Episode 5 of the Accidental Author

Click above for the latest episode of the Accidental Author and hear me discuss the following • Backstory to the Bill Hiccock “Thrillogy” • Passion-the essential element to being a good writer • Perfection – the enemy of good.

Don’t miss an episode!

Episode 1 click here
Episode 2 click here
Episode 3 click here

Episode 4 click here

The Accidental Author – Episode Two

In the window above is the next installment of The Accidental Author, some real heartfelt confessions in this one plus an homage to one of the finest authors living today. If you missed episode one, click here.

From Beach to Book

If you read my previous blog about editing my book on the golden sands of Puerto Rico then you’re probably wondering, “Hey, did you take any pictures?” (see below)


Here is what the experience is like: I mostly sit alone writing at home or at work or at a reserved table at the restaurant that always keeps a table open for me near the wall and a plug so I can write, and then, suddenly I’m on a sun-washed beach – still alone – while other vacationers are bouncing around in the waves of the Caribbean. My head, however, is somewhere in Pakistan or Canada or New York or New York State.

I was in the book. I edit on the beach by day and at night punch in the changes onto my laptop. Real hot time so far, right?

Well I get to do other things, but always with the umbilical cord stretched tight between the manuscript and myself. Somewhere close to day 4 I am finished. What a feeling. Then it’s a metamorphosis into a vacationer on the beach. Then comes the day when I leave, shed the bathing suit for totally climate inappropriate NYC street clothes as I head to the plane.

Within 24 hours of JetBlue flight 704 touching down at JFK, I had ‘published’ my uncorrected manuscript at Kinkos, as kind of an advance copy, meant for my close inner circle of friends to read and comment on. I do this with trepidation.

Now the book is on my desk (see below)

I sit here, with a feeling of completion–not quite postpartum depression, but a kind of hope mixed with anxiety that the squiggly lines on the page are going to filter through to a human being who will decode them into an emotion…or for the tech savvy; the text will be an emoticon 😉

Within the pages these emotions connect to the plot and characters, settings and pacing. And I hope that I haven’t violated too many rules of literary infrastructure – despite my dashes of precocious flirting with generally accepted norms. An intentional flirtation calculated to hopefully lead someone to gauge my work as a fresh, interesting approach – or just a downright good read. I don’t care which one, as long as it isn’t “I couldn’t stay with it”.

So I threw a fancy cover on it, in the hopes that it warms my readers up to the idea of, “Oh, this looks finished.”

Then I sit back, empty nest syndrome sweeping over me as my baby is out there. I wait and wait, twiddling my thumbs and… I don’t know, maybe find something to do, like write this blog?

Guest Author James LePore talks: The Myth of Place

The Myth of Place: Why I Chose Southern Mexico as the Venue for a Large Swath of Blood of My Brother

Mexico, at once magical and diabolical.

—Anonymous

    In 1997, I spent four weeks in southern Mexico, in the city of Oaxaca and on the Pacific Coast between Puerto Escondido and Puerto Angel. I had just read Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry, and wanted to see, and photograph, imagesthe country where Lowry (in real life) and the American Consul Firm in (in the novel) had tried so hard, but failed, to commit suicide by mezcal.

    The coast road from Puerto Escondido deteriorated with a jolting suddenness as I approached Zippolite. Earlier, I had picked up a hitchhiker, a middle-aged Brit with bad teeth and a scruffy beard, wearing a bandana like a sixties hippie, who told me, as I was dropping him off at a godforsaken roadside cantina, that he had heard that a busload of American tourists had been hijacked earlier in the day north of Puerto Angel and all were killed. I immediately regretted leaving Puerto Escondido so late—night had fallen as suddenly as the road had turned to rutted hard-pan—but I pushed on. There were two or three large bonfires on Zippolite’s beach, their light reflecting wildly off of the huge waves crashing behind them, the waves that had for years, according to my guide book, attracted the world’s most insane surfers.

    Ten minutes later, I was in Puerto Angel and twenty minutes after that ordering dinner on the veranda of a small but clean and not un-charming inn on a hillside overlooking Puerto Angel Bay, lit to perfection by the moon and stars shining down through a clear night sky. The inn’s owner, a graying ex-hippie herself from San Francisco, had heard nothing of any massacre of Americans. Rumors, she said, it’s what the ex-pats and the paranoid surf bums live on along this coast. The time to worry will be when the rumors stop. She had been running her inn for twenty years, so, relieved, I was happy to take her at her word. So happy that after dinner I had three or four shots of the strong—very strong—and smoky local mezcal.

    There was a couple that I took to be American—in their late twenties, both blond, both good looking—at a table not too far away. The place was otherwise empty. I thought to ask them to join me but there was something about the way they were talking, looking at each other and then not looking at each other, that decided me against it.

    I was asleep within seconds of getting into bed.

    At three AM I was wide awake. My room was among a half dozen or so situated along a wide terrace facing the bay. I took my cigarettes out to this terrace, found a comfortable chair next to a thick potted palm tree of some kind, and sat, to smoke and look down at the bay and the dark Pacific beyond until I felt I could fall back to sleep. Before I could light up, I heard the crash of glass on tile floor quite nearby, followed immediately by the voices, at first constrained and then getting louder, of a man and a woman arguing. A moment later, the young blonde woman from the restaurant came out of the room two doors down, stepped quickly to the terrace’s sturdy wooden railing and began vomiting over it. Her husband, or boyfriend, or whatever he was, came out and put his hand on her shoulder, but she shook it off violently. She was wearing a thin cotton robe or wrap, knee length, which she had been holding closed while she retched. It came loose when she shook off the man’s hand, and I could see a breast exposed, and a portion of soft, beautifully rounded abdomen, before she pulled it tight again.

    Leave me alone, she said. I’m leaving tomorrow.

    What about your share? the man asked. He was wearing jeans and no shirt, his hairless, sculpted arms and chest bathed in moonlight.

    The woman did not answer. She pulled her wrap even closer, then she turned and looked my way. I was in deep shadow and had not lit my cigarette, so I was pretty sure she couldn’t see me. I could see her face full on now. She was very beautiful. I stared at her. Your share of what, I said to myself?

    Fuck you, she said, then turned and stepped past the man and into their room. He followed and pulled the door shut behind him.

    I waited a moment or two, then lit up. And listened. But all was quiet. Like the scene I had just witnessed had never happened.

    Mexico, I thought, Mexico.

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James LePore is author of ‘A World I Never Made’, ‘Blood of My Brother,’ ‘Sons and Princes,’ ‘Gods and Fathers,’ and ‘The Fifth Man.  He currently lives in Salem, NY and is collaborating with screenwriter Carlos Davis on  his sixth novel. Click here to visit his website.

Elements of Literary Style… for Dummies

books stack_0Somebody once gave me as a gift, a book on the Elements of Style. I assumed it wasn’t as a prescriptive, in that they thought my worked lacked it, but more because it was a simple solution to the problem, “What do we get Tom for his birthday? To which the answer was probably right in front of them in a bookstore, “Oh, here’s something about writing, he does that… and it’s only $14.95!”

I approached the book with appropriate interest and anticipation of what secrets to trade craft lay between its covers.  To my dismay it turned out to be a “slog”.  It read as a lengthy, dry, dissertation that was droll and lacked any dynamism to motivate me to turn to the next page.

It angered me.  After all, isn’t the whole issue of ‘style’ a concept emanating from the good side of the literary arts? Isn’t it a positive entity, one that enhances the reader’s experience? Yet, here the author (lecturer, in the most gruesome sense) felt no compassion, compulsion or responsibility to his reader/student to try to utilize any style in his presentation, no attempt to do the hard work it would entail to romance his presentation, add challenge or wonder to the litany of the very style he was attempting to impart. Not even a jocular quote on style from GBS, if he ever said one. Nothing… flat line.

Readability, if I may forge the term, is an index of many factors, one of them being  ‘style’, that becomes the connective tissue of a story, indeed the sinewy strands of communicating neurons that allow the mind to flow with the story, a current that unconsciously holds the reader magnetized to the track the author wants to lead them down. Not so much for this book.

Indeed this was a book that one had to be assigned to read out of fear of flunking the course.  Then it hit me, Textbook! A book whose sole ingredient, to the exclusion of all else is, text! – Without subtext, context, pretext or super-text. (See my short blog; Writing Tip # 4 Text Appeal)

Yes, I know, many of you would argue, “The one place you don’t want style is in the elaboration and illumination of style as not to obfuscate or diffuse the examples.”  And you would most likely be correct, but it didn’t work for me, I had to put it down, I never read it, couldn’t read it and couldn’t force read it, so I left it on the shelf.

Which by now, as you probably realized, is self-evident by the lack of style (whatever that is?) by which I wrote this blog!

Plan B From My Inner Space!

Backstory: In the 60’s, the powerhouse Top 40 music station in New York City, and most of the east coast, was 77 WABC. Although its studios were on 6th avenue in New York City, its transmitter ‘shack’ was knee deep in a swamp in the Jersey Meadowlands. The highest power transmitter allowed by law, 50,000 watts, created an RF electrical field so powerful that “fluorescent lights” in the shack never went off, they were always on, even if unplugged, they just glowed naturally from the intense power in the air. However, the balanced AAA class phone lines that connected the studios to the shack, were the weak link in the chain. So off in the corner, sat a solitary tape machine with two giant 10-inch metal reels loaded and waiting for somebody to push “Play”

On that tape was the incomparable Dan Ingram playing records and talking them up just like always, except from time to time he’d say, “If you are hearing me now it means we were almost off the air.” It was a Standby Tape, ready to fill the airwaves until the problem was fixed.

Here now, for similar reasons, let’s delve into for lack of a better word “authoring.”

vectorstock_267I hate writing. I’ve always hated it. Always tried to avoid it. Looked for ways to escape it. A root canal was always a more appealing option than writing. So naturally I became an author.

Here’s the secret: I still hate writing. But I love authoring. Authoring is a multifaceted discipline of which the actual act of writing is a vehicle to achieve the end. To me an author is the strategic planner, the visionary, the god of the universe the he invents. Writing on the other hand is tactical, trapped within the lines the author has proscribed. Writing is the last part of my authoring process. In fact, I talk a story to death, long before I write it. I see the situations long before I type Chapter One. I feel the character’s loves, hates, desires and fears long before I commit them to words. In fact, I once went at a story like a buzz saw. Zipping out page after page, fueled by an incipient scene and a few fragments of dialog. I was going to beat the band.

But then the Author had a problem. I went too fast, went tactical too early. I ran out of motivation. My motivation, once I encapsulated the dynamics of the story that had fueled me, was out and now committed to prose, I stopped.

Couldn’t write. Didn’t want to.
Found every excuse not to. Then it hit me. My writer stopped because my author didn’t fully create the story. Without authoring there could be no writing. So there you have it, the dilithium crystal (Star Trek reference) of my impulse-writing engine revealed. Ultimately my books may be good or they may suck, that is in the opinion of the reader and beyond my control, but my process is always hot, energetic, sexy, breathless and satisfying… as long as that f**king author (or I should say king author…me) does his job first!

I’ve become that guy!

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Last night, at a social function, I turned into that guy. I used to joke about being a “Hyphenate”, that is, a writer-producer-director-a**hole! Last night, I crossed the ‘rude-icon.’

Pontificating is best left to pontiffs, bloviating to the bloviators and pedantics to the, um, well,… the pedanta-philes, I guess. But there is no way in H-E-double hockey sticks, that I should have simultaneously, berated and regaled my dear friends with my extremely tedious treatise on the vicissitudes of the authoring process. Like a bowler leaning his body to karmically get the ball to curve into the 7-10 split, I bent the vernacular, twisted the point and generally put “the spin” on my English.

God! Look at what I just wrote, above!

Who am I? Who is this person I’ve become? I have a case of mothball smelling, patches on the sleeve, utteration-laden, over dramatic profundities capable, boring, old Professor’s Syndrome.

Yuck! Me? I used to be soooo cool. Now, I am a walking, comedic character from a ‘coming of age’ college kid movie spewing dialog lines like; “Er… not really!” an ambushing, “However, in reality…” a ticking, “Well, here’s an interesting fact.”. I hope I get over myself in time for my next blog.

Wait, ‘utteration’ isn’t even a word! See what I mean!