What’s New

So what’s new with me?

First of all, for my latest contribution to the 2nd First Look site, I not only wrote about the great Wisconsin writer Michael Perry, I got to interview him!  Check it out here:


He was very kind and gracious, and it was a thrill having a conversation, even if by e-mail, with a legitimate big time, New York Times bestselling author.  It was like, as I put it in one of my correspondences with him, playing catch with Robin Yount.

Second, I posted a while back that I was attending the Writer’s Institute conference in Madison in April, and pitching my novel Ojibway Valley to a couple of big-time, New York City literary agents.  Well, the conference was great, with informative sessions that were professionally presented.   Even better was the chance, for three plus days, to hang out with fellow writers.  I enjoyed meeting each and every one I met, whether it was in the hallways between sessions or in the hotel bar.   It was great to commiserate with so many others who have been bitten by the writing bug and are trying to get their work out there.  I met people working in every conceivable genre, from romance to fantasy to hard-core pulp fiction.  The common denominator shared by all was a love of the process and the need to express something about themselves, and the exhilarating and addictive joy of creating.

The conference also featured the launch of the inaugural issue of the new literary journal, “The Midwest Prairie Review,” featuring a short story of mine, “A Leg Up.”  I was very proud to be included in what turned out to be a high quality publication.  The issue is only available in print for now; at some point, they may make it available on the web.  If that happens, I’ll include the link on this site.

As for the pitches with the agents, they seemed to go okay.  I had only eight minutes with each agent.  One asked for the entire manuscript and a detailed synopsis, the other asked for the first 50 pages.  I sent them out the week of April 17th, but I’m not holding my breath.   Even though I honestly think it’s a pretty good book (it has its faults, which I try not to dwell on), I’m expecting rejection.  Both agents said to give them about eight weeks to respond one way or another, so we’re about half way through that period.  In the meantime, I’m hard at work on my second novel, and enjoying the process of writing it immensely.   My first one will probably remain unpublished, and my second one will more than likely meet the same fate, but I’m at the point that I’m okay with that.  I’ve fallen in love with the process of creating longer works of fiction, and any disappointment brought about by rejection letters cannot dampen the joy of watching these little worlds I create come to life.   I know that they might not be the greatest things ever written, but I also know that they are me at that moment, and I know that the more I write, the better I get.

I was so busy with my new novel that I missed the 2nd anniversary of this site.  I’m so focused on my novels that I don’t find as much time for drivel lately, so there have been fewer posts (51 in year two compared to 77 in year one).   Most have been consistently mediocre, but of the 51, there have been a few that I still like:

Time After Time:  Written on the occasion of my wonderful daughter’s graduation from high school.  She is what she’s always been: an amazing human being.

July 4thA brief excerpt that I ended up cutting from my first novel, because it just didn’t fit – but I still like this one.

Prophecies:   A short fiction that shows some skills developing

Accomplishment:  Only because one of my recent literary heroes, Patricia Ann McNair, author of the brilliant The Temple of Air, read this and commented on it.  I’m not worthy …

If Al Pacino Was My Dentist:  The title says it all.

Melting Diamonds and the Great Blue Bus in the Sky:  I wrote this about four years ago, but I still like it.  I was thrilled when Conrad Stonkey’s granddaughter wrote to me that she’d read it; that I got the characterization of Conrad right was an added bonus.

In these pieces, I can find something of value, something that shows some development, some hope.  Of course, there are also pieces like The Year of the Dishonest Corn Chip that reveal the arrested adolescent that I remain most of the time.  To summarize, on balance, I remain unbalanced.

Everything is Right There

(I’ve been so head down working on my new novel that I completely missed the 2nd birthday of Drivel by Dave … so with nothing else prepared, here’s an excerpt that I wrote tonight)

It was about 11:30 when I walked home, through the back yards.  The night was dark and cool.  There was a hint of impending autumn in the air, even as the night choir of crickets sang its ode to summer.

I found the far end of our backyard and stopped for a moment and looked at the house I grew up in.   A light was on in the kitchen, I couldn’t tell if anyone was still awake or if they’d left it on for my benefit.  The curtains over the sink were drawn, casting a yellow glow to the window.   The grass was long and already damp with night dew.  I’ll mow it tomorrow, I thought, just like I mowed it so many times growing up.  It was the same back yard, the same grass, the same dew, the same house, the same yellow glowing kitchen window. It was all so familiar.  It was all the same as it’d been all those years growing up, but standing there, gazing into my past, I knew that inside was the present, and in the present, inside that house, my father, who’d always been so strong, so funny and so formidable, lay dying, a hollow shell of his past self.  It occurred to me that in all probability the next time I gazed upon that same scene my father would be gone, and at some point after that, my mother would be gone, too.

I started across the back yard, walking to the back porch, and I thought of all we’d been through together, the three of us, in this house, in this town.  Orchard Depot was a small town, but for all those years growing up, it was the universe, where life dwelled and where death was felt.  It’d always been a presence, death had, first as little more than a rumor, then as a nightmare in the form of an eyeless corpse in a corn field, and now as an inescapable and unavoidable reality. And if it was big enough to house both life and death, it was big enough to encapsulate all of time and memory, too, and I looked at our little house in our little town and realized everything that is and ever was is right there, behind the yellow kitchen window.