What a character!

It’s not a revolutionary statement to say everyone is different. It’s made patently obvious simply by looking around. I believe one difference is how we approach our reading. Some concentrate on plot, some on prose, and others on message, with lots of other facets in between and plenty of combinations thereof.

I’m starting to think I’m a character guy. (It’s not just the fact that so many people have said I’m a character. That’s a coincidence. Maybe.) In every novel I read, I seem to be drawn first to its characters. As I wrote before, though I can’t explain why, I care deeply about what happens to these fictional people. It makes no sense, but there it is. If a book’s characters annoy me, there’s a better than even chance I won’t care for it, no matter how well regarded it might be.

It turns out that maybe that characteristic has carried over to my writing. More than one reader has commented on my protagonists, Fania in A Slippery Land and Calandra in A Song in the Storm. (Both are young women. Go figure.) I expect myself to be obsessed with my characters, but it’s a supreme compliment when I hear things like:

I can’t stop thinking about Fania.

Fania is a great role model for my daughter.

I agree, but I have a different perspective. Hopefully, Calandra will have a similar effect on readers.

It’s not just the leads, but even the minor characters get under my skin. That makes the writing and reading so much more fun. And since of necessity I read my own books many, many times in the revision and proofing processes, it’s good to know I’ll be spending time with people, er, characters I care about.

I hope you care as much as I do. But maybe you’re a plot person. Hopefully I’ll have you covered, too.

“A Song in the Storm” is here!

As threatened, er, I mean, promised, my new book is finally available.

The story follows a young woman living in Lucca, Italy, in 1924. Gifted with a magnificent singing voice, she is on the verge of fulfilling her dream of becoming a professional singer. Her dream is crushed when her father tells her she must go to America to marry a man she’s never met. Her odyssey takes her from an ocean crossing, through Ellis Island, to Boston’s North End, with a lot of twists and surprises along the way.

While the story is fictional, it is inspired by the true experience of my grandmother, who was from Italy and lived through a similar situation. It also realistically represents the difficult road traveled by Italian immigrants in the early 20th century, a reality not much different from other ethnic groups before and since.

Click on any of the following links to buy a copy of the paperback or Kindle version:

Amazon

My Amazon author page

CreateSpace store

Kindle version

For some reason, the Kindle version hasn’t been linked to the paperback version. That kind of thing sometimes takes a few days and it might be fixed by the time you read this. In any case, you can get any version you want.

Like my last book, A Slippery Land, this one started as a screenplay. Like that screenplay, this one had received some good notice. One of the most highly respected screenwriting instructors in the world had the following comments about the movie script:

There is so much to like about A SONG IN THE STORM it is hard to know where to begin.

Calandra is exactly who you want your hero to be. She is in a world she is unfamiliar with, searching for her dream while fighting off a life forced upon her.

And the endearing ending you provide just tops the great story off so well. Super job!

I hope you have a chance to read the book and have the same reaction. If you do, let me know what you think. Also, if you read the book, I would greatly appreciate it if you would add a review to Amazon and/or Goodreads.

Thank you for your support of independent authors!

Coming soon!

A girl with a gift…
…a forced marriage…
…and a favor that will change a family’s history forever.

Coming soon:

A Song in the Storm

Watch this blog for details and availability.

Haiti seven years after

Does the seventh anniversary of the earthquake that ravaged Haiti mean so much to me because I wrote a book about it? Or did I write a book about the Haiti earthquake because it meant so much to me? One can never be 100% sure of one’s own motives but I’d be dreadfully disappointed in myself if there were even a hint of truth in the former.

Rather, I hope I wrote a book about Haiti because of my love for the nation and its people. Exposing others to the truth about a place so badly misunderstood is one of my missions in life. Thus, it’s appropriate to keep the nation and its plight in the forefront of peoples’ consciousnesses, whether through a blog or a photo or a book.

Never forget.

proudhaitian

[This is important enough that I wrote a much longer post in my other blog. You can read it here.]

Hurricane Matthew fundraising

This is a one-off emergency post to announce the following:

From 10/31/16 until 12/31/16, I will donate 50% of all gross sales (not just profits) of “A Slippery Land” to a reputable organization doing Hurricane Matthew relief efforts. (I can’t say which one, but you’ll get a clue on this page.) That’s $6.00 for every paperback and $2.00 for every Kindle sale through the end of 2016 or until the amount reaches $2,000.00, whichever comes first. (I’m betting on the former, though I’d be perfectly happy with the latter.)

Local Authors presentation

Shameless self-(and-town-library-)promotion:

FLYER Local Authors 2016

That’s me in the upper left hand corner (in Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince, Haiti). I’ll be hanging out with my fellow local authors talking about our books. My book, A Slippery Land, will be available for sale. As part of my presentation, I’ll be showing photos of some of the settings in the book. Click on the poster above for more details about the event.

Come on out if you have a chance. Support local authors! (Such as me. :-))

“A Slippery Land”

It’s finally done. My first book, a novel about Haiti, is available for sale in paperback or Kindle edition. Here’s the cover:

ASLcoverFor the sake of completeness, here’s the back cover:

ASLback

I’ve been working on this book in one form or another for more than four years. It started out as a screenplay, one that finished in the top 5% in the world’s most prestigious screenplay competition. Some of the judges’ comments included: “Strongly, clearly, confidently, and dramatically written… Settings are vividly brought to life… There is a heartbreaking authenticity to this.”

The story follows the life of a Haitian girl over six years, beginning with the nightmare of the 2010 earthquake. Her life becomes a series of trials common to many Haitians. How she faces those difficulties reflects on the resilience and strength of the Haitian people.

The book’s title comes from a painfully appropriate Haitian Creole proverb: “Lavi se tè glise“, which translates to the English: “Life is a slippery land.”

While a fictional tale, “A Slippery Land” carries a lot of truth. It incorporates many actual events I’ve seen or experienced and observations I’ve made while visiting the country and getting to know its people over the last 15 years.

Please consider buying a copy and letting me know what you think. The book is suitable for a wide audience, including Young Adult – even though it has no vampires, zombies, or mean girls, though Haiti could qualify as a dystopian society – or anyone who enjoys reading and learning about other cultures. It should be particularly good for book clubs because there’s plenty to discuss about our perceptions of Haiti and the third world.

You can see and purchase the paperback or Kindle edition through my Amazon author page here.

Thank you for reading.

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Coming soon!

My first novel is on the verge of being self-published. Sorry. That’s a misleading statement. The book isn’t publishing itself. My self is publishing it.

The good news is, it’s absurdly easy to publish one’s own book today.

The bad news is, it’s absurdly easy to publish one’s own book today.

Thus, my book will be out there soon, fighting for attention amidst an overwhelming onslaught of similarly hopeful creations by similarly hopeful creators. My hope is that its quality rises above that of the average tome available. But who am I to judge?

I’ve already given a teaser in a previous post. Since then I’ve finished the book, changed the title (twice), and had a terrific designer create some fantastic cover art.  Come back in a month or so and I’ll shamelessly and relentlessly plug it.

One agent told me that it’s a hard sell because it’s about Haiti and no one is interested in reading about Haiti. I hope that’s not true for many reasons, not just because it means no one will buy my book. More importantly, it saddens me to think that people might no longer have any concern for that sad and beautiful nation.

Six years ago this week Haiti was all anyone was talking about. This past Tuesday (January 12) marks the sixth anniversary of the horrific earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people, injured countless more – no one will ever know exactly how many of each – and put millions out of their homes.

Now, they tell me, no one cares.

I hope you do.

Look closely

Whenever the subject of book tours is brought up in the company of writers, they all talk about how much they dread them. The travel, the repetitive questions, the crowds or the absence of them. I can’t imagine why they don’t enjoy the experience. If I had a book tour, believe me, I’d make the most of it. Easy to say since the prospect is slim for me. I can always dream.

If it’s any consolation to those jaded scribes, I enjoy hearing author presentations of any kind. The standard format is to have the authors read excerpts from their work then endure a line of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of autograph hounds. Serious RSI potential.

One of my favorite writers, Mark Helprin, did the signing thing but declined to read from his book, claiming that there were only a few great actors in the world and there was no way he could do his prose justice with his weak performance skills. There’s a lot of truth in what he said. What’s the point in hearing him read his own stuff anyway? Usually, I’ve already read it. If I’m there, I’m probably a fan so he doesn’t have to sell me on the book.

Instead of reading, Helprin described fascinating, often bizarre experiences he’d had. Not surprising, since his books are filled with such occurrences. He concluded his talk by urging his readers to follow his example by keeping our eyes open to the amazing things that happen around us all the time. (That’s heavily paraphrased. My addled memory can’t recall his exact words and my comparatively pathetic prose can’t come anywhere near his lofty standard.)

In the spirit of his admonition, and my unwillingness to devote too much time to this post in the face of deadlines and exhaustion, I present some photos of things I’ve observed in recent months. Since each is worth 1,000 words, this could be my longest post of all.

Enjoy, but then go out and have your own experiences.


I saw these two buses drive off a ferry recently. Which one would you prefer to ride, “Elite” or “Lamers”?

IMG_20150917_112917463_HDR IMG_20150917_113050820

 

 

 

 

This is what’s called a “no-brainer”. Who’s the marketing wizard who came up with “Lamers” for a name? It’s almost certainly a person’s name – a person who put his (or her) ego before the company’s best interests.

This guy was giving away ice cream in downtown Boston. I love this town!

This guy was giving away ice cream in downtown Boston. I love this town!

A visitor on the bike path. Is it any wonder I spend as much time on it as possible?

A visitor on the bike path. Is it any wonder I spend as much time there as possible?

What's cooler than the front porch of a general store?

What’s cooler than hanging out on the front porch of a general store? Especially Alley’s. (Martha’s Vineyard)

There’s something inspiring about these two trees seeming to grow out of nothing but rock. (Acadia National Park)

 

Take one, leave one

Please permit me this brief observation to accommodate a busy schedule…

T1L1

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the literary crowd is a pretty civilized group as a whole. A primary piece of evidence supporting this conclusion is the existence of “take one, leave one” bookshelves. These things are everywhere, in hotels, doctor’s offices, and coffee shops, among other locales. Some are even out in the open air, accessible to all!

(While researching this piece, I stumbled upon an organization that promotes these installations. Little Free Library gives everyone a chance to create their own T1L1 system. The photo above depicts one of many sites they’ve inspired.)

Free books on the honor system. What a concept. I’ve never heard of anyone taking unfair advantage of this largesse. People really do most often leave one when they take one. At worst, they return the one they take. At best, they return more than one. How cool is that?

Of course, the aforementioned “mini-libraries” owe their existence to that bastion of American socialism, the free library system. They are a testament to the honesty and goodwill of the reading public. Anyone with a little card (no, not an Amex) can borrow books (and more recently, music, videos, and select other materials) at no cost, the only condition being that they be returned in approximately the same condition in which they started.

Can you imagine any other product being offered thus? There’s no shortage of stuff people want and could use on a temporary basis. Why isn’t there a clothing library? There are times (such as weddings and funerals) when borrowing a nice suit would be helpful. Sporting goods? How often do you need those skis? Why not borrow them on an as-needed basis from the sports library?

People will argue that literacy is such a fundamental need that free books are more than a luxury. They’re a necessity to the populace of a democratic nation. Well, couldn’t I say the same about fitness? Isn’t a healthy public important? Then where are those sports libraries when I want a set of golf clubs for a quick nine? Or why not clothes? Isn’t a clothed community better than a naked one? (Have you looked around lately? There’s an overabundance of flesh and a severe dearth of clothing. And not in a good way.)

Free vehicles, tools, art work, and furniture would all be in great demand on a temporary basis. But that will never happen, and it’s just as well. Even by suggesting such gibberish, I run the risk of some uber-capitalist overreacting and declaring libraries as inappropriate in our free market system.

Even if that were to happen, an underground (yet above ground) T1L1 movement would thrive. Readers by their very nature want to share the joy of reading. Take it from me… and leave one.