Welcome to the next stop on the Work-in-Progress Blog Hop Thanks to Devorah Fox for inviting me to do this. Last Monday, Dee answered questions about her newest work and this week it’s my turn.
The first question is what am I working on. With the publication by Izmadi Publishing Co. of “The Swamps of Jersey” anticipated by mid-fall, I’m rewriting the first Frank Nagler story. Nagler is the police detective at the heart of three planned stories, of which “Swamps” was the first. Actually, is was the second such story, but as I was trying to expand one part of that story, I changed locations, added a girlfriend, crooked politicians, Nagler’s dead wife and childhood sweetheart, a hurricane, a flood and an economic depression.
That leaves the second book,“The Game Called Dead,”with a lot to incorporate, especially as Frank Nagler confronts two parts of his life: His loneliness and the Charlie Adams case about the city’s notorious serial killer. In the third Nagler story, yet untitled, the poor guy finds some happiness, let’s hope.
I’m also working on a story about Smitty, a 13-year-old kid who one day after some trouble picks up and leaves home. The first part of the story is really, really dark, but I think I need to sink Smitty into a very deep hole before he can understand what is going on.
How does this work differ from others in the genre? The Nagler stories at their heart are police procedurals: Cops solving crimes. But I like to read complex stories that use circumstances and place to contain the story. “Swamps” is about political corruption, but it is also about heartbreak and homelessness and loss, about a city wrecked that is trying to get back up. That story is not just a background, but an element of importance and how to work it through the story was the challenge.
The third question is why I write what I do. I take places I’ve lived and worked and toss in parts of my life and the things that I saw as a journalist for three decades. I would put in fiction and characters questions. Sometimes just want to write down a fun description. It’s a growing process, experimental. I read others’ stories and ask, “that seems so easy, why don’t I write like that?” I want to write better characters, better dialogue, tell complex stories in a simpler way, write tighter, write with flow, but in each case, the style and language must fit the story, setting and characters.
The last question is about my writing process, and question assumes I have a process. Sometimes I hammer out a story in one sitting. That’s newspaper training, all those nights writing on a 30-minute deadline. In a longer form like a novel, I’ll write separate scenes and then connect them to the existing story. Upon re-reading the story, I look for holes or better ways to explain. Bartholomew Harrington came about that way. In “Swamps” he is an old lawyer with a reputation as a drunk. He has a beef to settle with the city’s mayor, but more important he becomes the voice of the city’s anguish: I had some lovely speeches, but no one to say them until Bart showed up. And he showed up after I covered a real local planning board meeting and being introduced to a lawyer whose name was in fact Bartholomew. It was the name that made the pieces work.
Otherwise, the stories exist and I keep them alive in thought or in notes and chapters. They really don’t go away, just take different form when they emerge through the keyboard.
The following three writers/artists are colleagues and friends whose work I admire.
Xe Sands is a “award-winning narrator known for credible characterizations and an intimate delivery with more than a decade of experience bringing stories to life through narration, performance, and visual art,” according to her website.
What that really means is that her voice has a dark, moody, knowing quality..
She is also an organizer of Going Public a weekly sampling of audio readings, and the annual June is Audiobook Month.
Diane Havens is a writer, actor and voice artist whose book of poetry “Without Makeup” is now available. Diane has also graciously recorded several of my short pieces.
Diane says, “In addition to my voice over work, I am very involved in education, having spent some years teaching, and have helped develop tools to assist teachers in bringing literature to life. My recent collaboration with accomplished Canadian actor Robert Jadah on actingitout.com comes of this dedication, for which we have won the 2009 Voicey Award for Best Voice Team. I also run live workshops and performances for schools, with programs ranging from Native American folk tales to Shakespeare.”
She co-created HearTheBill.org, featuring a free downloadable audiobook of the health care reform bills while they were being debated, as a public service.
Listen to her pieces. Her voice has a delicate, yet firm tone, a moving, emotional tremor that is unforgettable.
Lorraine Ash is a newspaper colleague who has branched into publishing, writing, teaching and blogging. Her writing is personal, moving and illuminating.
Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life is her second book. Her first memoir, Life Touches Life: A Mother’s Story of Stillbirth and Healing, was published by NewSage Press and has circulated throughout the United States as well as in the Middle East, Australia, Europe, China, Canada, and Mexico.