The Memoir Of A Beloved

The death of a beloved is an amputation.
~ C. S. Lewis ~

I’m fortunate. Not many writers are in a position to have two books launched at about the same time. While things are being worked out with Omonomany Publishing for final publication of my WWII fictionalized biography, The Third Reich’s Last Eagle (some early readers wanted maps included in order to follow the advances and subsequent retreats of Germany’s Wehrmacht), I’m the daddy of a memoir.

In This Love Together_ebook

The memoir, In This Love Together – Love, Failing Limbs, and Cancer, is perhaps a final honoring of Becca, my deceased wife. A brave soul, she subjected herself to too many radiation treatments of her squamous cell carcinoma for later chemo treatments to do her any good. She lived for many months with a feeding tube and tracheostomy in order to stay alive. A most giving person, she made cookies for the cancer doctors and technicians in her last months.

One day she stood before the kitchen counter where we generally prepared food, intent on her batter, occasionally rocking side to side. She hadn’t fallen yet, but I knew it was coming.

“You don’t have to do that,” I said. “For crying out loud, they don’t expect cookies from you.”

“I know.” She didn’t turn, kept working her dough.

“Okay, so why do it?”

“I want to.”

For a second she swayed like a pine on a breezy day. “You okay?”

“I’m okay.”

“What can I do to help.”

“Nothing.”

I sighed, softly, so she wouldn’t hear it and claim petulance on my part. “Just be careful. Sit if you need to.”

“I will.”

The oncologist who had urged her into a second round of radiation, the radiation that proved insufficient to stop her cancer, but which had destroyed the surrounding tissue, graciously accepted her portion of the cookies, along with a scarf Becca had woven. After she died, I received a too-late card of thanks from this doctor.

Following Becca’s death it was my turn: heart surgery, followed by replacement of a failed knee replacement, and several months of physical therapy, which did little to aid the leg, which had atrophied in the interim. Romance entered my life again, then fled rather than see me through my mourning. And just as engineering work had gotten me through an earlier divorce, writing – this memoir, in particular – got me through the long months of loss.

IMG_0771

I had an odd bill of hers to accommodate as the months passed, but the nettlesome item was returning again and again to the cemetery management to have them honor their agreement to put Becca’s death date on her gravestone. It took two-and- a-half years to accomplish that, and as I stood before the completed gravestone, I had an odd realization. Somehow the fates had aligned to free me from my mourning.

I’ve heard from older, wiser persons that once you love someone, that love never goes away, and now I know the truth of that. But love does strange, counterintuitive things, too. Somehow, standing before her grave, I could swear she was whispering to me that it was time to move on.

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information on my books. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

 

The Prisons of Home

Unknown

A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline

The world of fiction is an organic, living one. That is to say, in regard to Kline’s fine book, there is a growing number of ways to write a biography. (Having written and soon to have published a similar biographic novel about one Hans Ulrich Rudel, I can attest to biographical life within just such a world). The author has chosen an interesting real-life character, Anna Christina Olson, who suffered from Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, a highly misunderstood neurological condition. But the book is also in equal parts about the generation of Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting of Olson, Christina’s World, and about life in early twentieth-century Maine.

Unknown-1

Told from Christina’s point of view, present tense, Kline explores what is known of Christina’s interior life, her family life, and the book explores an early-on romance between Christina and Walton, who later abandons her, leaving her as emotionally damaged as she was increasingly physically incapacitated. Too, Andy Wyeth weaves his own role into Christina’s life, and with him there, Kline’s novel directs itself inexorably toward the famed painting.

The deeper reach of this novel explores the ways in which home can become a prison, in this instance for Christina and her brother Al. Ironically, however, Christina’s stubborn avoidance of assistance and sympathy places her in the town of Cushing’s limelight. Kline’s recognition of this, coupled to dialogue passages that are among the most realistic this reader has experienced, makes this a book lending itself to the deepest understanding of the human condition.

My rating: 20 of 20 stars

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information on my books. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

A German Interlude

 

unknown

The House By The Lake, by Ella Carey

Genre blending is the new passion in writer land. We’re mixing non-fiction with fiction, memoir with fiction, fictionalized essays, and perhaps more I can’t think of at the moment. The skill in writing such blends into a cohesive whole is no small feat, and Ms. Carey has done a good job, in her case, of merging history with fiction.

The story is in two parts, alternated. First, grandfather Max asks Anna to go to his old home in Germany and retrieve a mysterious object that’s suddenly grown dear to Max. The rest of this part of the story has her doing so, with the help of German lawyer Wil. The second part is essentially a series of flashbacks to Max’s early life in Germany prior to WWII, and his love affair with a now-mysterious woman, Isabelle.

unknown-1

The book is at its base a romance novel, easy fodder for reading groups and clubs. Still, Ms. Carey structures her story well and steers fairly clear of the romance cliches. The manner in which she alternates in time takes some getting used to, but the separate parts begin to cleave to one another as the story progresses. This is Ms. Carey’s second novel, and it shows the skills necessary to develop strong characters and blend them into fictionalized history.

My rating: 17 of 20 Stars

 

Visit my website here. Within it you’ll find more on books and events that matter to me — and possibly to you. And there’s a gridleyfires Facebook page, too, if you can find it

The Math of Book Sales

A couple of notes here for writers:

th

 

The most recent episode of Publisher’s Weekly gives a veritable mathematic analysis of what’s being sold in books lately, particularly print books. So – bottom line? Juvenile and YA are decreasing in sales. Mystery and suspense are selling well in print. Romance is selling in both hardback and paperback. Academic and university press book sales are (supposedly) booming. I insert the parens because I keep hearing that U presses are in dire straits. Perhaps this is because these presses aren’t being managed well, or their subsidizing by the universities is drying up.

And how are e-books doing? Well enough, among mystery, but their percentage of sales hasn’t yet pushed past 20%, for the most part. Perhaps taking chances on new writers writing innovative pieces? Are you listening, e-book publishers.

To get the straight numbers and deeper details, go to Publisher’s Weekly.

 

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll have an opportunity to download an audio eversion of my latest, Sam’s Place, as well as select book review podcasts. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.

Rethinking Genre

T_8180
catalog.learningcityonline.com

Many literary writers today are embracing genre – it's a form of competition that's inevitable for writers. Just as creative writing has become more cinematic in style in order to compete with movies, many literary writers, most of which are consideredstruggling  "mid-list" writers, are finding it necessary to encroach on the most popular of genres. 

If you're writing a mystery, for instance, or a romance, a young adult novel, or a suspense piece, agents, editors and publishers will at the very least pause longer over your query letter. But I have to wonder at the effect literary writers or writers of general fiction will have on the structure of genre works.

These days, if you approach an agent with a query, and the agent asks for a pertial manuscript, he or she will evaluate what you've done with respect to the generally accepted structure of such genre pieces. If you decide to tinker with the structure? Said agents will either urge you to modify the piece you've labored over – or they'll reject it out of hand.

What's your alternative? Digital self-publishing, then, seems the only viable alternative. But you still have to jump through all the hoops on conventional publishing: submit your work to a reputable freelance editor and proofreader. You can digitally publish for almost nothing, but you still have to devise cover art. You have to promote, you have to sell youself and your work. 

This, then may be where the next step forward in creative writing will come from. MFA programs will teach you technique, and to a limited extent they'll suggest how to tinker with form. But beyond that, you're on your own. Still, that's not a bad thing – innovation is based both on knowing the existing state of things and knowing how to separate from that pack – and that's going to always come from the individual, not from the industry.