Sunday, November 11, 2007


I messed up. I should have kept it: a note from Normal Mailer. I was somewhat sad to hear that he had "hit the road." I'm sad when anybody does. Death is so very final. For most his age, we would have said "they've lived a long and rich life." But, as a celebrity author, it's hard to know. It was all so public. Six wives! You have got to be kidding me. What was it with Norman?

Obviously, a brilliant writer but in terms of love, well...of course, he might be a little like my nephew when he was young; after his third marriage and not yet thirty, I said to him: there is no rule that just because you have sex with someone, you have to get married. I think he got it as it was his last one. Norman kept going. Six wives. Now, even William Faulkner said that a good man should have only two--Not even so sure that two is a good idea.

I did get a note from Norman, once, maybe like thirty years ago. What happened was one of these desperate writer tales: collecting enough rejection slips to wall paper a good size house. Nobody told me I was a writer. In fact, quite the opposite. I just had it in my soul. I had to write: anything, letters, various scribblings, stories so I naturally thought I must be a writer as I was writing. I decided to seek professional help. I'd been to several writing classes and workshops but I couldn't keep my mind off the other writers, mostly women; and so don't know that the workshops did me much good. I saw an advertisement in Writers Digest, I think. You could send your manuscript to an agent and the agency would critique it and then get a famous published authoer to look it over. Norman was mentioned. I sent them my manuscript and $300 (lots of money in those days). A few weeks later I got my manuscript back, marked up with a page or two critique and a note from Norman. Basically, he said, "Forget it and don't give up your day job." It was not quite that cold but close. I should have saved it. I could have put it on Ebay. Damn.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


I've had so many rejections over the years that I occasionally get one that I call, "good rejection." I got one recently, well, it wasn't all that good but I pretended it was when I called the agent back. She was so f...... arrogant that I wish I had told her what a big "B" she was.

But, not to feel too badly, I recently read that Ann Frank's diary was deemed by some publisher as dull. OK! Another turned down Pearl Buck's Good Earth while an agent put the bad mouth on one of my favorite authors, Tony Hillerman. She told him to get rid of all that Indian stuff. You've got to be kidding me. Funny as all get out.

One interesting story is the rejections of Jack Kerouac. We have almost made him a saint as of late but before, On The Road, hit it, he was about to be put on the slush file of history for his "frenetic and scrambling" writing. That aside, I was intrigue to hear that when he did score with On The Road, he was in Florida and had to borrow $25 to get to New York. Now that will make us wannabe strugglers grin.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Recently, I was in a bookstore, behind a very attractive lady talking to the clerk about a series of books. I chimed in with what I viewed as a logical comment, "Why don't you write your own story?" Someday I will she said. The clerk allowed as how she was writing a novel. Here were 3 of us in line at a bookstore: two are writers. Need I say more.

Why would anybody be in this business? I recently read that there were 291,000 new books published in the U.S. last year. In 2004 which is the most recent data, Americans spent 13.3 billion on 1.7 billion books. This seems alot but then again, there are 300 million people in our country.

The book business is the only one where if a book doesn't sell, it can be returned to the publisher. What a way to run a business!

Writers write because they have too--from those who make it big to those who sell a few hundred copies. If you are a writer, you simply have to write. There are more writers than readers but then again, us writers are also readers.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


It was one of those one screen movie houses. Old, quaint and not many left around. We were early. My wife is big on getting a good seat, about half way down in the middle section. She likes to sit on the end. We were just one of a few couples, just time to get to the refreshment stand for popcorn.

The theater filled up. The movie was starting late, people were still coming in. My wife sat on the outside, from the other direction in our row came two very attractive women, twenties probably and sat beside me. I gave a furtive glance at the one next to me, our eyes met--drop dead gorgeous. My heart rate increased. I thought, "Well, not bad for an old guy, still there." The armrest was all that was between us. Our arms touched, no, they reallly didn't touch, it was the slight movement of hair on both our arms.

The movie started. I could still sense the hair on her arms, my pulse was maxed out. I was nervous. I stole a glance, she was whispering to her girlfriend. Her neck was smooth as silk, untouched.

The door flew opened and suddenly we were all over each other, the smooth neck at last mine, the bristled hair. Getting to this time seemed forever. Could we find fulfillment with this frenzy of activity--the way they did it in the movies, the throwing off of the table cloth, ripping of clothes, hands everywhere. The overwhelming passion as we ate each other's lips and mouth. How about doing it on the floor or better still the stairs like Tom Stall (Viggo Mortenson) and Mario Bello, the sexiest woman alive, in A History of Violence--the clutching now and the loss of sense. She is grasping my shirt, pulling it up over my head. My hands are free, passion, passion.

What is wrong with you, be still, my wife whispered, none to softly, "you are spilling the popcorn."

Sunday, June 3, 2007

A Kiss, A Kiss

I first saw John standing out by the porch staring out at the Bay. In the distance, I could see the Annapolis sculling team. I was at a religious retreat and was skipping a session. I walked over to where he stood. His glanced was simply forlorn and he said, "How's it going?" This was the way our friendship began. John was a Priest. I say "was" because in a sense he was waiting his ecclesiastical trial to be defrocked. Sad. John started out as a good Priest, I think. I liked him. We were both clergy. Before I went into the Army, I didn't know much about Catholics and even less about Priests.

John told me his story. He understood his attraction to his own sex. He was not a pedophile, he said. All it had been was kissing a few altar boys. Two or three of them came every week to help in his services. They were close. It was affection.

I'm not driven enough to speculate on all that brought him to this point. When I asked him once what caused who he was. He said, "How can I say, it is all a thousand times and places." Maybe starting seminary at 13 with all these other boys, who knows. Being sexually arrested. Maybe it was his own abuse. He never said so but hinted.

John's family abandoned him early on, not willing to deal or live with the shame.

The sadness of fallen Priests stretches out in ways that most don't get. Sure we feel sorry for the victims but for me, I also feel an empathetic tinge for my friend John. This was my last thought before the jail door clanked behind him.

Thursday, May 31, 2007


This is too sad to let go by. Anyone who has ever been in a remainders book warehouse gets the same feeling. Despair. I often think even when I go in any bookstore: "who is writing all these books and miraculously getting them published." And the titles, Sex Life of the Tsetse Fly, etc.

If I have ever thought more writers than readers, it is when I read about this poor used book store owner, striking a symbolic blow. He is burning his books, something like 20,000 and billing it as "the funeral pyre for thought in America today."

Well, I don't know about that but any guy who labors over titles as diverse as Tom Clancy's Hunt for Red October or Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities to the Fourth Pan Amerian Conference in Buenos Aires in 1910, has to love/adore/worship books and this makes his desperate act very sad. He says he's burning the books to protest society's diminishing support for the printed word. DUD! God bless him.

Friday, May 25, 2007



Diagnostic tools are just that, diagnostic, whatever that means. No test/instrument can define your personality only you can do that. However, for the sake of making a few points, I've devised a little test which gives the general idea about personality. I originally used these in an article for the Delta Airlines magazine on Personality and the Executive. These terms mostly could be applied to business but then again, to almost anything. Check it out...

Are you a Hard Charger, Power Broker,
Fast Track, or People Catalyst?

Find out by checking one of the blanks and see answers below.
I LIKE ... (choose one)

1a._ using dependable methods to complete a task.
lb.- to try out new ways to do things.

2a.- to analyze a situation.
2b.- to go with my feelings.

3a.- to avoid exact schedules.
3b.- to stick with deadlines.

4a.- thinking about what could be.
4b.- looking at what is.

5a.- to go with what seems right.
5b.- to reason, look at the facts.

6a.- to wait and look at all the possibilities_
6b._ things settled in advance.

7a.- the well laid-out executed strategy.
7b__ to have a plan just in case.

8a.- freedom to change my mind.
8b.- locked in plans.

9a.- people to think of me as being rational.
9b._ being called gutsy.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


What makes for a good writer? Experience, education, luck, what? Maybe all, but the major ingredient is personality. Simply, a writer's personality has everything to do with who they are. Experience, luck, and all kinds of other "success formula" put out in well meaning articles and "how to" writing advice notions may play some part, but nothing overshadows the personality factor. I think probably for my part, no collective group of dedicated human beings need encouragement more that those of us who put words on paper. For most of us, we have it in our souls and for years, we've been fed the well meaning same tired formulas: the idea that if you do certain things or follow particular paths, we will eventually hit it and be successful. And, for most of us, success equals being published.

It is not that various meaningful writing philosophies don't contribute to success, but the well meaning advice almost never takes into account the individual personality. Here's a good example from a recent "come on" advertisement that seemingly came from Writer's Digest but makes my point:

THE SUCCESSFUL HABITS OF SUCCESSFUL WRITERS Be inspired. You are in charge of your own success, be proactive, release yourself from the fear of rejection, be excited.

See what I mean. Even if this is helpful, doesn't mean that all of us are onto it and why: Different Personalities.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


THE WEIRDNESS OF THINKING I CAN BE A WRITER. The fact of the matter is that I can be and all I have to do is write. Now, getting somebody to read it and God forbid thinking that it will get published one of these days is almost beyond the pale. But, I keep trying.

I love magazines like Writer's Digest. They are the epitome of encouragement. I have been reading WD for years and always come away with some nugget. But, in a sense, one who reads such magazines or books for that matter on writing have to be realistic and somewhat cynical. Is this new news? Of course not. We all know the statistics which we assume are true; four out of five books don't earn back their advance. Here's a figure, of the 1.2 million books published in 2004, only 25,000 sold more than 5000 copies. Fewer than 500 books sold more than 100,000.

Let's take the latest issue of Writer's Digest, to make a point. Throughout the magazine, there's incredible encouragement on getting published and selling your book. It is the purpose of the magazine. There are profiles of authors who have done it. All of them have ideas. Most have been where we are. And, how many of us when reading, literally do say, "Wow, I can do that." And, by in large, we can. Will we? The unknown factor is just that, the Personality Factor which Writer's Digest doesn't take into consideration or should they. Unfortunately, all of us who aspire to have a career as writers fight who we are continuously. And, most fret that they cannot do many of the things that the books/ magazines say we should to advance our career.

And, let's put aside the other than level playing field. Of all the things that have ticked me off over the years, it is the total ignoring of this fact by mags like WD. They profile the daughter of some Hollywood producer who has made it as though that applies to us. Give me a break! The fact is that there is no level playing field. Add to that another pet peeve, celebrity worship and we are even more in the throws of self pity. Madonna can write a book on child rearing and it is off the charts. Or, Paris Hilton will go to jail, come out, somebody will ghost a book and she'll make more millions. Is my cynicism showing yet?

Nobody talks about The Personality Factor. Let's jump ahead and we have our book out there at bookstores. For the moment, forget all the angst to get there. If you are an introvert, which by the way is not negative, you are not going to fawn all over the idea of say a book signing as an extrovert would. (I would define these two terms but they are used so much that it is probably not needed).

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator has been my guide for years in life. Before I came across this wonderful instrument, I thought I was a little on the crazy side. I just didn't seem to be like others. And, always creative, writing with a whole passel of ideas, reading Writers Digest, all I had to do was stay with it. Well, not necessarily so depending upon my personality. Unfortunately, Writers Digest/books on writing, their approach--we are all the same, shaped by a cookie cutter tool. Not so.

Back to the book signing to make a point. On the Myers Briggs, I am measured borderline between extroversion and introversion. I have done book signings where I dreaded it, something akin to meeting a blood sucking Dracula for lunch. However, once I got with it, I loved it. Simply, based on my personality, the thoughts of doing it were 10 times worse than the actual signing. Why? My personality. Will knowing our personality help us as writers? Absolutely. To be continued...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Finding A Book

This is a good hint. I was recently reading a good article and at the end it mentioned the writer was the author of such and such book--happened to be about conversations with Christians and Buddhists. Sounded interesing. I went to Amazon, could not find it. Authors should make sure their books can be found.


I want to explain the title. What I discover constantly is that we really don't read. When I say, "we," I mean most people and what a shame. Reading is inexpensive entertainment. I read several books a week, pat, pat, pat--have just finished one called Three Cups of Tea, before that, Infidel, and am working on one called The Sticking Point; this is just to give you an idea. But, most people don't read. And, this isn't a hit on them. Just a fact. We could put all sort of stuff on it but with my company's recently published book, Gun Totin' Chaplain, I decided to asked those who had a copy, mostly as gifts, did you read it? "Oh no, working on it, etc.; read a little." I jokingly say, "you're like most, don't read."

Something else I read, most all the writing magazines, Writer's Digest, been subscribing forever. Also, from time to time, one called The Writer and then a trade magazine called, The Independent. So, writing is not a casual subject to me.

Another thing that we don't talk about enough is how uneven the playing field is for writers: Paris Hilton will go to jail for a few days. Come out, write a book about it and suddenly it's on the best seller list, whatever that is. She will make some book signing appearances and the lines will be out the door. Most of us who finally get the elusive book out can't beat people to a signing. America is a celebrity worshipping culture and we might as well admit it and if we ain't Madonna writing a bool on raising children, forget it. OK, thats it for now but will be back.