Monday, December 27, 2010

Searching for ideas

I must have fallen asleep again, for when I opened my eyes Mr. Carroll was gone. I stretched and heard my joints complain. I had no idea how long I’d been asleep.
I stood, looked around, and called, “Hello.”
No response but a muffled echo.
“Is anyone out there?” I said, raising my voice.
If I wanted to meet someone new in my quest for knowledge in this subterranean warren I must venture on. It still amazed me while I trudged underground in this maze of tunnels a dim light glowed, but I couldn’t find it’s source. Something for the scientists to puzzle over. On the surface in the real world, they’d get a government grant and spend gobs of money to discover what I already knew. Couldn’t be figured out.
Ahead a few yards I saw what could be another branch of tunnel or an alcove, which might reveal another soul. I quickened my pace. As I neared I saw a writing desk, then a man sitting hunched over a piece of paper with pen in hand which he frequently dipped into an ink bottle.
“Pardon me, sir. Are you a writer?”
He looked up with penetrating eyes. “Who wishes to know?”
I introduced myself and said, “I’m using my time here to learn from other writers.”
“Ah. Good enough. I’m Charles Dickens. I’m please to make your acquaintance, Mr. White. And what would you like to know?”
“How do you get your ideas? How do they grow in your mind?”
He smiled. “An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.”
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Monday, October 11, 2010

Secrets from my protagonist

A little of Alice’s madness took over my mind as I tried to think. What, I wondered, should I ask Mr. Carroll about my craft?
He settled back in his chair and smiled an enigmatic smile that faded away to nothing. I thought of the cat he’d written about and realized I truly was in a mad world. I could only do as he’d suggested, watch those people I created. The time for questions was up.
I thought of one of my characters and watched him… tried to get inside his head.
I’ve known Tony Petrocelli for a few years now. Part of him had always been a mystery until I drifted to sleep beside Lewis Carroll’s desk.
I guess it was in a dream… (I have no other explanation for what goes on in this mad world of the rabbit hole). A dream where Tony told me everything. The parts of his life he’d hidden from me. The glory and adulation he found as a young football star. His dreams and hopes. Then the pain and anguish he’d endured as his life crashed around him. His battle with drugs that he used to dull his mind so he could survive another day. And how he found himself.
It was quite a conversation I had with my protagonist.
Then I remembered a line in one of Lewis Carroll’s books. 'What is the use of a book', thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversations?’
Here’s the link to my web page: .
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Wild Roads

“Any road for my story, huh?”
“Why not?” He leaned back in his chair, obviously enjoying himself. “Haven’t you heard it’s the journey, not the destination?”
“Sir,” I said. “That’s a saying from recent times. Long after you...”
“After I passed on? Come now. How did I know what publishers want these days? Give me some credit.”
“So you know...”
“Of course I know.” He waved his hand in a grand arc. “All of us know. Now let’s get back to your storytelling. That is why you stopped to talk with me isn’t it?”
I nodded. “It seems to me my story won’t have structure if I don’t have a destination for it.”
“It’s not your story. Concentrate on your characters. Give them lives. Give them personalities. Let them take risks. They’ll try to do what they want to do, and if you let them they’ll interact with each other.”
“What if they take off on some wild tangent? What do I do then?”
A wry grin appeared. “Watch them.”
“Sounds like my story could get out of control.”
“Probably.” He steadied his gaze on me. “I’m reminded of something my characters said.”
“What’s that?”
He scratched his head a moment. “Let me see if I can get this right. ‘I don't want to go among mad people,’ said Alice. 'Oh, you can't help that,' said the cat. 'We're all mad here.'”
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman…

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Traveling Strange Paths

“Ahh..., Charles,” I said.

Mr. Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) shot me an inscrutable stare, as though I didn’t understand him. “Yes?”

“What do you mean, begin at the beginning?”

He shook his head and let out a large sigh. It must have been audible for a hundred yards down the tunnel in either direction, as it reverberated off the dank walls. “Pick a spot, any spot in time, or an event if you’d rather. It doesn’t matter. That’s where you begin.”

He grabbed my attention, just as his white rabbit had when I read about him during my childhood, and with Alice followed him into an adventure. “So I just start?”

A smile spread across his face. “That’s the idea.”

“And I go till I reach the end?”

“That’s what I said, wasn’t it?”

I nodded, afraid to open my mouth and stick my foot in it again.

“Think about it,” he said. “It was a particularly long journey to reach the end of the tale for Herman Melville.”

Moby Dick came to mind. That took awhile to read. “Yes, it was.”

“I hear today, up in the publishing world that shorter is better, so I’d try to take your protagonist down a relatively short journey.”

“How do I know if I’ve chosen the right road for my story?”

That wry smile of his spread up from his mouth and into his eyes again. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman

Friday, June 25, 2010

Writing is Simple

Hmmm, I thought. That’s not quite me. Although the advice to read good literature, in particular Samuel Clemmons, struck me as sound, the last bit from Mr. Hemingway raked across my psyche. Was it in the vein of never let them see you sweat, or pretend to be a con? Move on, I told myself.

I bid good-by to Mr. Hemingway and his cats and set off at a brisk pace through the passageway until I came to two tunnels, one branching off the other. What was the advice Emily Dickinson gave me weeks before? Bear to the left to find other writers. Yes, that was it. Left was right. It seemed, however, this route led downhill on a steep slant. I could turn back, or take the other path, but where would that get me? No more writers to visit. No more secrets from the masters. Nothing to do but go further into the maze in my quest.

The steep part soon leveled out and began a meandering curve to the right. After walking for half an hour in the dim glow of the passageway I saw a bright light glowing from the wall. I wondered who I’d find. I quickened my pace until I stood before the opening in amazement.

The gentleman sat in a leather chair, eyes nearly closed. He wore a black suit with a waistcoat. His wavy dark brown hair was slightly out of place and longer than I expected. The expression on his face was serene with the corners of his mouth hinting at a smile.

I didn’t want to disturb him, but I couldn’t help myself. Chances like this didn’t come often. I cleared my throat. “Excuse me Mr. Dodgson.”

He roused himself, smiled and said, “Most people don’t call me than anymore.”

“Would you prefer I call you Mr. Carroll?”

“If you’re going to use the Dodgson, then you should use Charles as well. Now, who might you be?

Are you lost, or do you need some other kind of help?”

I introduced myself and said, “I’m a writer and I’ve already met all sorts of other interesting writers in this rabbit hole. I’m asking them questions to help me with my writing.”

“You’re sure you don’t want to know about my inventions?”

“I would, but let’s tackle writing first. Tell me how you write a story. For instance, how did you write Alice in Wonderland?”

“Very simple,” he said. Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.”

Here’s the link to my web page: .
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Writer's Secret

“Huckleberry Finn?” I said. “Are you serious, Mr. Hemmingway?’
He chuckled. “I said it years ago. Mark Twain’s writing hasn’t changed since then. At least not that I’m aware.”
“It’s been awhile since I’ve read about Tom and Huck.”
“All the better to read it again. The man was a master at spinning a web of lies. That is what fiction is, you know. Clemens’s words have the power to leap off the page, grab you by the throat, and ensnare your mind. They won’t let you escape their trap.”
I closed my eyes a moment and remembered the first time I’d read the story. Just a kid in grade school. Hemmingway was right. Mark Twain had mesmerized me with the tale. “So,” I said, “What do I do? I’m not that good of a storyteller.”
“You don’t have to be. I’m not.”
“You’re not?”
“Good God, no.” He laughed again, lightly. “I’ve had to work at it all my life. And it’s hard work, too.”
“I thought you were a natural.”
“Not many of those. And I’m not one of them.”
“You could have fooled me.”
“You and a lot of others.” He cocked his head sideways and smiled a mischevious smile. His eyes glistened. “It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.”
Here’s the link to my web page: .
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Best Damn Book

I walked down the tunnel, musing on what Mr. Parker had said. I had plots and stories churning through my mind. Some finished. A couple completed and polished to what I considered perfection. Where to send them? Which to send? There were so many choices. I wondered. Should I revisit the best and try to make them better? Or would that merely screw up a perfectly good story?
A brighter light ahead drew me to a man sitting at a desk in a small alcove niched into the side of the wall. He had a round, almost boxy face and sported a well trimmed white beard. The ancient lamp on his table cast a pool of light on sheets of paper. I wondered. Short story? Novel? Something inspired by his travels?
“Hello,” I said.
He looked up. “Ah. A traveler.”
“More like a searcher and a writer. At least of sorts.”
“You either are, or you aren’t. Do the stories scream to get out?”
“To the point it sometimes drives my wife nuts.”
“Mine too. All four of them. Well... except the last one. She understood.” He looked at me askance. “So you have stories?”
“Trying to decide if they’re good, Mr. Hemingway.”
“Try reading some good ones. Compare yours. How do they hold up?”
“I’ve read yours. At least most of them.”
“Don’t read mine. Read someone really good.”
That surprised me. “Yours aren’t good enough? I sort of liked them. Your novella, The Old Man and the Sea seemed to be well done.”
His eyes bored into me. “No. I mean read the best damn book you can lay your hands on.”
“Which is?”
“All modern American literature comes from one book...” he paused.
“And that would be?”
“Huckleberry Finn.”

Here’s the link to my web page: .
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Friday, April 30, 2010

Writers Write

“So,” I said, “You sit down and write, but you don’t know what’s going to come.”
“Five pages a day,” he said.
Pearl looked up at him, put her paw on his leg, and whined.
He patted her on the head. “Be patient, girl. We’ll take a walk in a few minutes.”
“I don’t want to intrude on Pearl’s time, but just five pages?”
“Sometimes it takes me five hours.”
“You’re kidding?”
“Look at me. Would I kid you?”
Robert B. Parker did not look like the kidding kind, except in the eyes. “Probably,” I said.
“At least you’re honest. What else do you want to know?”
“You’re not going to string me along.”
“Come on. You have to figure that out for yourself.”
“All right. Wide open here.”
He grinned. “Ahhh. A free range. I might shoot you.”
“I don’t think so. I’m not one of the bad guys. Not even Spenser or Hawk would shoot me.” I paused. “At least on purpose.”
“Enough. What do you want to know?”
“Some advice for a writer. Any advice.”
The amusement in his gaze vanished. He said, “If you want to write, write it. That's the first rule. And send it in, and send it in to someone who can publish it or get it published. Don't send it to me. Don't show it to your spouse, or your significant other, or your parents, or somebody. They're not going to publish it.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll do that.”

Here’s the link to my web page: .
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Meeting the Mystery Master

I trudged on through the dank cavern. The tunnel led up a gradual slope now. Emily had pointed me this direction and I’d met one writer. Not what I expected and my brief conversation with John, had been a bit cryptic. Although he’d given me something to think about, there’d been no advice on which path to follow. I wanted to talk with another writer. Let me revise that. Many more writers.
If I gleaned a bit of knowledge from each one, it could serve as a decent education in my learning of word craft.
A brighter light ahead encouraged me to increase my pace. In a small alcove I found him sitting in a burgundy leather club chair. Over recent years I’d read many of his books. He appeared much like the pictures on the jackets of his many books, sans coat. His hair still mostly brown and cut short, a rounded face of serious mein. At his side sat a black dog.
“Hello,” I said. May I have a moment of your time?”
“Why not? No more deadlines from my publisher now.”
“I’m curious.”
“Is that Pearl?”
“None other. And who might you be?”
I introduced myself and although I wanted to tell him how much I enjoyed, and learned from, what he wrote, I restrained myself. Too mawkish, I thought. “I’m looking for a little advice from writers.”
“And you picked me?”
“You were the first I’ve found since I left Mr. Steinbeck.”
He grinned. “A bit formal, there.”
“Respectful,” I said.
“So, I suppose when you leave here you’ll refer to me as Mr. Parker?”
I nodded.
“What advice do you want?”
“Tell me how you begin a story,” I said.
He rubbed his chin for a moment and gave me a squinty stare. “I have reached the point where I know that as long as I sit down to write, the ideas will come. What they will be I don’t know.”
Here’s the link to my web page: .
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What in the heck am I doing?

My mind filled with images of rabbits running helter-skelter. My lack of a sufficient muse wasn’t for lack of ideas. I had more than a dozen. My problem revolved around the task of managing them. Damn rabbits. It felt like herding cats. I looked back to Mr. Steinbeck. “Could I trouble you with another question?”
“If you must.” He set his pen aside. Resignation, or was it irritation, clouded his features.
“I don’t think...”
“You don’t think? How can you possibly write?” He sounded so much like Doc on Cannery Row.
“That’s not what I meant. I’m not sure if I know how to handle the rabbits. They fly all over my mind.”
“Flying rabbits, huh? It’s not easy. Imagination and writing takes discipline. Focus on one idea. See where it goes. Watch it blossom into characters and a plot as they interact with each other.”
“That sounds like a lot of work.”
“It is. It is.” The lamp on his table began to flicker and he stopped to adjust the wick. The faint smell of burnt kerosene wafted in the air as he turned it too high. “Sorry about that. Let’s see where was I? I spend an hour or two every day dreaming while I’m awake. Then it’s pen to paper.”
That sounded a lot like what I did. Maybe I needed a little more discipline to stick to one story, one plot, one central character. “I think...”
“Ah now you’ve switched to thinking. That’s an improvement.” A grin creased his face.
“Yes. I think I need to narrow my focus. You’ve helped. Thanks.” I turned to go.
“One last thought,” he said, “the profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.” Then he laughed.
Here’s the link to my web page: .
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Monday, March 29, 2010

Creating the Muse

Before I took leave of Miss Dickinson, I asked if she knew what direction I should go to find more writers. She pointed to the right and told me she thought I should take the next tunnel branching left. Buoyed with directions, and hope, or at least a semblance of it, I continued my journey through the warrens of the rabbit hole. Deeper and deeper I wound through the dank cavern.
I saw him bent over an old wooden table before he noticed me. I cleared my throat. "Pardon me..."
He looked up, fountain pen still in hand. “Don't get many visitors down this direction. In a way that's good. Gives me solitude and time to write.”
I studied his face. Angular. A broad brow, made more so by a receding hairline. Warm eyes that saw more than he let on, and a strong mouth that revealed something between a faint smile and serious wisdom. I recognized this man. “I hope my interruption doesn't annoy you unduly.”
“No. No. I need to take a break. I've been going at it for nearly six hours, now.” He laid the pen aside. “It seems you know me, so you have me at a somewhat of a disadvantage.”
I introduced myself, told him I was a writer of sorts, and said, “Could I ask you a question, Mr. Steinbeck?”
“Of course.” The discernment that played about his mouth turned into a wry smile. “Ask away. Like some of my characters I can't promise a completely honest answer.”
“I have a few tales churning around in my head. Sometimes they don’t flow onto the paper. You've written a lot.”
He nodded.
“I wonder if you could tell me where, or how, you get your stories? What do you do to foster the muse?”
“Easy,” he said. “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
“Thank you,” I said. “I'll have to work on that.”
For a few different ideas, look on my web page: . Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I inched my way along the rabbit tunnel. Somehow there was always enough light to see and I never knew where it came from. It was my emotional state that caused my slow progress, and as a result I kept my eyes down. So I almost missed seeing the next person in my venture. She had perched herself up above eye level in a small alcove. She was dressed in a white, high necked dress. Her large brown eyes peered at me as though they could read my secrets. Her full mouth appeared to be holding back a smile.
“Hello,” I said. “Who are you?”
“Come now. You don’t know, Mr. Storyman? I’m surprised, a student of literature…” She let the words trail off.
I shook my head.
“Emily,” she said as her lips twitched up for an instant.
Ah yes. I knew her. “I’m glad to meet you Miss Dickinson,” I said. “I admire your work.”
“Thank you. I must say you look… I’m not sure… frightened, unsure. You need confidence. A bit of verve to bolster your attitude.”
Her eyes had seen inside. “And you’re going to give that to me?”
“Hardly. You must invigorate yourself. Just remember that hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul— sings the tunes without the words— and never stops at all.”
I wondered. Was there more? Hope, huh? I guess that’s it. Better than insecurity to bedevil my psyche. If there’s anything else, or even if there’s not, you’ll find it on my web page at: . Until next time that’s it from the Storyman.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I’m almost getting used to running into these people from the past. I’ve met them in books, but now that I’m down in this rabbit hole and meeting them again in the flesh it’s a bit bizarre. I think I understand how Alice felt. At least I don’t have to deal with the Mad Hatter. Now, if someday I run into Lewis Carroll. Hmmm.
I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Pardon me. You are difficult to find.”
I turned and there was Doctor Fromm. Again.
“What?” I said.
“I think there’s one more thing you should know.”
I didn’t respond, except to look at him and wait. A good philosopher would say what was on his mind.
HE cleared his throat. “The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity.”
“Is that all?”
He nodded, gave me a wry smile, and walked away.
Down here is definitely not secure. Of course it often wasn’t on the top side either. I guess I’ll have to tolerate it.
For more insecurity, or maybe madness, depending on your point of view, here’s the link to my web page… .
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

One Glorious Hour

Funny how these things happen down in the rabbit hole. I’d bid goodbye to Erich Fromm. Still lost in my thoughts of freedom I rounded the corner and literally bumped into Walter Scott. Yes, that Walter Scott, the Baronet.
“Look here,” he said to me. “You should watch where you’re going young man.”
I offered my apologies, still marveling that he thought me a young man.
Then, as characters are wont to do down in this dank hole in the ground, he told me something that started a new set of wheels going in my mind. He revived a memory from over forty years ago.
My cousin, recently married to a marvelous hunk of a guy who drove around in a silver-blue ’Vette, was diagnosed with cancer. It stunned the family. What did they do? It stunned me more than the diagnosis. They took off for a month, maybe longer, for Tahiti and Bora Bora. It was Elaine’s dream to soak up the beauty of clear waters, warm sand, and calming breezes. I wondered at the time, but it was the right thing to do.
What was it that Walter told me? Oh, yes. “One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name.”
For more stuff, here’s the link to my web page: .
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Letting Go

When I talked with Dr. Fromm a week ago and turned to go on my way he reached out and snagged my sleeve between two fingers. “I’m not done yet,” he said.
“Oh?” I looked into his clear blue eyes and knew he had at least one more thing to say. “What’s on your mind, doc?”
“You might think you’re free to be what’s inside you, and that might be true, but there’s something else you need to know.
I nodded and waited for him to continue.
“Creativity,” he said, “requires the courage to let go of certainties.”
I wanted an explanation, but he smiled and shook his head. I’ll have to figure that out on my own. If you want more here’s the link to my web page: .
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Monday, February 8, 2010

What Am I?

I meet a lot of interesting people in my rabbit hole. The other day I ran into the psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm. He asked me, “If I am what I have and I lose what I have, what am I?” That’s a question plaguing a lot of people today. It’s plagued me from time to time. Of course, we almost never ask it out loud, but it niggles at the back of the mind.
It used to be that question raised its vicious head when people retired. I used to be an accountant, but now I’m in the way. Today it’s— I used to be a home builder, or a machinist, or a teacher. Today I’m just unemployed. The victims of Bernie Madoff used to say they were rich, now… Well, that story ended badly for a lot of people. Along with the recession and job loss also comes a fistful of broken marriages. So just like Jon and Kate or Tiger and Erin people have to ask what and who they are when they’re alone.
The answer is in the first word Doctor Fromm said. “IF”
Think about it. I don’t have to be what I have. I can be what’s inside me. I can be full of music, or happiness, or joy. Yes, I can even be full of love for other people. Thanks doc. You liberated me.
For more, here’s the link to my web page: . Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hard Encounters

It's time to cheat a little -- The muse is back and I put this thought on my web-page. I liked it so well I thought I'd stick it here too.
A few days ago I heard a quote attributed to one of my favorite writers, C.S. Lewis. Made me wish I’d written that. Of course I’m a few decades too late, and my prose doesn’t come close to matching his. The man definitely had a way with words.
Have you ever been through a difficult time? I’ve certainly experienced my share, and it’s usually because I made some dumb decision. In an effort to assuage my burnt fingers I’ve developed a firm belief that anyone who hasn’t experienced the rigors of difficulty hasn’t lived yet.
On the other side of this reasoning is a saying that goes something like this. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. When we were little children we all, sooner or later, put our hand or fingers on something hot and burned ourselves. Taught us a lesson. Very quickly. Don’t touch the hot stuff. Life is often made up of events like that. That’s the way we often learn. It would be smarter sometimes to listen to other people who tell us something smart and avoid a little hardship. But at least we can avoid the same mistake twice, or three times, and remain somewhat sane.
Which brings me back to that quotation from C. S. Lewis. He said, “Experience is the most brutal of teachers, but you learn. By God, do you learn.”

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Silent Muse

It seems the muse has left for awhile.
I’m not sure why that happens. It can’t be because of a lack of imagination because I still dream at night. Perhaps I was trying too hard on the book I’m working on … a first draft… that’s where the creativity is needed… pouring out the story with twists and turns to capture the reader’s imagination.
The muse returned while I was sitting in church. Between the song and a prayer It hit me. The whole scene in a flash movie. I couldn’t wait to come home and put the impossible idea down.
So, now I’ll see what happens as the tale continues to grow.
Here’s the link to my web page: .
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….