Monthly Archives: June 2014

Pick a book for your Kindle; three books on sale

Three books, all on sale for .99 this weekend.

My first book is “Loonies in the Dugout” based on the true story of Charlie Faust and the 1911 New York Giants. The novel is more than a baseball story, it is a satire on fame and celebrity. To this day no one knows if Charlie, who told Giants manager John McGraw that a fortune teller in Kansas told Charlie he would pitch the Giants to the pennant, was mentally challenged, a country hick, or was a bit loony. Within two weeks of arriving in New York he was starring in vaudeville and suiting up for Giant games. But would he pitch the Giants to the pennant? The story is told through Chet Koski a rookie on the team who is dating Eveleen Sullivan, a chorus girl on Broadway. Chet and Charlie will meet Bat Masterson, George M. Cohan, and Damon Runyon during the course of a wild baseball season.

The second e-novel, also based on a true story is “Loonies in Hollywood” in which Chet and Eveleen, now  married and living in Hollywood where Chet  writes movie scripts and Eveleen is an actress, try to solve the murder of silent film director William Desmond Taylor in 1922. Though in real life the murder was never solved, in my fiction life the murder is solved.  What could the reason be, however, for the killer to go free, even when making a confession? The story is Jazz Age setting with gin joints, an adorable flapper named Clancy, many suspects, a kidnapping, conspiracy, seedy characters, and worst of all, a stolen radio.

The third book is “Cemetery Tales and other Phantasms.” It is a collection of short stories, all with a horror theme, though some ghostly tales may be humorous, some horrific, and some spooky. All a Twilight Zone type of story.

My author’s page at Amazon is here:


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Kurt Vonnegut and the joy of creativity

In talking about creativity, Kurt Vonnegut said, “The arts are not a way of making a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

I like Vonnegut’s fiction and there is much truth in the quote. Yes the arts are not  a way of making a living, but I am bothered when artists who have succeeded say it. Still, for the rest of us, it does make life more bearable. I have a need to tell stories and publishing e-novels satisfies that need.

I do not sing in the shower, but I will dance to the radio, especially when the shades are down, the curtains closed, and I can really let loose. If you saw me dance you would thank me for denying the world the opportunity to watch me through a window.

In the 7th grade we had to write a one page fictional story in English class. I vaguely remember what I wrote, but was nervous about how it would be received. The teacher read the story aloud to the class and it got the laughs I hoped for in the appropriate spot. Creating something was fun, but the reward of it being well received was like being able to walk on air.

Today I have two e-novels on Amazon, a collection of horror short stories and a third novel on the way. I still experience the joy of creating a story and when I get a good review, while I no longer feel I am walking on air, I feel gratified that someone got what I was trying to do in the story.

So the moral from Vonnegut is create for the joy of creating. When sales are slow, or you feel discouraged, remember it is about the art of creation, the joy of taking yourself into your own little world.

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How much research is too much for a fiction writer

Everything in life is a delicate balance. Diet, for example, is one half healthy foods and one half junk food. Eat lots of fruits and veggies along with cookies and potato chips. No matter what, everything is a balance in life. Obviously anything can be overdone. Too much fruit is as bad as too much chips. Balance, balance, balance.

The question for writers, especially for those who write period fiction like me, is how much research is too much? When does your research reflect a cumbersome narrative in your story?

My first e-novel “Loonies in the Dugout” takes place in 1911, mostly in New York City. The backdrop for the story is baseball and that part was easy. But how did people in New York get around? What was the fashion? What was the slang? What were the events of the day? What was in the news in the summer of 1911? How does one get from the Braddock Hotel to Greenwich Village?

I came across how the phrase ’23 skidoo’ originated. It came about because of the wind patterns at the triangular shaped Flatiron building in New York as men would go there and hang out hoping to see a gust of wind blow a woman’s dress up, showing an ankle, or perhaps, even part of a calf. It was so bad a couple of policeman were assigned to the area to chase the men away who were lurking about. The word they used was ‘skidoo’ as in scram. I don’t know where the 23 came from as it was going on in 1911.

I thought it interesting so used it in my story in a comical way. The trick was to blend it into the story so it seemed natural, not forced. An item you find can’t be used for its own sake, it must fit, otherwise it needs to be dropped. This happened when I discovered there was a devastating heat wave that summer. Many people died. I tried to use that in the opening chapter as it fit thematically with how the book would end. But I cut it, leaving it on the editing room floor, as it were. It got in the way of the narrative.

One trick I learned when coming across interesting facts, such as a woman who was hung in England a few centuries ago, but did not die, was to have a character tell the story. I love these odd little tidbits, but there must be a reason for a character to tell the story. In this case I had John McGraw, manager of the New York Giants, tell the story to my lead character, Chester Koski. He was trying to make a point to Chester. I used the same tactic in “Loonies in Hollywood” set in 1922.

But whatever research you encounter, it must blend into the story. Readers notice misspelling, they notice grammatical flaws, and they will notice when a writer’s research is getting in the way of the story. You must have the same critical eye to your research as you do your proofreading of spelling and grammar.

My e-books are found at Amazon. This link is not working. I guess I will have to do research, but you can go to Amazon, Google my name in search and I should show up. I hope.

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Carl Jung, Michael Figgis, suspension of disbelief, and you

At the beginning of  the Michael Figgis film “Suspension of Disbelief” is a preface that states the following:

“Carl Jung had a theory on creative writing. He called it ‘Participation Mystique’ and its essence was this . .

The writer writes something intense, creative and the reader understands that it is as if he, or she was the actual writer.

It’s as if the writer has projected all kinds of unconscious material onto the fiction.

Jung goes on to say that fiction has become fact and most and most bizarre experiences can take place within the narrative because the reader is experiencing it directly.

There is no need for the reader to ‘suspend disbelief’ as the reader is already in the story.”

Whether this is actually what Jung was talking about or whether Figgis is interpreting what Jung said for the movie does not matter to me, it is the statement that matters. What I see in the statement is that the reader participates. We know that to be true as anyone who has read a book can identify with their involvement and the range of emotions they experience.  And the reader does project unconscious material into the fiction. We all, as readers, bring our own life experience to the story and in so doing our imagination colors the story in our individual way.

For the life of me I can not understand why there are many high school English teachers who refuse to teach Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” because of their belief the novel is terrible. I can only guess they never studied literature, or are illiterate, why else? I studied the novel in college, I have studied the 1920’s as well, and studied symbolism, including reading Jung. Perhaps I bring a different life experience than these teachers, whose life experience is reading Harold Robbins. It is indeed our life experience and interpretation of what we read that creates disagreement. Why else can critics argue over moves like Siskel and Ebert.

I love the idea that fiction becomes fact for the reader because as he reads he experiences what is happening and what is happening is true for him or her at the  moment, no matter how unrealistic, not matter how crazy it seems. It is happening, therefore it is real.

As a result I understand there is no need to suspend disbelief. The reader is in fact in the story. Now that is a Pirandello twist.

You may of course participate in any of the eNovels I have written found here:

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Raymond Chandlers advice on fiction writing.

Raymond Chandler did not invent the detective story, but he was at the forefront of detective noir, along with Dashiell Hammett. “The Big Sleep,” “Farewell My Lovely” and “The Long Goodbye” are three of Chandlers best known novels.

He wrote that “Everything a writer learns about the art and craft of fiction takes just a little away from his need or desire to write at all.  In the end he knows all the tricks and has nothing to say.”

What this means, as I interpret it, is that in the beginning writers we are driven to say something, to tell a story and in learning the craft writers become technicians, that knowing the tricks may take away something from your creative instincts, from having your own voice. In other words, if you have a story to tell, tell it in your words with your voice.

Along the same lines Chandler wrote “A writer who is afraid to overachieve himself is as useless as a general who is afraid to be wrong.”

At one time during the Civil War the Union army was led by General George McClellan, who was a great administrator, but as a general in the field, was slow to react, if he reacted at all. President Lincoln grew impatient with McClellan’s trepidation and replaced him.  As a writer one can not be afraid of trusting one’s instincts, ignoring technique, and using his own voice. General U.S. Grant was unconventional, but daring. He came out the winner. Lesson learned.

Chandler also wrote “The average critic never recognizes an achievement when it happens. He explains it after it has become respectable.”

There is something to that, originality is often ignored or  denounced. It does not fit  the norm. So don’t worry about what is said of your writings. If you want to write then just write and the hell with what people say.

Thanks Raymond.http:

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I interupt this blog to bring you a commercial message

Even if not looking for a good e-book maybe you know somebody would enjoy one of these stories written by yours truly. Two are novels, one is a collection of horror stories.

The first novel is “Loonies in the Dugout.” Not just a baseball novel based on a true story in 1911 when I a goofy character thought he was a baseball player, and  ended up in Vaudeville within two weeks of arriving in New York-yes, this is true-and also thought he would lead the New York Giants to the pennant. And who is to say he didn’t; but the story is also about Chet Koski, a fictional character, a rookie on the team and his on again off again romance with Broadway chorus girl Eveleen Sullivan. Chet and the goofy Charlie Faust meet Bat Masterson, George M. Cohan, among others. The story is a satire on fame and celebrity.

Chet and Eveleen , now married in 1922 in “Loonies in Hollywood,” is also based on a true story, the unsolved murder of silent film director William Desmond Taylor. Chet is now a writer for a studio and Eveleen is a supporting actress. There are a few suspects who could have committed murder, a possible police cover-up, blackmail, some gin joints, a stolen radio that may end up being shot by a the killer, and Chet is arrested for the murder of Eveleen’s  old boyfriend. There is also a dynamic flapper named Clancy, a rich girl with a fancy car, who helps keep Chet and Eveleen on the right trail.

These two books are the first two of a series, though one can read the second and not be lost. The are independent of each other. But there will be a third book coming out this summer, another murder mystery.

The short story collection is “Cemetery Tales and other Phantasms,” most of which have to do with a cemetery; all are creepy Twilight Zone type stories. Thanks for reading.

Buy now before prices go up.

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Be open to the serendipity in creative writing

I am currently working on a murder mystery set in 1927. My main character is Chet Koski, a screenwriter and amateur detective, who played one year with the New York Giants in 1911.Recently I purchased the 1927 silent film “Casey at the Bat,” because I love baseball like my hero Chet Koski; and I have an affection for silent movies. Was there a way to tie the movie into the story?

Something told me I could. So about one third into my novel I decided to watch the movie. It starred Wallace Berry as Casey and Zasu Pitts as his girlfriend Camille. The movie is loosely based on the Ernest Thayer poem, and I use the word ‘loosely’  as in, not even close. It is a comedy, not a bad one for the time, but what got my attention were two things. One was that Casey was signed by the New York Giants-Chet’s old team and in the big game they were playing Pittsburgh.

Serendipity number one. In chapter nine Chet is reading about the Giants playing the Pirates, wondering if his old team can get back in the race.

Serendipity number two. The movie was made at Paramount where Chet works.

Here is what I did: I added a paragraph between the first and second. The addition should be obvious.

Friday I promised to take Eveleen dancing, something I do to keep, her happy. I wish I were a better dancer, but my Charleston looks like I am having a seizure. While Eveleen was getting dressed, I read the sports page. My Giants lost to Pittsburgh Wednesday and were playing a doubleheader with them today. My boys were still eight games out of first, but there was still time. So I kept telling myself.

Reading about the Giants and Pirates made me think of a few months ago when I saw “Casey at the Bat” starring Wallace Berry as Casey. I went to see it because I love baseball, and Paramount, my dear employer, made the movie. One would think the movie is based on the Ernest Thayer poem, but it wasn’t, not really. There is no Mudville, but a Centerville, where Casey is a beer drinking junkman who hits homers, in one case, the home run goes a quarter of a mile. Obviously the movie is not based in reality. He is signed by the New York Giants and the big game is between the Giants and the Pittsburgh club. Anyway there is not much baseball, but a lot of comedy and hoodwinking by gamblers. Casey does strike out in the bottom of the 9th, but only because the gamblers substituted a trick ball with two strikes on Casey. But Casey’s girlfriend Camille, played by Zasu Pitts, sees what happens and the next day the gamblers are arrested and we are told the game will be replayed. The movie ends, however, before the game. I have no idea why studios make changes in a book, or as in this movie, a poem. Did they think they could improve on the story, did they think people would not notice the butchering. I like Wally as Casey. His mugging was good in a naively charming way. I laughed when Casey returns to his hotel room where there are two books on the table as Casey, as made clear in the movie, can’t read or write. I wish they assigned this story to me. I would have stuck more to the poem with background on Casey, the hometown hero, kept the story in Mudville, done away with gamblers, and built the tension to the end when Casey strikes out. But Monte Brice got to write the story and he made his directorial debut with the movie as well. Paramount got their happy ending with Casey and Camille back together, but who won the rematch? I think I should write a baseball story; after all, I played the game, no one else at Paramount can say that. I doubt after the way this movie turned out any baseball themed movies will be made in the near future, certainly not by Paramount. I could of written a better story damn it.

I was roused from my baseball musing by Eveleen who was ready to hit the dance floor. The Victorians would be shocked at today’s fashions of the liberated woman. Eveleen was wearing a long, loose fitting white dress, with a white sash tied around her waist, the hem of the dress about 14 inches above the ankle. She had bought a new Clara Bow style hat, perfect for the flapper on the town.

The added paragraph shows Chet being a bit jealous, part of character revealing and adds something, Chet musing about the movie triggered by reading about the Giants and Pirates, extending the moment, not rushing to Eveleen being ready. It indicates it is taking her a little extra time.

Be  open to serendipity.


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