My Return…

It has been more than a year since I last wrote. Chalk it up to two strokes after I returned from Ireland in 2017. It was the end of August and a hurricane was headed toward the Keys. Two of my wife’s friends where at the house (thankfully) and when I started to black out they drove me to the hospital.

About two-hours later, sitting in the ER and after having a brain  scan, I began to feel better. Uncharacteristically, I listened to the doctors and was taken to a hospital in Miami. Two and a half days later they released me.

I needed to be under a doctor’s care and all the doctors in Key West were evacuating as the hurricane got closer.

To make a long story short (?) I had another relapse in North Carolina and my daughter Seanan drove from NY to get me. The day she arrived, I felt fine and I followed her back to NY in my car. When we were within the distance for a free tow from AAA, we stopped to eat and called the tow company.

One morning in NY, I woke with the side of my head numb. The numbness moved down my right side. My son-in-law got to me a hospital in NJ where a neighbor is the business manager.

Two and a  half days (again) and I was released. Had a great doctor. She was from Russia and did her internship in NYC.

By the time I drove back to Key West, the hurricane had devastated the area . Luckily, the trees in the front of  my house fell toward the street and took out our fence, but the house was livable.

Believe  it or not, we have just recently received our insurance check and are in the process of getting the house back into shape. I can’t complain because I know people only a few miles north of us that lost almost everything and have to rebuild.

I worked on a book in Ireland and got most of it written –  MISTAKEN IDENTITY – that has two section. Dublin & Key West. The Dublin part covers a drug war that is really going on today and my Irish friends convinced me to change the bad guys names. I did.

I mentioned most of this in my last post, but wanted to let everyone catch up and I wanted ask your forgiveness for taking so long in posting.

More about the book  in my next post. I hope some of my readers are still there. If so, let me know and thank you for reading.

As Time Goes By . . .

Things have been going downhill now for a few weeks. Minor out-patient surgery, then a stroke that got me to Miami for a weekend and, of course, the hurricane hitting Key West only miles from my house.

As the hurricane got closer, all services in Key West were canceled, in including medical. I decided to drive to my daughter’s house in West Nyack, NY. Somewhere been I-81 in Va., and my daughter’s house I had another stroke. My son-in-law Paul got me to the hospital in NJ where he knew people.

Accept for a slower than normal memory of people’s names, I am fine. If I continue to feel good, I will head back to a messy situation in Key West next Monday. I have no droopy eye or limp arm. I am told if I could choose the type of stroke to have, I chose right. apparently, vessels in the back of my head burst. Will it happen again? Maybe, maybe not. Medical science!

According to my wife, who stayed behind, the house has minor damage but the once landscaped yard is a mess. Three trees down and plants . . . well there ain’t no plants!

We certainly made out better than folks only 30-miles or so north of us in Big Pine and Marathon. Many of the homes in the middle and upper Keys were destroyed.

I am only 50 or so pages from completing my novel, Mistaken Identity, but with illness and worry over my family and house in Key West, I haven’t been able to find the imputes to writer! Maybe when I get home to my desk and books surrounding  me the story will finally come to an end.

Stay tuned. Would like to hear from any of you that are stroke survivors.


Cold & Wet in Dublin – Writing Weather

I’ve been in Dublin for a little more than a week and the weather gods must not be pleased with me! Converting celsius to Fahrenheit  I came up with the mid 60s during the day and too damn cold at night! Low 50s to mid 40s. Luckily, I came prepared for the weather.

Bad weather (by my standards) has kept me at the keyboard. I have finished chapters 46, 47 and 48. I’ve introduced a  new character. All I can say without ruining the story is the character is a woman. Good or bad, you’ll have to read the book to find out. But it has been fun throwing her into the mix of Murphy and clan, even Padre Thomas.

It’s also nice to be writing all day for a change. Maybe I’m not cutout to write in T-shirt and shorts. Can’t bundle up like this at home. I’d be committed!

There has a been a day or two the sun came out and I got pizza and took it to Cusack’s Pub about the five-minute walk from the cottage. The small pizza place is across the street and they welcome customers to bring the pizza in and enjoy a pint or two. I’d be going back but a cold pint is not inviting at this time.

The cottage does have an espresso coffee maker (there’s a God in heaven) so I have my daily overdose of cafe con leches.

Last night I put my Boy Scout training to work and started a fire in the fireplace. Jensine, whose cottage I am staying at, called the local firewood guy and though this is not the season for deliveries, she explained I was from Key West and cold. I ordered five bags and six were delivered! The driver said the boss felt for me! I think he would’ve laughed but knew it would be impolite.

My Boy Scout training is kind of rusty when it comes to starting fires and I proved that last night and this morning (can’t get the fire going no matter how much newspaper I put beneath the logs). I have to bundle up to walk to Fairview to the store and by some starter briquets. If they have cans of soup, I’m getting a few of those two.

It looks as if I will get a lot of writing done in the next week. Always a silver lining, my mother used to say. At least I’ve got matches and don’t have to rub two sticks together. Maybe I should return my Eagle Scout badge?




Dublin Writers’ Conference

I arrived in Dublin on the 22nd, after an overnight flight – Key West to Atlanta, Atlanta to Dublin. Only Delta has that connection. It beats flying to Miami, to NY to Dublin. No matter how you fly, you arrive the next day.

Before I left, Ireland was having a heat wave. Of course, the weather returned to normal on the 22nd.

The conference started Friday afternoon and offered good speakers in their field. Subjects included: Storytelling and Our Evolving Business. It was interesting to see how different writers felt about the evolving business. The one thing they all seemed to agree on is that publishing has changed and is continuing to change.

After the formal session, everyone headed to the restaurant and writers read from their works.

Saturday began at 10 am. Subjects the panelist talked about were: Self-Publishing Vs. Traditional Publishing and Creative Elements.  Those two subjects took up most of Saturday’s conference. There were speakers with a lot of knowledge of subjects about self-promotion and how to set up book-signings.

An informal dinner was held Saturday evening and was well attended.

This conference gave me somethings to think about but also to network with other writers and a chance to catch up with some friends. My five weeks in Ireland will involved a lot of catching up.

There are actually large and small bookstores to visit and signings to attend and pub conversation with other writers.People actually buy books here! If the sun gods return, I might even take a tour of southern Ireland. If not, it’s always warm and snug in a pub.

Sorry about the poor quality of the image, but it was the best I could get from where I sat. That’s Laurence O’Bryan, conference founder, talking about promotion.

Where’s Hemingway & Tennessee Williams when you need them?

I have been writing! Honestly! Up to chapter 45 and ready for some more twists to the plot. I am also leaving Wednesday afternoon for 5 weeks in Dublin, Ireland. I arrive in time for the yearly Dublin Writers Conference and stay at a friend’s cottage in the North Strand neighborhood where my new book has a few chapters about the cottage, taken with poetic license.

I finished Right As Wrong Could Be at the cottage last year and hope the cool, fresh air of Ireland’s summer temps helps me finish Mistaken Identity. Last September I began the book and due to the circus in DC, I have logged more TV time than writing time! With a little bit of Irish luck, I will have the new book out in the fall.

A small germ of an idea has planted itself in my head about a new story, but I don’t think too much about it because it would only be another distraction from my writing.

Dublin is a great city for writers, with its Irish Writers Center in Parnell Square. What a building! It has classes and lectures offered to members and the public all year-long. I joined a couple of years ago.

Also, the city has bookstores! Real bookstores that have signing that people attend!

I am fortunate that over the years I’ve met and become friends with a lot of people in Dublin that are successful writers to struggling writers. The common thread is that we all write.

That thread is missing these days in Key West. No gathering place for writers (or maybe I’m just not invited) and book signings for local writers and less known writers seems to be off from eight to ten years ago. Where’s Hemingway and Tennessee Williams when you need them?

I hope to post from Dublin but if not, I am either dead or enjoying the company of other writers. Some travel to other parts of Ireland is scheduled too. Oh yeah, and lots of writing. I prefer enjoying the company to death, in case you wondered.

(The photo above is a collection of writers at Toner’s Pub in Dublin. There was a reading by writers that night and the room was full)

The importance of extra eyes

Since my last post, I have been busy with editing the first 100 pages. Those chapters take place in Dublin, Ireland and two of my writer friends in Ireland offered to read the chapters. I got one back from Mick Helpin by email with suggestions and then yellowed shaded areas that he questioned and/or had suggestions for.

Paul T. Lynch and I Skyped for two days and he went chapter-by-chapter with suggestions and corrections.

While I’ve been to Ireland a few times, and been lucky enough to meet and become friends with many writers there, I am in no way an expert on Dublin. I know what I see. Last June/July there was a lot of construction as workers laid trolley tracks on many of the streets,  including O’Connell Street in the City Center.

When my friends offered to read the Dublin chapters, I jumped at the chance. I visited and did research on Dublin, with Google maps, etc. As a writer, even a writer of fiction, it is important to get real destinations correct. No quicker way to turn-off a reader than show him/her that you don’t know what you’re writing about. That’s one of the reasons I stay as true as possible to the businesses and people of Key West.

One of my rewards is receiving emails from readers mentioning they know the bar and where there just last month! Or that’s where they celebrated their anniversary. It’s a lot better getting those emails than one saying ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about!’

Mick Helpin gave me some suggestions about changing the opening. I liked them, but the opening is done and to change it would mean major re-writing. I like the opening, so I will stick with it.

One of the reasons I don’t usually read my own books after publication is that I find places I realize I could’ve done differently. Maybe better or added a clue.

I think we can, as writers, look at others’ work and think of how we’d do it differently. Human nature, I guess. What we have to do is send in the best copy we are capable of at the time and go on to the next project.

My last book is always my best, or so it should be. I learn from each book I write and from books I read. The day I stop learning is the day I stop writing and that day I’d better be dead!

With Mick and Paul Lynch I hit the  jackpot. Both are familiar with Dublin, its character as a city and its language. Most big cities have a language of its own, be it Dublin or Boston, or NYC, or L.A. . . .

With their help I am able to get the Irish character speaking properly even when slang  is involved. Harp beer, a big seller at Irish pubs in the States, isn’t sold in pubs in Dublin. A real error on my part, if my friends hadn’t pointed it out. You can find it  in pubs to the North.

My point is, if a writer can find people who will read his/her works with a critical eye and offer an honest evaluation, grab that opportunity. It’s golden!

When I finish the book, I will go back to the first section and work on the corrections and suggestions my friends gave. If I tried to do it now, I just be putting off the job of finishing the book. That’s why it’s called re-writing!

Finishing a chapter

I finished chapter 33 yesterday. More interruptions than I care to admit to kept me from writing, but that is a writer’s life. Since mid last year, I’ve had more distractions than I want. But I’m beating a dead horse here, ain’t I?

No one is holding a gun to my head or my children as hostage, to keep me from writing. The fault lies with me. I’ve broken years of routine. Up around 6 a.m., cafe con leche, start the computer, go over yesterday’s pages. Begin new pages. Look at notes. Allow characters to takeover and tell me where to go. Another con leche.

Noon, or a little before, I’m done. Mentally whipped. I may like where I am in the story and possibly treat myself to lunch downtown with a friend. Or I am not excited with where I am and worry about where the storyline is going. That worry will follow me to bed.

I might sit under the house, have a beer and cigar while I watch TV, but my mind will be more occupied with the story than with the news or a program I recorded earlier. TV is often an escape. It allows my mind to rest. Other times it’s background noise.

These days, I find myself writing more often in the late morning into the early afternoon. I’m okay with that, as long as I am writing. But old morning habit has had me schedule doctor appointments, lunch dates, visit to the tailors and other things in the afternoon. My friends know not to call me until afternoon.

Here is something Robert DeNiro said (I think he’s been reading my mail):

The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination, consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.

Robert De Niro


Rainy day writing

It rained overnight and now it’s drizzling. A good time to make a cafe con leche and write. I am working  on chapter 33, it continues in the graveyard where chapter 32 ended.

I spent the first part of the morning reading over and making changes to chapter 32. My mind seems to work faster than my fingers, when it comes to writing. I am always finding a sentence where I’ve left out a word. Thankfully, Word warms me when I type the same word twice.

Someone asked me at a book signing if I re-read my books after they are published. My answer was “No.” I did, in the beginning, read the first book. I think any writer who re-reads his/her work will always find places he/she would do differently or should have done differently.

What I’ve convinced myself of is that I did the  best I could do and with each book should be getting better. Of course, it’s the reader who lets us know if we are doing better. Could be the sales or an email, but the reader is the decision maker.

Guess it’s time to try to finish chapter 33. Have some bad guys to shoot and Mick Murphy has some bad news coming! Still raining!