Thursday, April 20, 2017

Nick Cave, George Glass Loves Lily Snow, Fear, Zoloft, and words.

Obsessing: I suspect that it's something all writers do, but I do it a lot, and right now I'm obsessed with Nick Cave, nothing new there, but I'm writing this novel, George Glass Loves Lily Snow, and it's about a boy, George, who wakes up on his 13th birthday with another boy's memories in his head. This other
boy, Wesley Howard, died thirteen years prior on the same day in the same hospital two minutes before George Glass was born, and like all my fiction, this book is derived from my greatest fear, the loss of my beautiful boy, who is twelve this year. 

After he was born, I was overcome with fear that something terrible would happen to him... I had visions of gas chambers, mothers with crying babies, fingernails scratching the walls, everyone wailing, desperate and dying. 

I was responsible for this new, amazing child, and I found myself out of my body, hovering over my backyard, watching myself talk to people, analyzing how I was doing. Did I seem normal? Did I make sense? Was I speaking words how people speak words? I was holding this baby in my arms, and I couldn't enjoy him. I couldn't breathe. 

I went to see a shrink and decided that after almost twenty years of refusing anti-anxiety medication because I thought it would make me less creative, I would give it a try. I needed to breathe. Zoloft. It made me physically sick, nauseated, and I had awful dry mouth, but I would do anything to shake the fear that paralyzed me.

Now, twelve years later, the novel, the fastest I've written, first draft January to April, is nearly revised, my third novel (Lost in the Beehive) has been accepted, and I've weened off the Zoloft. 

I've put down the words for my fourth book, inspired by the parents I know who have lost children, inspired by my worst fear, inspired by Nick Cave's documentary, One More Time with Feeling, about the loss of his fifteen-year old son, Arthur, in 2015; Inspired by the album, The Skeleton Key, and the book, The Sick Bag Song, and I'm going to see Nick Cave in June. 

The last time I saw him, I passed a copy of my first novel, The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, to a roadie in the hopes that they would pass it on to him. He's in there along with David Bowie. He's the doctor at the end of the novel. It was 2010, I believe, and back then he was a different person because his son was alive. His music was different. Everything was different.

From The Sick Bag Song:

"In a studio in Malibu, Johnny Cash sat down and played a song. He was partially blind and could barely walk. I was there. 
I saw a sick man pick up his instrument and be well.
With regret I have seen the opposite too. Pick, pick, pick.
I have seen well men pick up their instruments and be sick" (19).

It's our lack of longing that gets us in the end (35).

My words are my instrument. Thanking Nick Cave today for his words and his music. He sings, "I'm down here for your soul," but really, I think, We're down here for his soul.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Travelogue Edition: Journey to Eleuthera

Day One: Day one (Wednesday, 15 Feb., 2017):

After we got through customs, we met Mr. Pinder, from whom we rented a great car, a Mazda SUV with Kilometers, not Miles per hour, so while I was driving on the left side of the road, I thought I was a speed-demon, doing 60 mph, when in fact, it would 60 kilometers per hour, more like 40 mph.

It was funny.

There is one main highway, the Queen’s highway, that runs the length of the island. As we were driving south, we were met by the most beautiful water, a turquoise color on our right, a deeper blue to our left, the glass window bridge, the narrow manmade bridge that replaced a natural rock formation after a hurricane took it out. Here, the Caribbean meets the Atlantic, and as my son Christopher said, “It’s like oil and water.” The waters touch, but they keep their color. We changed clothes on the side of the road, dropping our jeans for shorts and sandals.

As we drove through James Cistern, we saw two young Bahamian girls in Catholic-school uniforms, their hair in braids, holding hands, and skipping down the narrow road which is laden with unmarked speed bumps. I think eleven.

Just a few miles north of Governor’s Harbour’s airport, we spotted Captain Kirby’s bar, restaurant, and jet-ski rental. A very eclectic, cool place with its flag poles made from sticks and fishing poles. Bahamian, British, U. S., and Cubs flags flying. We had drinks at the bar, a Bahamian Sands beer for Danny, fresh pineapple juice for Chrissy, and I had vodka and cranberry. (I am allergic to pineapple, but I had a sip.) When I told Captain Kirby that Christopher didn’t like fish or conch, but that he liked rice and beans, he said, “I have a batch of pumpkin rice I just made.” It was SO good, and of course they had the universal language of French fries.

After Captain Kirby’s, we made our way to Governor’s Harbour, a crystal blue harbor. We drove uphill to our rental house.

Later at dusk, we walked in search of Bacchus Fine Foods, but they were out of the wine I like. They were also out of bread. Friday is the day that supplies come to the island. They bake bread at Island Farm on Tuesdays and Fridays so we’re going there tomorrow. Then, we went in search of a liquor store, but it closed, just missed it. We found a little market, no booze, but got milk and some rolls and Cadbury chocolate (love that stuff), and then we went to the Buccaneer restaurant and bar for drinks. The town at sunset is magnificent. Our bartender was Chrystal with a Ch. She’s lived here her whole life. Then, we met Patricia, who’s older. Children weren’t in her cards. We had some good stiff drinks before walking home to have dinner with Chrissy. 

A great day!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Welcome 2017, Novel #4, a new beginning in Eleuthera

Book #4: What's it all about?

Next month, I take my first trip to Eleuthera, an "out island" of the Bahamas, with an amazing history. I am researching my fourth novel, currently untitled, but for the sake of this travel adventure aspect of my blog, we'll call it The Preacher's Cave. It was in 1684 that Captain Sayles and his band of Puritans sailed west from Bermuda in search of greater religious freedom, only to shipwreck off the coast of Eleuthera on a reef called the Devil's Backbone. Sayles named the island after the Greek word for freedom: "Eleuthero." 

The island's original inhabitants, the Lucayan Indians, had been forced into slavery 100 years prior and taken to work the gold and silver mines in South America by the Spanish. Thus, the island was empty when Sayles and the others shipwrecked.

The Preacher's Cave, Eleuthera
I became interested in Eleuthera after reading a non-fiction book on the fate of 60,000 British citizens/loyalists who supported British rule during the American Revolution. The British supporters were forced to leave America following the revolution. Some went to England, an unfamiliar country for most. Many went to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but those who wanted to keep their slaves (plantation owners) chose to attempt life in the Bahamas. Because they had lost their land and possessions, they thought that they should keep their slaves. Of course, the Bahamas is mostly rock, and not suitable for the kind of farming the southerners wanted.

Nothing would be easy for the loyalists. First, they decided to settle in British-owned Northern Florida. This land was ideal for them, but then King George, whom they had vehemently supported, gave Florida to the Spanish King in exchange for Gibraltar so these American Loyalists felt trapped. They were Americans without their America. 

My novel is about the dispossession of women, all women, but in particular, an African woman, Mbali, her slave name Mary. When Mbali is sold in Savannah, she curses her owners, praying to her gods that they lose everything, their land and loved ones, how she has. When her owners are forced from their land, their loved ones forever changed by the revolutionary war, her prayer has come to fruition. What fate, what reversal of fortune awaits Mbali in Eleuthera?