Friday, November 30, 2007

CARPE DIEM Seize The Day!!!!

Beach So, only three more days in Jamaica.  The wind was high this morning and the sound it made in the palms was a gentle sighing, comforting and full of promise.  I was up with first light and in the water looking at the high, whipped cream clouds tinged with light yellow and crimson.  I felt as though I was merging with the water and the clouds and the sky.  I didn’t know where I  began and where they were.  I felt that the day was actually seizing me. Soon I will be back in Vermont; and oddly I am ready for the return and the re-entry into our world of writing and publishing and sales and all the flotsam and jetsum of life and business and fretting and exulting.
     Idleness does not sit well upon my shoulders. Oh, sure, I’m not a driven obsessive; but I always have a project or two that I like to get to each and every day.  Down here in Jamaica it has been to learn 5 new words of Italian each day.  Shannon and I test each other by reading the words or phrases out loud and asking for a translation.  She is much better at it than I am.  D’accordo.
     Being in a new place allows us to take off our turtle shells and risk sharing confidences and life stories.  Often the reward is to discover how easy it is to make friends, to learn from each other, to commiserate  perhaps, and to enjoy that communion of being human and alive and engaged.
     So, carpe diem to all of us!  A piu tarde.
Marcello  ( a.k.a. Ray)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dropping Away

Jamaican_beach_palm Thanksgiving day Shannon and I boarded a plane for Jamaica.  Oldest son Ramsey who lives in Saigon, Vietnam where he teaches English was in Pnon Penh, Cambodia for the weekend; son Anson and wife Becca and two daughters, Avery (8) and Lila (5) were in Texas visiting relatives.  So, empty nest that we were, we sailed off to drop cares and fatigue and the excitement of life and business.  We have not been disappointed.
     Like coming in from the cold, we took off hats, gloves, parkas, down vests, sweaters, boots, rag socks and donned polo shirts and shorts--- no socks.  This was symbolic of all the events of the last months dropping away, no longer needed or at least for the time being. The sky seemed endless with no mountains to define its limits; the sea was its usual seductive Carribean jade.  The salt water and the gentle, heart beat rocking of the waves peeled away care even more.  Each morning at about six, or first light, I get into the sea, the primordial mother calling, and let the salt and the rocking calm me.  Five more times at least during the day I do this baptismal.
     Do care and problems vanish? Of course not; but they recede and take their proper place, secondary to family and friends and work that you love ( I love writing and the competition of business).  As Renaissance artists discovered the importance of perspective, I too am amazed at what you can see when you step back and approach the vanishing point. All too soon I will be back in the maelstrom where the view out of my office window will be a gray skies, dirty snow, and icy roads. This will be occasionally offset by brilliant days and nights, fresh snow, and the headainess of being alive.
     I’m reading a lot:  Barbara Tuchman’s BIBLE AND SWORD, James Jones’s THIN RED LINE, Berlitz guide to everyday ITALIAN, a Simon Templar Saint’s mystery from the 1930’s, and the Economist.  Music:  very little despite a bursting iPod.  The sound of the waves is more than enough, it is the heartbeat and the lungs of this planet.
     No more for today.  Be well.

Friday, November 23, 2007


So, here it is, a quote from Anotine Sainte-Exupery
Love does not exist in gazing at each other, but in looking in the same direction.
Be well. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


EVERY DAY!  I mean every day we take in oxygen we are giving thanks to the universe for the gift of being alive. I recently said to a loved one that hatred and anger have no place in our lives.  These two twins erode and destroy—they must be put in a sealed box and pushed far away from us.  Thanks fills us up and allows us to live with happiness, boredom, disappointment, excitement, sadness , and hope.

Every culture has its way of being thankful even in the midst of deprivation or tragedy. One day of thanksgiving is not enough; every day is just about right.

Here is a quote from William Sloane Coffin, Chaplain of Yale University during the Vietnam War days, civil rights activist, and practitioner of political theology.
     Socrates had it wrong; it is not the unexamined but the uncommitted life that is not worth living. Descartes too was mistaken; ‘Cogito Ergo sum’—‘I think therefore I am’? Nonsense. “Amo ergo sum’? I LOVE THEREFORE I AM.  Or with unconscious eloquence St. Paul wrote, “Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
     I believe that. I believe it is better not to live than not to love.

                                          W. S. Coffin   CREDO

Friday, November 16, 2007


Humor is very hard to write. It’s easier to write about bad stuff happening. Newspapers are full of crime, tragedy, bad economic news, and politics. Rarely do you find humor unless it’s in the op-ed pages where it is more likely to be sarcasm cloaked as humor. Maureen Dowd for example. But I do get a belly laugh as she takes the politicos to task. Hold their feet to the fire, Maureen. Art Buchwald was a humorist. I miss him. P.G. Wodehouse and his Jeeves was a past master at humor and the human—ever-so-human- condition. He had a rough go being interned by the Nazis during the Second World War. Not much humor there.Fawltytowers
 Austin Powers. Now there was humor. I still laugh at Mike Meyers and his cast of characters.  
is another one of my favorites.
 Kids get humor, real humor. They can make fun of themselves and laugh, make fun of what adults see as important when it’s only pomposity dressed for dinner. Too often adults see humor as enjoying the defeats and stupid acts of others. Perhaps that type of humor is schadenfreude.
 What is funny to you? I would love to see your list of books, movies, plays (all of Noel Coward, Shakespeare etc.)
 Where am I going with this entry today? I guess I want to laugh, deep, rocking laughter not at someone else’s expense but at the joy of being alive and taking in oxygen. 
 Several summers ago I was standing on a bluff looking down at a long dock stretching out into the lake. It was a great summer’s day. An eight year old boy had been fussing with a boat tied up at the dock. Kids love boats ( I do too). He finished with his boat fussing or investigation and started down the dock to the land. I watched; he walked slowly, without undue haste or seeming purpose. Suddenly he spun up into the air, twirled around, arms flapping like a giant bird, landed and kept on walking without missing a beat. He didn’t know I was observing but as in the Heisneberg principle where the observer is ultimately part of the action, I exploded in silent laughter. His actions, his being, had touched my soul; I responded to his spontaneous joy of and for life with similar joy.
 It’s snowing and raining. I need to laugh.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Struggling Today

When I sat down to write today’s blog, I found myself up against a metaphysical wall.  I pounded on it; tried to walk around it; looked for a gate through it. No luck!  So, I went to Google and looked up Pattern Recognition, ‘ISM and ‘ATION as in Buddism and Globalisation , and Semiotics ( signs and symbols).  Well, I didn’t get very far in my search and understanding of these approaches to understanding human behavior.  I will plug on.
BUT….instead I thought you might want to look at these two:

(First seen:

(First seen here:

Friday, November 9, 2007

Snow On the Mountain

733172_lift_to_heaven It’s here again: winter.  Well, we’ll have to see.  This could be a teaser, what with global warming.  The snow line is about ¾ of the way down the mountain, and the valley itself remains warm.  The ground is soft, although there was a fairly thick skin of ice on the rain barrel by the front door.
     “What are you doing, honey?” my wife Shannon said to me this morning.
“Ah…..ah….Oh, well, I’m ummm……..trying on my ski pants.”
     “You’re just a big kid,” she said with her usual kind laugh, taking delight in my enthusiasm for the things I love to do. I’ve skied since I was three (3), hiked, climbed, and trekked in mountains all over the world.  There is just something magical about mountains and snow and clouds and sometimes being on the edge.  It’s a sauce piquant to life.
13969_skis_at_rest     The pants were tight.  Did you know that nylon shrinks? Honest, it does, I know that for a fact. That’s why the pants don’t fit.  I didn’t tell Shannon; I lied, saying, “Boy, they feel great. I’m ready.”  Actually I’m not ready.  How many turns have I done on snow?  It’s a big number.  A million? 2 Million?  I don’t know, but just one good turn, ski arcing, hands out in front, body leading and then following the turn, face feeling the sun and the cold and the wind is all I want. I still love it, but I do miss the old, long  ( 215cm) wooden skis ( Rossignol Combi/Kastle/Kneissel Kannonon) with the leather boots and the 7’ rawhide long-thongs that  bound the boot to the ski in bear traps. I loved the smell of melted wax.  Ah, well , on peut dire que mieux que hier  mais moins de demain.
     I’m looking out the window of my writing office. The snowline is retreating up the mountain.  The mountain always wins.  Maybe my ski pants will fit when the snow really comes. J’espère.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Gritty

Here’s the gen on the actual stuff about writing.  Now that you’ve got your gist, outline, character sketches, you are faced with an empty page or screen.  Don’t panic.  The book will write itself.  Just let it happen. Don’t fight it.
Mypicture Set up your writing space.  Dedicate this space to the project.  Choose a time for the writing and keep to it. Do it five days a week.  Select an output figure, i.e. number of pages daily or weekly. Stick to it.  I try for 5 new pages a day. If that’s too much, lower it.
WRITE IT DOWN!!  ALL DOWN!!!  I mean keep on writing it down. Put in everything; don’t judge it.  You can take it out, re-write later, throw it away.  It’s important to put it down and let the life of the book find its own way.
Some tips:  beware of adverbs, they are not your friends.  Put them in if you like them and then take them out.  Be ruthless.  Use a lot of dialogue; your characters will love you if you do.  They want to be heard.  Let action, dialogue, and events run the story. Don’t TELL what happened, describe the action or the interplay.  Get rid of THEN. It’s a horrible little word.
Continuity and Suspension of Disbelief. 
First, Continuity.  If you start out with a character described in a certain way, don’t change it unless there is a plot reason for the change that is apparent to the reader.  This applies to time period, place or setting, plot elements etc.
Suspension of Disbelief.  Lock the reader into some kind of reality: time, place, who was there. Then the unbelievable can happen.  I use Lonely Planet guides for foreign locations and info on food, customs, dress etc.  They are fabulous guides, the very best.

Mypicture1 Don’t wait for the inspiration god to arrive. It won’t. Writing is a job, a discipline, a task. Practice it. Struggle with it. Throw out you first 15 pages. Start over.  BUT get it done. Finish the ms.  If you hone it too much, the spirit of the characters will leave you and find someone else to hang out with.
A famous Hemingway tip:  Don’t finish the section you are working on at the end of your writing day.  Leave the finishing of the section until the next day.  You’ll have the juice to start the day with instead of facing a blank page.
Have FUN!  Get a full-time job. Learn how to juggle. Join the circus.
Good luck,

Friday, November 2, 2007

More On Writing

507097_typewriter WE LEFT OFF about writing an outline.  As I said, this is a key to the whole business, the bones, the energy, the life force.  Get this right and the rest will flow.   I guarantee it. You add plot, back story, characters, location etc.
You probably realize as you construct your outline, that characters start to pop up, pesky creatures that they are.  They tend to have a life of their own.  Although CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE books use YOU as the main character, I don’t advise that except in interactive formats.  Nor do I like the first person ‘I ‘as a character.  It is too limiting, not enough room to describe the character, too personalized, too easy to get your own ego in there.  Third person works best, I think.
So, you have a gist, an outline or part of an outline, and now characters are screaming to be let out to be heard. Now write complete role profiles or descriptions of these characters. When I say complete I mean 5 or more single spaced pages for each character.  Cover the following:
1)    physical description
2)    likes and dislikes including clothes, food, music, friends, etc.
3)    back story---a short but complete bio of the character most of which will never appears in the book.
4)    Strengths and weaknesses
5)    Relationship to other characters as friends or enemies.
6)    Goals of the character in the story.
HeroThis should be fun.  I like doing it.  Character line up should probably include:  hero, two close supporters; anti-hero, two close supporters; two or more neutral characters who are unpredictable as to allegiance.
Remember, you don’t have to follow any of this.  If you don’t like this approach, do it your way.
Read Joseph Campbell’s HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES; it’s an amazing guide to most story telling.  Lucas used it in Star Wars.  Take your time reading it, then re-read it.
Patience and persistence mixed with some talent is all you need.