The end of summer means no more excuses!

For me, September is always the start of the year and May 31st is the end.  Summer is just that dead zone in between.

On the plus side, I did get out of the house more than last summer.  Probably because the temps here in the SF Bay Area were moderate to below average – yeah!  And the state is not on fire as it was last year.  The above shot is of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin County side. 

This pier along the wharf in San Francisco could be a metaphor for my writing efforts this summer.  Abandoned and covered with bird shit.  But it is still standing.

However the summer was not a total waste.  I did read a couple of books which I highly recommend although they are world’s apart in just about every way.  The first, The Life of Rebecca Jones by Angharad Price, is described as a “gently reimagined family memoir” set in rural Wales during a time of cultural transformation.

Reading this book I often felt as though I was mutely walking the Welsh countryside, feeling at one with nature but completely alone.  As Price writes:

“I sometimes think that the act of remembering life gives more pleasure than living itself.”

She goes on to say, that like a quilt, the swatches of memory we select are our reality. An assertion validated by a most unusual ending.

In Anna, Colm Herron (see Home from the Sea; Meet Colm Herron) illustrates the dilemma facing young men in Northern Ireland who want to get laid but don’t want Mother or the Catholic Church to know. Because the stain of semen can never be totally removed from his trousers, our hero (Robert Browning) must confess to his priest after his night of kinky sex with the wild and uninhibited Anna. He laments that, but for his BO, it could have been a sin from which there could be no forgiveness.

“… there was another reason for my particular release being fitful and that was my BO.  Which might have been a blessing in disguise because otherwise she would definitely have given me the full treatment and I could have taken a fatal brain haemorrhage [sic] and that would have me damned and no mistake.”

Because the story is set in the late 1960s, when Robert and his friends aren’t “looking for tramps but scared shitless of them all at the same time,” they’re debating how to fight social injustice. Do they follow the path of Marxism or heed the caution of the Church?

[Robert’s friend] mimicking their bishop: “My dear Catholic sheep of Derry, it is not those who can inflict the most but those who can endure the most that the Lord will lead to the happy slaughterhouse in the sky.”

Although Anna is primarily a love story that doesn’t always go smoothly, the book is full of hysterical scenes, such as this bit between Robert and his devout Mammy:

“Did you not hear me?  I said beauty’s only skin deep.”
“I know Mammy.”
“Aye, but do you?”
“For Christ sake Mammy, its not her intestines I’m after.”

The next book on my list will be a different ride altogether, You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas.  I’ve only begun the read but I can already tell Damyanti has taken an interesting twist in the usual murder, detective story and run with it.

First I’ve got to hitch myself up to some sort of routine. Maybe I’ll finally finish “The Demise of Dickey” – my debut romance novel!  Rollover Danielle – prepare to meet your match!

I leave you with this favorite song of September from a performer I saw on stage decades ago and fell in love with.  Yes, believe it or not ,Jerry Orbach had a whole other career before Law and Order!

“Without a hurt, the heart is hollow.”

One Foot in Hell; the Other in Heaven

For the last couple of months it has been my honor to help Duke Miller, whose work I love, publish his book. Living and Dying with Dogs went out of print a bit over a year ago. Now comes Living and Dying with Dogs: Turbo Edition. The new book contains extensive rewrites and the inclusion of Handbook for the Hopeless, a bizarre novella cum employment guide for emergency refugee relief workers. How to describe the Handbook?  More on that later.  Despite the title, this 2nd Edition is not about creating a doggie hospice program. It’s about the people who rush into war zones hoping to bring help to victims of genocides, famines, and epidemics and how the emergency aid process alters everyone’s perception of what we quaintly call reality. It’s about what happens to people forced to check their morals at the door in order to do what needs to be done. Do the ends justify the means? Duke explores this heuristic notion where the sick and dying lie. In that sense, this book asks the old questions, but provides new answers. He writes about things we don’t want to think about, like how the best of us can falter or how our furry friends occasionally eat the hands that have fed them.   If this book was an endless slog over mountains of corpses, I’d probably only recommend it for those considering a career in relief work. But it’s not. There’s dark humor here, poetry as well.  Take the beautiful Hollywood agent who the protagonist admits he should have never slept with. She urges him to write more conventional stories that people can understand, like For Whom the Bell Tolls.  Stuff she can easily sell to the movie industry. He dreads her visits but WTF, she knows people. Maybe he’d better sleep with her again. But no…ghosts surround him and the lost appear before his eyes: the invisible ones he’s loved and mourned. A trip home makes him feel like an alien.  Old friends are left behind.  Disease rots his body and always there is the dark alley or endless hallway populated by drug addicts.  However, sometimes “life floods the parched regions” of his heart in unexpected places, like leper colonies, whore houses, and the wounds of a dying child.

Which brings us to Handbook for the Hopeless  in which an online suicide haunts a man tasked with writing a “how to get a job in a war zone” manual by his well-meaning publisher. But every time he attempts to tell it straight, another ghost enters his mind and down he falls into the waiting arms of one humorously dark character after the other.   We were aided in our publishing endeavor by John’s Motorcycle Storage and Rare Book Disposal of Long Island whose logo is above. You can read more about Duke Miller here and here and at TinhatsBlog. The artwork for both the cover and the logo were provided by Duke’s wife, Teresa Miller.

The paperback (365 pages)  is currently for sale on Amazon at $12. Or you can download the eBook for $2.99.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing and now I’m off to snap pictures of doors!