How this works

When I started writing last month in Costa Rica, I had no clue what I was writing about, why I was writing, whether it was or would be anything. I wrote because that’s what I do. If you’re curious, it begins here.

I said as much to Dick about halfway through the trip when he said he thought it should be a book: Books need to be about something.

All I had were verbal snapshots. But after a while, I noticed the snapshots were really of people, in this kind of interesting environment. After a little while longer, I sensed that there was coherence to it, even if I still didn’t know what the unifying principle was. Yes, it really does work like that.

I was sending it out to people I thought might be interested, and the response back was incredibly supportive. Not only was that favorable response a significant reason why I kept on, it forced me — you forced me — to include important visual details.

If you had not been there and I had waited, those details would have been lost, because I would have waited and then had only ideas, and the imagery, the environment that was so important, would have begun to fade.

But it still wasn’t about anything. It did not have a theme.

Two days after I got back I was trying to figure out a title for what was basically a collection. I think I’d written about the plane trip. Well, I know I had, because that one was actually written by hand on a yellow note pad when I could not connect to the internet in San Jose. I don’t know if I had transcribed it, though.

About that particular piece: I  told “Valerie,” and also “Olivia” and “Alycia” while I was in Bocas, that I’d just realized I was going to have to subject myself to the same process. Not to do so would have been unfair, dishonest. Later I would tell one of my favorite readers, “I could not ask of them what I was not willing to give.” That’s all I knew, so I did it.

After I got to Oregon, I was trying to think of a title for the collection. I went through several possibilities while sitting in my chair and letting my unintentional chew on the problem while I looked at the mountains.

Journey? No color. Slide Show? No again, similar reason but closer, maybe.

Then all of a sudden, I got a huge shove right in the middle of my chest. It almost took the wind out of me.  “Butterflies.” Of course. What an idiot. Obviously, I was writing about butterflies. These wonderful, incredible, occasionally tragic people were butterflies; delicate, resilient, often but not always beautiful, very different individuals with similar needs and desires.

With that came the answer to the problem posed by Dick  when he said it should be a book. What’s it about? It’s about the life cycle: seeking, struggling, transition. Butterflies do it. We do it.

Is that original? Not even close; butterflies have been used as metaphors since long before we knew there were things such as metaphors. Are we butterflies? Of course not.

It would work.

I will reorganize things. I will probably take people from one place and put them in another to create “story,” an emotional beginning middle and end. I will flesh out some places where I left things too sparse.

I’ll do more research on butterflies themselves, so I can make the metaphor solid. I’ll add these sparingly — I’m not going to hammer readers with science. A paragraph or two in each “chapter” to illustrate how it fits into the whole.

Then, “Butterflies” will will be a book. Like a butterfly, it will have gone from being one thing to being something else, very different. It will hopefully retain the bright colors of the previous generation — which would not be there were it not for those of you who allowed me to send you what I was seeing and feeling as I was seeing and feeling it.

I won’t do much of anything for a month. It has to sit for a while, undisturbed, while I get some distance from it. Then I’ll tear into it again, change it, fix it, redo that a few times, and then it will be done. It will be a very small book that will hopefully cause readers to feel reading it was worthwhile.

I can’t thank you enough. All of you.


Looking for a female voice

I’ve decided that my reading “Chalice” in two voices is less than optimal. In fact, it makes me cringe.

So, what I would like to do in lieu of posting a Youtube video of just me reading, is find a woman who would be willing to read the female “voice.” It will take about an hour, and she won’t be paid, though she will get a credit.

We will read the abstract I prepared for the book store readings, I will find some images to “illuminate” what is being read, and that will become the video.

I invite anyone who would like to read the part to contact me directly via email to

Next step

Chalice is finished. There are still a couple of important comments to come in, but rewriting the conclusion is finished. First responses have been very positive. Proofreader edits will be entered by the end of next week.

Finished… well, the work of the writer is finished. Work of the author continues: Legal considerations remain; the book needs to be formatted for Amazon and uploaded; I need to format for print then get it printed; and I need to hire a publicist. Actually, those are not the work of author, but part of my work as publisher.

I wish my squeamishness about the label “self-published”  would dissipate. Despite observations about the revolution in publishing, especially over the last two years, despite  exhortations by Steven Pressfield, despite my belief in the work itself, despite the existence of 110,000 words in the form of a story, despite my experience with  “professionals” who focus only on markets and not art, despite all these facets, the feeling “it’s not real” nags me.

But it is real, and it has real value. And soon, anyone who wants to discover that will be able to hold Chalice in their hand.

And I will move on to the next one.


The verdict is… mixed.

In so many ways I can’t imagine a better process for vetting a book.

I sent out nine hard copies and about nine electronic copies of Chalice. Some readers could not get past the “letters” style of the book and didn’t make it past page 30. Six readers finished the book, all of those enjoyed the writing, and four of those were were engaged in the story and  helpfully found some flaws that I can correct.

There were many deeply personal reactions, which both surprised and gratified me. A couple of readers did not like the female main character. Another said he was “in love with her by page 30.” That love later dissipated a bit. Another related to her but was a bit put off by the male main character.

Different sections of the book affected different readers. Most enjoyed the writing, though Larry Brooks of “StoryFix” called it “purple prose.” Others said Brooks simply did not get it and I am inclined to agree. The man always seemed rushed and he has a formula that focuses on commercial success, though I have found his structure quite helpful.

My take away from this is that Chalice is not an easy read nor a book likely for great commercial success, but is likely to find favor among a certain type of reader. My original target was college-educated women who belong to book clubs and actually read the books. I was wrong about that. Gender is not a determining factor. Education and a vivid life experience seem to be.

I can live with that.

Next step is to take the comments I’ve received from those who enjoyed the book as well as those who panned it and make the changes I feel will improve the final product. I’ve got a proof reader in my sights. Then it’s off to press.

Interesting people

There has been an unexpected benefit to my decision of having a group of “readers” review the manuscript for Chalice.

Several people I asked to read the book said “You should ask so-and-so, they read all the time. They know books and would give you really good feed back.” So I did.

And what these “strangers” have had to say has been difficult to hear and encouraging — in other words, exactly what I wanted.

Enjoying the language but people don’t talk like that; I love the fact that it is so well-thought out; I can’t get past thinking of it as dialogue; great job presenting conflicting values; maybe there should be a more dramatic event in the first 30 pages that allows them to open up to each other more quickly; I really dislike one of the main characters by page 7… ”

Informative perspective and often page specific. Immensely valuable.

Even better, these “strangers” are interesting, funny, thoughtful, direct and engaged in what is important to them: Music. Cars. Books. Wonderful people I would not have “met” if not for this process.


On the couch this morning with a fresh cup of coffee looking out over an absolutely brilliant day. And thinking about … promoting, marketing, publicizing?

Which means, I am not writing. Ugh.

It is absolutely astounding to me how wrong I could have been about what being a “writer” entails. I can create something that will interest somebody somewhere. But how to reach those readers?

There are tools, and plenty of people who sell information, books, seminars, face paint, helicopters etc. to reach an audience. And people who offer to do some of the work for you. But in the end, it is the author who must shoulder the load.

Reclusive, sensitive, tongue-tied introverts who would rather live in fictional worlds than talk to anyone much of the time.

On the couch this morning, I was whining about this to myself when my Muse leaned in real close and said, “You will do it because it has to be done.” It was so plain and clear it startled me because I live alone here in my loft on the hill top. Then it made me smile, because of her certainty.

I would rather write than take seminars or make accounting decisions or filter good advice from the gimme of charlatans. But I don’t have a choice. With 8 million and counting titles on Amazon, with the outlets for physical books declining, with readers having nearly an infinite choice among a cacophony of writers clamoring for their attention, that is just the way it is, now, regardless of how great or lousy a writer’s books may actually be.

I will do it because it has to be done: create relationships with readers who share my interests. To get my words into their hands. Your hands.