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Serpent Blog - The Serpent Box Letters

Serpent Blog

The Serpent Box Letters 


There is a quote attributed to Hemingway that I cannot verify, but it sounds like something he would believe, if not actually say and it goes something like this:

"Some writers were born to help another write a single sentence."

And it is true. As writers we not only help each other to write, but it is our solemn responsibility to do so. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, including old Papa. But this duty, this responsibility goes beyond obligation. The gift that one writer gives to another, in helping him or her to believe, is an act of love.

This is a small story about one of those rare writers.

You wake up very early, sometimes before the sun, and you watch the light as it comes. You wake but not fully, you move slow and remain quiet and you wait for the feeling to come and then you face the page. There you sit. Alone. Day after day after day. What will come? You ask yourself this question every day and you fall asleep asking it of God. What will come? And nobody answers you. Will anything come today? You try to see things that are not really there and never were there before you imagined them. You stare at the blank page but youíre really looking inward, for some semblance of a waking dream. Thatís what it is if youíre lucky, a self-induced dream. If you can will the dream to come you can watch it play and then itís sort of like dictation except thereís no voice, only a stream of images that you record with your hand like some medium pulling messages out from beyond.

Writing is the loneliest thing there is. I mean riting from the heart. Writing beyond what you know. Writing toward the center of yourself. Writing as discovery. Writing as a means to knowing Ė not just who you truly are, but who we all are and what it means to be alive, and not merely alive but living, why do we keep on living? This is what you ask when your writing is true. Writing from darkness toward light. This is a great and difficult journey. This is a heroís quest. And it is very lonely. And it is terrifying in its loneliness. And the world outside yourself will try to crush you with solitude and the world inside yourself will try to destroy you with doubt.

But if you are very lucky you will have a friend. Please God, help me. Send me an angel. If you are very, very lucky you will find another like yourself who understands this drive, this desire, this need, to plumb the depths of this living, with words, which are magic and which were given to us by God to literally create realities and to help us understand ourselves and to change our lives and, if used wisely, to change the world for good. This is true of writers, but itís true of all people who sincerely want to grow, to transform, and evolve into a better, loving human beings. If you are lucky you will find a friend who takes you by the hand and guides you toward the light.


Writing Serpent Box was the most difficult challenge I have ever faced. How do you write a book? Where do you begin? You can research and plan and outline. You can read and study. You can travel to your desired locations and interview other human beings. But eventually you face the blank page. Then what? You have to put something on the page and someone has to read it. And when youíre new, and green and a child, with no preparation or background in writing, that person has to tell you the truth. And if that person understands you, and if they love you and believe in you, then you stand a chance at surviving the onslaught that will be hurled at you every single day. All the doubt, all the fear, all those voices that are telling you that you canít do it, that you should quit, that you donít have what it takes. All you need to weather the storm is another writer who is a friend.

In 1999 I went to Belize and met a writer who changed my life. His name is Andrew Wilson and he has been my mentor ever since. We became friends at the Zoetrope All-Story Short Story Writerís Workshop. It was in Belize that I began my odyssey. Everything changed in that high forest near the Guatemalan border. I wrote the first line of Serpent Box in Belize and left that country determined to turn writing from a hobby into my lifeís great passion. Andrew Wilson, who is more talented than I, who has more experience than I, who has written one of the best novels I have ever read (a novel as yet unpublished) listened to me, read my work, and was there for me during the dark and hopeless days when I not only wanted to quit, but wanted to die.

I wrote Andrew a letter every day before I began my writing and sent them to him via email. I used those letters to bolster my confidence and to weigh ideas. They were sounding boards, those letters were, and often Andrew would answer them with a few well-chosen words of advice, or, with a quotation from some great writer who had gone through what I was going through. My letters were cries for help and Andrew replied with love. I grew to trust him, and thus, to trust myself. Knowing that a living, loving human being was out there listening to me was enough to keep me going through some very dark times.

The Serpent Box Letters were inspired by The East of Eden Letters, written by John Steinbeck to his editor Pascal Covici while Steinbeck was writing that great novel. Reading Steinbeckís letters showed me that all writers, regardless of stature or level of success, continue to struggle each time they try to pull a book out of themselves that is greater than themselves. Writing a book that is bigger than yourself, that is far-reaching, and that tries to answer a great question that burns within you, is a heroís quest. And the great heroes of myth never do it alone.

Here now is the first letter I wrote to Andrew Wilson, only a few months into the process of writing Serpent Box. By this time it had become my routine to work in a local coffee shop each morning, a wonderful place called The Higher Grounds Cafť in the Glen Park district of San Francisco.

January 9, 2002 - The Higher Grounds Cafť, San Francisco

Andrew,

Today I begin what I hope will become a daily habit, a way to warm up my fingers and loosen my writing head. It is a glorious morning, and I cannot tell you how important that is for oneís state of mind. If there is sun, and most importantly, shadow, I know that the dayís writing will be rich and full of raw emotion. Yesterday I wrote in the morning in long-hand, as I explained, and in the afternoon I transcribed some of that onto my little Mac laptop which I love so much. I write everything in long-hand first and then transcribe onto the Mac. This process is arduous, and the transcription is many times more difficult than the actual writing. This is because I labor over it and mull it over, and read it, again and again and sometimes out loud so I can get a sense of cadence and tone. I fill in all the blanks this way and beef up the writing and it becomes rich like churned butter as I work it over and over during this part of the process. I know now that I will have to go back into the manuscript and add scenes. I suppose that on my first pass I hit all the highlights and perhaps leave out the broader and perhaps more important mundane aspects of the world my people live in.

I approach the work with great excitement today. This is because I think I know what the next scene will be. It is so strange to have these visions, these waking dreams in which I see fictional people alive and in motion. Sometimes I feel like an unwilling prophet, like Jonah or Isaiah, with these dreams thrust upon me from above. I feel as much pain and consternation as they, and I wish that if God actually wanted to speak through me, he would just appear and be done with itÖ

One thing before I go. I feel bad about yesterday. I donít think I was much help to you, and I so badly want to give back. I sensed a reluctance in you, I felt that perhaps you had wanted to say more. I am nobody to be giving you advice about writing, but I feel we are kindred spirits in other ways too, and that I am more than qualified to speak on the subject of angst and pain. Particularly pain. And I feel it my friend. Like a an old wound of war, a bullet too close to the spine, itís always with me, and there are days when I am so close to the black edge that I can hardly believe I escaped a darker fateÖI know now that is the words that saved me, if I did not find books when I did, my path would have been very bleak indeed. Perhaps this is what Tim OíBrien means when he says that stories can save usÖ

VLC

To read more letters please come back tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that...

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U-Boat : A Story 
I am posting, for the first time here, a story in progress. The story is called U-Boat, and it was written (as so many of my stories are) in response to a photograph. I thank David Fox, a fine writer, for providing me with this inspiration and for continuing to challenge me with sparks and fuel.

U-Boat is an oral story. It was written as if it was spoken. Soon I will post an MP3 of me reading it.

If you read it, and have an emotional response to it, please convey that to me. Here is the photo I began with:



And here is U-Boat.

U-Boat


The sky was bright and clear the morning the old captain disappeared, but the water was mysteriously black, and it was smooth as a mill pond after a night with no moon. The tide was dead bottom low. He was up before dawn, as was his custom, and he was seen at Fultonís for bait. He bartered for a box of sandworms with Dewey Fulton and bought a quarterís worth of Bunker chum he scooped into a Maxwell House can with a tin dipper that hung from a rope on a hook. When he left the chandlery about ten past six it was already warm enough to melt the creosote on the dock pilings and the glass was rising ahead of a squall that never did come. He was seen out near the Lost Banks around seven and the skipper of the Cornada spotted him at anchor at Torpedo Rock at eight. Beyond that there were no further sightings. Nobody paid much attention to him those days - though I always watched for him, to ask what might be running, and Iíd often query him on weather sign and the draw of certain bait. But when I saw that old bicycle of his there against the dock-shed on past midnight I just had the feeling Iíd never see him again.

I remember. When I was a boy, weíd see him dive the sunken wrecks to hunt conger eels with a three-pronged spear. And one time I watched him swim through a rough chop in a storm, with the bowline of that little Whaler he had in his teeth, pulling that boat against a swift current in the dark with the strength of the damned. We called him the captain. He was a man who spoke few words but those words he did speak carried with them the weight of one who knew the sea and all her means of betrayal. He would fish in the Narrows at slack-water or out at Bird Island when the tide pulled too fast, for he was old by this time and his hands were not quite as strong. He was a captain in name only, as there were many who claimed he skippered a submarine in the war, true or not he was a German sure enough. He had the mad blue eyes of an Aryan prince.

He lived in that gray shack at the end of the estuary, the one with the crooked stove-pipe and the raked tin roof and he kept more cats than he could feed with the guts of his daily catch. He had the tanned and leathered skin of an old waterman, his face was deeply lined and he had a great head of silver hair. But what I remember most about him were his hands. His hands were things of true ugliness and strength and they appeared to have been forged with hammers of ice. His skin was all red on his swollen knuckles and scarred up good and he lacked nails on some of his fingers and lacked a finger entire on his left hand where he also bore a smudged black tattoo that could have been an eagle or an anchor or some Teutonic creature from the walls of Wotanís crypt. As boys we all called it the hand of death.

I set out that next morning and searched all the hidden coves of the island and all his favorite haunts but it was like he fell off the edge of the world. We never did find a body nor was he ever seen again on the waters of Maine. But later on that night I found his boat swamped and adrift in the reeds. The engine was an old Merc 30 and it was in good working order, with plenty of gas left in the tank. The oars were lashed tight to the gunwale as was all of his gear - his rods, his nets, the sandworms and the chum. The only strange thing was that the anchor was gone, its line trailing a good twenty feet in the water but still wrapped tight around a cleat. The bitter end looked like it was cut clean with a knife.

He was a skilled mechanic, the captain was, and he could perform marvels with old outboards and diesels alike. If he so desired he could have surely restored some old truck or a car. But he rode this red bicycle that he salvaged from the bay with a grappling hook and he refused to drive, nor would he ride in anything with wheels and an engine, even when offered a lift. He fished with poles and he fished with nets and like I told you thereíd be times heíd dive the wrecks off the shoals with nothing to aid such endeavors but a harpoon he fashioned from a number eight treble hook and narrow shaft of ornately carved teak. He rode that old bicycle with all that gear lashed to a pair of hand-sewn goat-hide panniers and there was a time heíd ride fast, and in a crouch, with his elbows akimbo and his face down near the bars like some renegade boy on a dare.

Like I said we called him the captain but the name on his mailbox was Wilhelm Schmidt and he was hated by some for what he might have been. This is a small island remember, and many served in that war. We donít forget those who go down to the sea in ships. There are mothers here still whose boys went down with the Hermione. There was one woman, spat right in his face. She had two sons aboard that ship. Darling was her name. Henrietta Darling. The boys were named David and Skip. Walked straight up to him and spat in his face. Middle of Mulhoonís this was, and she had an arm-full of groceries and the captain he came in for a bottle of milk. He wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve but she spit again and hit him right in the eye, and that time he let it stay. Just stood there like she shot him dead. He left a quarter on the counter-top and never was seen in there again. Mulhoon threw that quarter out in the street and later on I went and picked it up. I keep that old coin in my wallet for reasons I still donít understand and I have it there still.

Well, after that heíd take company with no man and he began drinking alone at The Scupper, talking to himself in that old language of fairy tales and myth, just talking and talking, as if some phantom might answer back. Many a time heíd pound on the bar with his fist and storm off in a rage. But that was the only occasion weíd ever see him that way. Mostly he was quiet and he was always kind to the children. I remember that. Carved us little animals out of wood. Made us bamboo fishing poles and taught us the secrets of current and wind. On Sundays heíd fix our bicycles for us and heíd make us boys these kites out of newspapers that could fly higher than anything you could buy in a store. As the years passed, and we got older we saw him less and less. He became like a ghost, wandering out there on the water searching for something he lost long ago.

One night, I remember I was filling in for the barman at the Scupper when old Billy, as I came to call him, was in there alone on a bender. Told me it was his birthday and he got me good and drunk. He was singing to himself some old song that pleased him greatly when he leaned too far backwards and fell off the stool on his ass, and he took with him a shelf full of glasses that broke all over his head and face. They cut him up pretty good. I brought him back into the kitchen to pick the glass out and I made him some coffee too. He was stinking drunk and started talking in German with bits of English mixed in and then he suddenly seemed sober and he looked at me with those crazy blue eyes of his and told me I had always been a good little boy.

You were always a good lad Steven, he said. And I told him told him to shut up and hold still. But he kept talking.

You were always good to me, he said. Always polite.

Well, I had a pair of tweezers in my hand and I was holding his chin, trying to turn his face to the light so I could get the last of it. He was bleeding and there were small shards of glass, which I could see the glitter of, in the light of a single hanging bulb.

Thereís gold down there Steven, he said and I paid that no mind. I told him to stop jabbering.

I need you to hold still, I said and I picked all the glass out of his face and he kept quiet long enough for me to get the job done. I cleaned him with alcohol and dabbed iodine on his cheek and tried to send him home but he couldnít walk by himself so I carried him, with his arm around my neck like some wounded chum. All the way down to the docks where he lived alone those many years.

It was late by this time, and the stars were out in all their glory and he saw them too, and maybe itís the effect of such a sky that gets a man to thinking about the time heís spent in this world and the time he has left. Maybe thereís some message in those far off lights that we can somehow understand that reminds us how small we really are and how foolish and how we just canít hide from our God. Whatever it might have been was in him now and he trembled and he began to cry like a boy. He fell to his knees on the dock there at my feet.

We were to set a man ashore, he said. An SS man.

I didnít know what he was saying.

Youíre drunk Billy, I said.

But his voice had changed. His voice took on that death-bed quality when your mind suddenly becomes clear and you realize youíre finally free from all your lies. He held my arm just above my wrist. He held me in the death hand. So strong was his grip, I can feel it now. And he looked at me.

This was October, he said. 1942. And there was a beautiful yellow moon on that night. We surfaced. We came up to launch the boat. Close enough to see the lights of Chahanatuck.

And he stared out at the lights of our village across the harbor as if he had just discovered some new land.

The manís name was Oldong, he said. Karl Oldong. He spoke perfect English. Hands like a woman he had and a briefcase full of Kugerants. I know this because I saw it Steven, and because I would also operate the wireless. I knew what he was.

And then he let go of my arm, and he let out a small cry, a sound came out of his throat that might have been a word not fully formed. He looked me square in the eye.

I was the only one Steven, he said. I was the only one who survived that night.

And I remembered.

The U-Boat. So many of our merchantmen sunk that dread summer. And thatís how it was with the Hermione, a trawler bound for Nova Scotia who took two dud torpedoes astern that didnít explode and one amidships that did, breaking her neatly in half so that her bow rose straight up out of the water tombstone black and burning like a Roman candle, like some torch from the netherland in the hand that swallows ships, and we saw it all, we gathered on the beaches and we gathered on the cliffs and we watched her out there till dawn, spewing great arcs of fire, and refusing to go down, her survivors coming ashore in ones and twos and drenched in oil so black youíd hardly know them as men, so badly burned we thought it seaweed hanging from their limbs, wading up on Danger Beach in a night so quiet we could hear the flames out there and those great sheets of Pennsylvania iron, buckling, tearing, this terrible groan, the leviathan itself I imagined, Iíll never forget that sound as long as I live, the collective sigh of all manís demons, the pride of his generations unwrought by the curse of Prometheus himself, sinking, just slipping away with a final hiss of smoke and bubbles into the very bosom of our creation.

And that was that. Later on that same night the U-Boat was sunk by a depth-charge from a coast guard cutter. And thatís all the captain ever said about it. I put him to bed that night in tears and never spoke of it again. We were drunk, the two of us, and this was years ago and of course I went off to Korea and learned a thing or two about what it means to be the only one who comes back from something so terrible and wrong. I gained what you might call perspective on this art of killing men that we call war. The things you see and the things you do. To live. To survive. But you donít think about that. You canít. You only think about living in that moment, not living with yourself later on, or you wonít make it, you just wonít, and only after does the feeling hit you, that maybe it wouldíve been better to not have lived at all. Only later, when you see a child like the one you saw lying in the road at No Gun Ri, or when you smell apple blossoms, or cordite in the air, or that other smell that will never leave your hands or leave your clothes. The dead. The dead. You see them in every elbow now, every knee, the Adamís apples, all the teeth, itís in every face and every body and enough to drive you mad like it must have driven him mad, living among us as he did, all those years, and do you know what he was doing? All that time? Diving the wreck of his U-boat. No air supply. No tanks or nothing. Going out there, night after night and bringing things back that were better left alone.

Well, after I found it that night I towed his boat back into the harbor and I pumped it out and tied it up in one of my empty slips. I brought his bicycle down to the dock shed, where it stands to this day, and that night I jimmied the lock on the door of his shack and went in with a lantern to see what clues I might find there. Everywhere I looked there were things covered in barnacles that seemed vaguely to resemble the handiwork of men and all around me were things living in the shadows and slinking back into the darkness whenever I raised the light. They ran between my legs and brushed up against my shoulders and I could see them perched all over and up in the rafters, their eye-shine red as the spectral lights of chaos. His collection of feral cats. And the sound they made together was horrible amidst the grisly exhibition of things he pulled from the wreck. They wailed like babies and darted about so fast that I fell among them and the heavier objects he must have raised with a winch - hatch-covers and wheels and iron gears and a torpedo entire. It must have taken him years to gather what I saw there laid out before me like some museum of the Paukenschlag - all the plates and cups he had, the spoons and sliver forks, the rotten uniforms and tarnished buttons, their caps and shoes, and their skulls. Yes he brought them up too. God lord I had stepped into a tomb.

Now I know what youíre thinking and I know what youíre going to ask so Iíll just cut right to the chase. I never did find that German gold, though I searched the shack through and I dug up around it and I even found the U-boat. Sunk in less than forty feet of water, past the shoals about two-hundred yards off Danger Beach. I found his charts and I found the map he made of the wreck and I read his log through and through. I never said a word to nobody and I brought it all back to where it belonged. Every last relic. I dropped them all back into the wreck. And I bought his little shack. I had to or heíd have been discovered. I cleaned it out and kept the cats and sometimes I go in there and sit on his bunk and read what he wrote. I got a hold of German dictionary and pretty much translated all his journals and his letters too. Believe me, thereís a whole other story there I could tell you, the things heís seen and the things heís done. We misjudged him we did. All of us. If they could only know what I know theyíd build a statue of him in the square.

Ask yourself this. How did that cutter find them so quick? How did Billy survive when none of the others did? Something to ponder on nights like this. And one day Iíll tell you what I think. But not now my boy, not now. Now is a time for bed. Now is a time for dreams. But Iíll tell something. Sometimes I just sit there in his shack, in the quiet. Sometimes I go out in his boat and just drift there above the wreck. And every once in a blue moon Iíll hop on that old red bicycle of his and I will ride like the ever-loving wind.

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The Road: Litquake, LoveFest and Tiny Purple Fishes 


The thing is, you never do know where the road is going to take you. Our intended destinations rarely turn out to be our destinyís true intent. What we need most to see, to hear, to feel in our hearts, is given to us. It is laid out at our feet, if you look for it. If you trust the road.

I thought it was Litquake. This was Saturday October 4th. I believed I was coming into the City for Litquake. I was reading from Serpent Box at the San Francisco Public Library at an event titled Off The Richter Scale with several other authors and I was prepared for this. I chose my passage well Ė a dream sequence from the novel where a key character confronts his imminent death through six minutes of surreal and disturbing imagery filled with pathos and dread and a demon embodied in a statue made of glass.

Reading this excerpt aloud to the Litquake audience left me with a sad, soul-sick feeling. And in that moment, in that room, I began to understand the true meaning of what I wrote more than five years ago. Our demons are ourselves, twisted by fear and doubt. And we must pay attention to our dreams, all of them. Not just those that come to us in our sleep - dreams, visions and that which unfolds before our eyes as we live and breathe. As I concluded my reading, I could feel the shift of my tectonic self.

What I did not know, what I could not know, was that the scene outside of the library would leave me even sadder and sicker then the scene I recreated with my voice within. What I saw in Larkin street filled me with a different kind of dread, a dread more troubling, more heart-breaking than the fiction I concocted when I wrote that dark dream of fear and confusion just after 9/11.

Outside the library an annual event was beginning to unfold. Civic Center Plaza, City Hall, the courthouse and several adjacent streets were cordoned off and hundreds of young, scantily dressed girls and visibly intoxicated boys were streaming in toward multiple sound stages emitting gut-churning charges of thumping techno beats. LoveFest, is what they call it. A Bacchanal ritual of pot-smoking, X-dropping, booze-swilling hedonism marked by the bastardized fashion motifs of Blade Runner, Brittany Spears and a Burning Man gone awry. ĎLoveFestí is a mash-up of raves, house parties and Mardi Gras that is all fest and no love. And it made me want to weep.

I had little choice but to wade through the crowd in order to get up to Van Ness for the post-reading book signing. And I thought, no big deal. Iím a veteran of sixty Grateful Dead shows and four New Paltz Spring Fests. I can handle this. Iíve done my share of drinking, smoking and tripping. This will be interesting, I thought. So into the sea of humanity I plunged. Nothing could prepare me for what I saw and felt.

LoveFest is bleak and hollow and very sad, a self-indulgent, narcissistic symptom of a culture steeped in wanton excess, in body parts apart from bodies, the abstraction of the female form from the female soul, a shameless culture of mind-altering look-at-meís bent on voyeurism , chemical alteration and physical denial. These youth, these children, some of them clearly no older than twelve, but most between sixteen and twenty - drinking, smoking, tripping, gyrating, puking, humping, vogue-ing, posing -so lost, so numb, so out of touch with the world and themselves.

The vibe was terrifying. The air was suffused with a sort of carnal panic. It was High School Musical meets Lord of the Flies. There was no warmth, no peace and love, none of the playful esprit du corps you feel at other San Francisco gatherings. It felt dead. I stood in the midst of a teenage wasteland where the pierced and the tattooed gathered to gawk and convulse in pink feather boas and g-strings.

Up Polk street I ran, as far as I could go. I got out of that madness searching for somewhere I could use to reset myself, to ground myself again. I stood in an alley watching three junkies shooting up and I saw a sign. It read. Tropical fish. Freshwater only. A tiny little hole in the wall. It beckoned me. And I followed.

Imagine a darkened room, roughly the size of an average two-car garage with a labyrinth of walls constructed entirely of small aquariums, so lush with living iridescent plant-life that each tank glows and emits a soft emerald light so that the whole dark space is lit by ambient pools that cast flickering reflections on a wet concrete floor. The store is empty. I hear the low hum of air pumps and soft bubbling water. I walk through the maze and peer into each little tank, where I see fish of wonderful shape and coloration, many I have never seen before, most of them rare and quite small, guppy-like, schooling, flickering, completely at home in their self-contained little ponds. Hundreds of such tanks. Hand-written signs bearing Latin names. No sound other than bubbles and vibrations. Thousands of little fishes of violet, crimson, indigo, jade, living within these fecund, perfectly miniature worlds, each like some fairy realm, so alive, so marvelous and lovingly cared for, each a tiny slice of Amazonia, some African rift lake, a Mekong tributary. My heart swelled and all that darkness, all that dread, all that alien coldness I had brought in from the street, slipped away from me like some robe of sin. This was what I came for. The road brought me.

Later on I went to the signing at Books Inc. and I stood there waiting for someone to pick up my book, my view of the world, and the road. Some did. I signed the copies there at the table, eight of them, the way I sign all my anonymous dedications. Fear not, I wrote, only believe.

I believe the road is my road, and mine alone. When I walk out that door each day I have faith I will see something, just one thing, that I did not expect to see but which was placed in my path expressly for my soul. I went to LitQuake to read what I wrote about that faith to those who would listen. I lost a little of that faith at LoveFest, but I found it again in a magic little room surrounded by miracles.

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Playlist for this Blog: Sins of My Father/Tom Waits, Tales of Brave Ulysses/Cream, The Only Living Boy in New York/Simon & Garfunkel, Down to the Waterline/Dire Straits.
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It turns out the Tin Man had a heart all along... 


I donít suppose I have too many readers here, not many at all who might be hanging on waiting for the next installment of the SerpentBlog. But Iíve only got myself to blame. Iíve not written here in awhile and I want to tell you why.

What I have been doing instead of writing blogs is writing stories. As much as I like blogging I like writing stories better, and thatís what I should be doing because Iíve stiffened up lately like the Tin Man and the stories are my oil.

So in the next few days or so Iím going to post the latest little piece of fiction Iíve been working on here Ė right here in the blog itself. Iím going to buck convention and let you see it before anyone else does. Iím going to let you see a rough draft of a tale written to be told by mouth.

I donít have much time to write these days. Unfortunately I have no patron. I have a job. I work now on my fiction about an hour a day and thatís not nearly enough to do the kind of work I really want to be doing. But itís enough time to write small stories of small consequence.

These past few months, every morning, Iíve taken out my oil can to lube my elbows and loosen my knees. And I like what Iíve written. So Iíll let you see that soon if you want.

The working title for this new piece is U-Boat and hereís a preview:

ďÖWe called him the captain. He was a man who spoke few words but those words he did speak carried with them the weight of one who knew the sea and all her means of betrayalÖ He had the tanned and leathered skin of a old waterman. His face was deeply lined and he had a great head of silver hair. But the thing I remember most about him was his hands. His hands were things of true ugliness and strength and they appeared to have been forged with hammers of iceÖĒ


On to business.

On Saturday October 4th Iíll be reading at the San Francisco Public Library as part of Litquake.

Saturdayís event is called ďOff The Richter ScaleĒ and if you live in the Bay Area I would just live to see you there. I have been given six minutes to read so Iíve chosen a passage from Serpent Box that I promise will deliver the goods. If you donít know it already, I love to read aloud and I write all my stories with the spoken word very much in mind.

Oral story-telling is an incredibly important and endangered form of art and expression, especially in these i-Phone, i-Pod, I-M, I-seclude-my-self-behind-a-glass-screen digital times. So please, support reading, story-telling and old fashioned human interaction by attending a Litquake event this coming week. It is a great San Francisco tradition I am honored to be a part of.
Though I realize it is unlikely youíll attend, here is the Litquake website and calendar of events:

http://www.litquake.org/the-festival/opening-day/

Iíll be at the Koret Auditorium at 2pm and later on at Books Inc, Opera Plaza for a signing at 5.

Meanwhile, Iím going to get my oil can out again. My story is calling me, and I need to live. Thanks loyal readers, see you all Saturday at the temple of books Ė The SF Public Library. 100 Larkin St.

VLC





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Author of Snake-Handling Yarn Has Hit on his Hands 
From the August 27th issue of the Staten Island Advance.

http://www.silive.com/siadvance/stories ... amp;coll=1

I won't re-post it here, but if you're interested please check it out.

VLC

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