wooden ships throughout time, from holystoning the deck to preserving the luster of the wood with coconut oil, has informed my writing tremendously, as a number of my reviewers have remarked. Being in Charleston, in many ways the birthplace of the Confederacy, gave me another experience that figures less into my writing, or perhaps I should say, more subtly. Maybe you’ve experienced the same thing. I refer, of course, to deja vu, that odd sense of having been somewhere before that you know very well that you haven’t.
First a bit of backstory. In grade school, I was a poor history student. Like most, I think, I was stellar at the aspects that interested me, mostly the modern wars, but when it came to the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, or Andrew Jackson and the Spoils System, that was when I tuned out. That was the time for me to doodle in my notebook, and memorize the list of dates so I could squeak by with a D on the tests.
So, arriving in Charleston, the adventure began, the first bit of business being that Base Admin had misplaced my ship. It was eventually located, I reported aboard, and began the arduous project of learning-while-doing as regards becoming a sailor. Once I got my feet under me, I began to explore my surroundings, which basically consisted of the magnificent old city of Charleston, SC.
The dun-colored strip running through the left side of the picture is the seawall at South Battery, now a promenade and park, where residents gathered to watch the bombardment of Fort Sumter. The hulking fort still looms in the harbor entrance like a linebacker on a goal line stand, fittingly preserved as a National Monument, its light now guiding ships in and out of the harbor. One day, off duty and with no particular plans, I decided to take the boat out for a tour; might as well see where the Civil War started as long as I’m here, right?
Well, I suppose you can imagine my surprise when I walked up the little dock and into the fort, and recognized virtually everything as if I’d been there just a year or so before! I didn’t need a tour guide to paint a picture of the 34-hour bombardment from Forts Moultrie and Johnson and various temporary batteries set up on the mainland. I knew that Captain Abner Doubleday, the alleged inventor of baseball and second in command of the fort, declined to use his best guns, mounted on the upper parapet, in the defense because it would have exposed his men to the exploding shells the Confederates were using. I knew that the garrison mustered under the ongoing bombardment at 6:00 AM, breakfasted at 7:00 still under fire, then went to their batteries to open a return fire. I knew about the relief force, held at bay by heavy seas until Major Anderson couldn’t sustain the defense any longer and surrendered the fort. I even knew that the only casualties suffered by the garrison occurred when Anderson was firing a salute to the flag as allowed by the Confederates, and a gun exploded, killing one man and wounding another. I knew all of this before the tour guide opened his mouth.
For many years, I believed in my heart of hearts that I served in that garrison in a former life (something I couldn’t reconcile, as my family is Confederate to the core), and that the memories in my immortal soul were triggered by the surroundings. But is that really what happened? Or did the surroundings trigger subconscious memories of lessons in those history classes, absently heard and barely remembered, only to be brought to life by standing in the very spot it happened?
I have come to believe the latter in the fullness of my years, but it’s quite a notion to think you may have lived past lives, forgotten on the whole, but remembered in bits and snatches as that soul-of-many-lifetimes encounters triggers from the past. This could be a hell of a story point (literally!) for writers of supernatural or paranormal thrillers; when will a flood of old memories come tumbling out of your characters’ subconscious, and will they assist or impede the needs that character has in the story? Inspired yet? Good. I can’t wait to read your story!
Other Voices . . .
C.W, Hawes, another of those names that gets seen a lot around here (and with good reason!) began a blog series Tuesday on Good Books You Never Heard Of. He believes, as I do, that the innovative work in today’s literature flows from the pens of independent writers who dance to the tune of no editor or publishing house, but write their stories as they wish others to experience them, pure, clean, and untampered-with by third parties. If you’re a serious reader, visit the blog, bookmark it, and come back often.
My friends at Nerd Lunch, after a decade or more of blogging about popular culture, have finally realized that they have collected enough material over the years to support a university. And so they present, and I am honored to pass along, the founding post of Nerd Lunch University, a college of culture of the Pop variety. Spend an hour with these guys, and you’ll never view life around you in the same way again.
Sara, blogging on Writers Helping Writers, outlines her practice of writing out of sequence, “connecting the dots,” as fantasy author V.E. Schwab calls it. Under this method, you take advantage of your mood by writing the scenes that are speaking most powerfully to you at the moment, capturing your intensity and emotions at their strongest peaks and locking them on the page. Like all systems, it has its pros and cons, and Sara discusses them all in detail. I think I’ll try this for the last half of Stingaree, and see if that sparks anything.
Another podcast I enjoy very much is Hellbent for Letterbox, which appears irregularly on Michael May’s Adventure Blog. In the latest installment, Michael and his sidekick Paxton Holley dive into an in-depth discussion of 1970’s A Man Called Sledge, starring James Garner and a cast of western movie notables. They also look into 2018’s Damsel, and the first couple of issues of the graphic novel series Bouncer. This is another podcast, so at some point when you want to fill an enjoyable hour, crank it up!
Sai Sharma, who I met in one of my FaceBook groups, is an LA-based graphic artist of exceptional skill who can produce posters, pamphlets, illustrations, and of particular importance to this crowd, book covers. We haven’t discussed prices and other salient details, but you can view a wide sampling of his incredible work and contact him to discuss details through his web page, Lucent Zon. Very much worth a visit!
Kyanite Publishing offers Remnants, a shared post-apocalyptic world of unspeakable horror, and invites authors to submit stories for their planned anthology. Click the link provided if you have an interest in participating.
And inspired by that, I’m going to offer a shared world of my own, one in the realm of sci-fi with a supernatural flavor. If that sounds appealing to you, read the story Possession of Blood by clicking the link. It’s a novella of about 20,000 words, so allow yourself an hour. The world is laid out in the story, which is as long as it is in order to establish the universe. Once you have a handle on it, write a story of your own about an operation from the city of Nexus to investigate and oppose some supernatural activity somewhere in the world. You can use Bailey and Nagoya, or create your own team. Be inventive. Create a mystery, then think outside the box to solve it. Once you’ve written your story, submit it to me as an Office file, or if you don’t have office, e-mail it. I’ll put it into format and add it to a new tab to be called The Nexus Chronicles. The only pay I can offer is exposure and my gratitude, but if you’re looking for a venue to tell a weird story, this could be for you. Contact me if you have questions.
Firewater Site is a newly discovered popular culture site that I haven’t had time, or maybe I should say haven’t made time to dig into yet, but the posts are frequent, every one or two days, and the operator, Firewater 65, is currently in the midst of a detailed look at every episode of the original Star Trek. There are also articles on comic books, and book reviews; most likely a number of other things as well. If you’ve enjoyed Nerd Lunch as I have, this is a must-see!
Aidana WillowRaven (actual name) is a graphic artist of no small ability who I have worked with in the past; she created the logo that graces my books, my calling card, and the top of this blog. She also creates illustrations, maps, and of course covers. The decision to use art, for what purpose, which artist, and what price to pay are individual matters for each author to consider. What I offer you here is a link to her blog on which, not surprisingly, she discusses her business, what it offers, and why you need it. Deep, thorough, well-reasoned information for any aspiring author to know.
Another area of great importance to a writer is editing. It can be costly; the agent who looked at my first novel told me that it needed some work (duh!), but because of the “underlying quality” of the book, she could justify charging me just $3,500.00. That’s the day I began to teach myself the art and science of editing, at least for spelling, typos, grammar, and plot continuity. The fact is, though, that you cannot edit your own prose. We believe that the words we have written cannot be improved upon, because if they could, we would have written them in their improved form in the first place. Whether you choose an editor or a group of trusted alpha-readers, you need extra eyes on your manuscript, and an editor is presumed to be knowledgeable. They don’t all charge the price of a used car, either. Lynda Dietz, a professional editor who’s a pretty cheap date by comparison, talks about her trade and experiences, some quite humorous, on her Easy Reader blog. Lot’s of good reading there, and it’s all well-edited to boot!
Eva Newermann is a painter. She is the author of the sci-fi thriller Fear is in the Air, the story of Ewa Lowe, a flight attendant who is considerably more than she seems. She and her daughter Line both fly photographic drones over the Norwegian countryside, and those pictures as well as her art and writing feature prominently on her blog. Check in for a most excellent ride.
Religion and politics are two subjects I stay away from in these pages, as everyone already believes what they believe, and the most common result of trying to discuss them is anger. Politics I’ll have no truck with, but the purpose of religion is to uplift and fulfill, and when it hasn’t been hijacked to serve a personal agenda, it can be beautiful. A prime example is The Godly Chic Diaries, the blog of Junaisha, a 21-year old law student who has found her way early. Pay her a visit before you go, and join her 13,000+ followers in recapturing your serenity.
And that’s it for this Sunday. I’m working on a boffo, uptown collection of books to add to your reading lists, so check in with me this Thursday to see what I’ve rounded up!