Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Thursday, October 30, 2014

How Our Lives Between Books Can Become a Lot More

'One hates an author that's all author...' 
--Lord  Byron


Some actors we admire most pick their projects carefully, taking time between them to recharge, brood at leisure and prepare for their next  role. Two names that quickly come to mind:

Daniel Day-Lewis: just fourteen films since The Unbearable Lightness of Being in 1986.
Daniel Craig: A three-year break between Skyfall in 2012 and Bond 24 in 2015.

And, possibly not strangely, when each of these men is on screen we sense the hidden magic of a life apart from celluloid or any particular role. They live for their art, we are certain of that--but they also seem fully committed to working the art of their lives. Compare almost any film by either of these men with the desperate earnestness of some leading actors who churn out many more films...as if they'll die the instant the camera isn't on them. Dustin Hoffman, anyone? About 4 dozen films since 1969.

There are telling parallels, I'm sure, with musicians who crank out an album a year and those who prefer to let their next album grow. (Paul McCartney vs. Leonard Cohen?) Let's segue for today, though, to writers--in particular to a remark one critic made about Byron: how the most compelling about him is our powerful sense of real life off the page. That's sometimes revealed in off-handed remarks about his love and sporting life. But more often this truth is something that we sense. And when we learn more about Byron we know: no man who hadn't 'wasted' time swimming the Hellespont...boxing...fencing...traveling...seducing the gladly seduced by the scores...could have written a line of Don Juan. The work's cut from the very same cloth of his life.

My own output on Amazon is somewhat sizable only because I had the 'advantage' of 25 years in The Desert, in which time I finished a dozen-odd books. By revising these, using the skills I've learned since, and by adding two new books I've written, I'll have managed to put out eight ebooks since the summer of 2012.

The eighth book, called Red Champagne, was originally written in 1998-1999. So it had a long gestation before the big rewrite this year. And when it's finished--by December-I plan to take a few months before starting work on the next Boss MacTavin mystery. I expect that to take from 9 months to a year. Luckily, as I've said, I still have a backlog to draw from, including three more horror novels penned as Kelley Wilde.

But the fact remains: I'm a slow writer by most standards. I have good friends and colleagues who can finish books in the time it takes me to do a second draft. One best-selling ebook writer has written more books in a couple of years than I could begin to catch up with. I've never written--and I won't--for eighteen hours a day. Why?

I need to live between the lines to write the lines I do write...the sort of lines I like to read. And to my way of thinking I don't waste my time when I work on one of my three blogs...work out in Gold's Gym...network on Twitter and Facebook...brood while I'm working my new city's streets...study Latin...keeping my studio clean...

And how do your own lives fit into your plans? Are you working when, to others, you seem to do nothing at all? Are your life and work cut from the same lovely cloth?

 Recommended Reading:
http://www.amazon.com/Living-Robert-Grudin-English-Professor/dp/0395898315

and

http://www.amazon.com/Writers-Creative-Process-Through-Revision/dp/B000QSAM6I/ref=sr_1_12?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414682411&sr=1-12&keywords=ke




Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Spare the Rod and Really Listen to the Warm

Listen to the WHAT? Are we talking Rod McKuen, the millionaire Valentine singer and people's poet from the Seventies? Treacle pudding in person?

We are. And we'll get to why in a minute--when I tell you about the world's sexiest blanket--but first:

Born in 1933, McKuen had already been around a while--as a journalist, singer and composer--when he broke through as a poet with Stanyan Street & Oher Sorrows in 1966, then Listen to the Warm in 1967 and Lonesome Cities in 1968. In '68 alone, his books were translated into eleven languages and sold over a million copies. During the Seventies, he went on to receive serious recognition as a composer through his concertos, symphonies, chamber pieces and suites...But today we consider him in his best-known guise--as a poet. 

In turbulent times, with Dylan and Cohen rocking some serious boats, McKuen was a welcome voice, especially to lovers who wanted to hug, not protest. His verses were simple and sincere: 

"Thank you for the sun you brought this morning
even though the sky was full of clouds."

and:

"There've been so many who didn't understand

so give me all the love I see in your timid eyes
but give it gently
Please."

He made a fortune writing such. Still, you'd be hard-pressed to find four words that heaped more abuse on a writer than  'Listen to the warm.' Lovers of Dylan and Cohen jeered, I know. I was one of them. And I hadn't thought of McKuen in years--until last night, when I woke in a chill...and looked at the cushy new blanket I'd left at the food of the bed.

My entire body was aching and cold, for I'd had a brutal morning workout and had left one window open. Now, when I signed up at Gold's and decided to get serious, I also made a solemn vow: to listen to my body--what I needed to eat, when I needed to rest, etc. You need to understand that I had decided to listen. If you understand that, then you'll understand that I heard my cold and aching muscles crying out for warmth. Or, as Rod would say, for warm.

As I slid the blanket over me, then tucked it in on both sides, I felt enveloped within a cocoon. And I found myself listening too to the warmed: taxed muscles finding required relief. The comfort found from a blanket in the midst of a cold night astounded me. It also humbled me because I'd done Rod an injustice--and also the readers who loved him.

He may not be my cuppa--I prefer Auden or Ovid or Horace--but he produced a brand of warm that millions have loved since the Sixties. And he wrote four words, at least, that never slipped my memory.

Now in his eighties, Rod McKuen still maintains a lively blog well worth a look:

http://www.mckuen.com/flights/flight.htm

You never know. You too may find yourself to be one of the warmed. 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Return of Claude Bouchard

One of my most popular posts here was an interview with Claude Bouchard, published on 11/3/12. It attracted a blog record of 500 hits and inspired me to raise the bar for future interviews.

I've continued to read and admire CB but saw no valid reason to do a second interview--that is, until now.

Claude Bouchard Unchained 2 is coming your way in early November. Subtitle: Escaping Into Asylum. In it, CB will open up about the one book that most divides readers. Did the devil make him write it? Or was his Muse simply in a wickedly mischievous mood?

The floor will be his. And I'm certain he'll surprise us all, myself included.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

On Writing As a Reality Show

You can't hope to win the game unless you know which show you're on. Check out my controversial post on Authors Electric--and you may come to hear the call of Jeff Probst, Simon Cowell...or someone even better.

http://authorselectric.blogspot.com/2014/10/hey-bubbaloos-which-reality-show-are.html

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Reviews: An Updated Assortment

By way of introduction, for those who haven't tried my work: here's an updated sampling of reviews. They cover both my earlier novels as Kelley Wilde and my new work as Reb MacRath.


PRAISE FOR REB MACRATH

One of the greatest Christmas stories ever written—but one that may never be published.
    --Agent Henry Morrison on April Yule (formerly titled White Knights)

Reb MacRath writes with wit and pace. His prose can spin in unexpected directions, or with the precision of an expert pool player can send one—smack!—right into the corner pocket. Pay attention, because in one short sentence he can dazzle, baffle, and shock you. And in a book, well, just enjoy the ride!
    --Brad Strickland on April Yule

His writing style is unique and...he writes with such depth and emotion I can't help but wonder what he'll bring to the writing world in the future.
    --Kirkus MacGowan on Nobility

Nobility ranks right up there with Oh Brother Where Art Thou, a rendition of Homer's Odyssey also set in the south. The word craft is delicate and beautiful..
    --Leila Smith on Nobility

Dazzling, visceral, heart-wrenching...A 152-page masterpiece.
    --John Logan on The Vanishing Magic of Snow

Pure escapist fun. Think James Bond meets hardboiled noir with a colorful cast of characters.
    --David North-Martino on Charlotte Kills

I liked this book on several levels. Firstly, I liked the hard-boiled style of part one, which satisfied all the expectations of this style of book. The characters were good and realistic and played their roles well. The writing was atmospheric and descriptive, and the action scenes were also realistic. In part two, I liked the mystery element and the twists, and when the sting finally took place it was a surprise.
    --Chris Longmuir on Charlotte Kills

Vicious violence, black humor, quirky characters, a style that races along--MacRath's novels takes the reader into a murky world of crime and retribution...and a Boss who deals out what he calls Corrections. The author has written intriguing speculative fiction, and this is a new direction. If you like thrillers hazrd as nails, cool as ice, and smooth as Scotch, give this one a try. I think you'll enjoy it.
    --Brad Strickland on Southern Scotch

If you haven't been hooked by the cunning stories written by Reb MacRath, Boss will drag you into his writer's fan club. Boss is a gritty, one-eyed, 'Southern Scot', a hero who hit rock bottom, suffered, and literally emerged as a new man. In this second book of the series, readers visit the seedy underbelly of San Francisco, meeting lowlifes and very scary characters. But if you're with Big Bad Boss, you're safe...and you'll be singing his praises soon.
    --Diane Rapp on The Alcatraz Correction



…AND FOR REB WRITING AS KELLEY WILDE
Wilde handles his ideas with wit and energy. A skilled writer has produced an engaging novel.
    --Publishers Weekly on The Suiting

Highly readable, with both laughs and chills.
    --Library Journal on The Suiting

Strongly original. One of a kind.
    --Kirkus Reviews on The Suiting

A tasty bit of modern horror with just the right touch of madness. A writer to watch.
    --The Buffalo News on The Suiting

Wilde has a flair for horrific showmanship and an instinct for the jugular that rivals the best writers of the genre.
    --John Farris on Makoto

Wilde’s style fits the story perfectly—it’s as sharp and polished as a samurai sword, and just as dangerous.
    --Rick Hautala on Makoto

One of Wilde’s particular talents is getting inside his characters’ heads. Whether it’s a dream, a cocaine high, or a slooow torture scene, his expert streams of consciousness and incredible sound effects put you right there.
    --Fangoria on Makoto

Untamed, unpredictable prose—that’s the trademark of Kelley Wilde. He writes like a bucking bronc, and each time out of the chute the Wilde man keeps improving. He’s got the moves!
    --Rex Miller on Mastery

The most unforgettable train ride since Agatha Christie booked the Orient Express.
    --Tyson Blue on Mastery

An exotic, mysterious puzzle that's impossible to put down--and impossible to forget.
    --Ray Garton on Angel Kiss

Thursday, October 9, 2014

This isn't Reb--or What's-His-Name

Has an article or poem or song ever stuck in your mind, longer than you recall, and kept replaying through the years? Like your shadow, it stays with you. Or like something you've touched, now a part of your prints.

Once upon a time I read a lovely Aikido essay by a popular writer, George Leonard. The piece was called "This Isn't Richard", I'll provide a link  below for those who want to read it. The subject: the spiritual breakthrough of a self-centered, selfish student in a brutal black belt test. I warm to the piece partly because I myself studied under the teacher, Bob Nadeau, for years. But the mojo of the piece is the moment of the breakthrough: Richard, the disgusted teacher who called him only 'What's-his-name' and all the students present become aware that the man on the mat...isn't 'Richard'. A new man stands emptied of the self that he'd been too full of. Later, some spoke of an aura or a nimbus of light around him as he got more and more into the flow. By all accounts, this was a brilliant performance. And the Richard who'd been 'Richard' had left the building forever.

The great breakthrough recorded in the the phrase This isn't Richard has become both a goal and a touchstone for me. In both my life and my writing..which no longer seem to be two. In furnishing my new Seattle studio or fine-tuning my new novel...in forming new habits and ditching the old...in pushing the envelope daily as I search my own sense that This isn't Reb...I find new liberation in those glorious moments when I am not Me.

Here's the link to the essay, with hopes you have a look. Caution: the essay starts at page 198 of :Leonard's book The Silent Pulse and stops abruptly at p. 203. So it isn't complete but you'll get the idea:

http://tiny.cc/clkhnx


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A free-for-all that's free for all

The first issue of an online monthly 'zine has gone Live today at :
http://theseattlekid.blogspot.com/2014/09/reb-macraths-seattle-rock-v-1-100114.html

If you're craving something more than just a little bit different, you should find this worth a look. If nothing else, you may enjoy the Classifieds and Ask Reb sections.

See you there!