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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Here's what reviewers are saying about Leaving Jackson Wolf . . .

Born Not To Run . . .

Though I had officially called it quits on my day job of nearly three-decades Christmas Eve, January 2, 2020 felt like my first real day of retirement. Two of my kids were still home, one on college break, the other recently graduated and looking for a job. My wife had gone back to work that morning, but before doing so, turned off the lights on the Christmas tree, signaling the holidays were officially over. Over too, was the excitement leading up to my retirement, which made me feel like a between person, a ghost passing through a purgatory of relative being and non-being and coming out the other side a whole person again who, for the first time since his teens, no longer had a job to go to. Now that these things had passed, I was charged with implementing the plan I developed to avoid common post-work mistakes like watching Morning Joe, napping half the day away or pouring myself a drink at noon.

I awoke a bit before 4 a.m. which was a shade later than the time I got up during my working days. I made coffee, fed animals and engaged in a bit of self-loathing for wasting time scrolling through meaningless social media posts. Eventually, about 4:45am, I got going on what would fill many of my post-work hours—writing. I am the author of two novels and currently have a book of essays in search of a home. So I got to work on my highest priority piece, a novel that had been shelved for some time because of the day job and other projects—I always seem to have twenty things going at once. Part of my plan was to prioritize these projects into a hierarchical order. The most important, hardest writing would come in the earliest part of the day, when the caffeine circulating through my system would synchronize with my fresh, well rested mind. Other writing and tasks would follow according to importance.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Snowy Accident

         Many authors on the margins like me have marketing strategies that often include newsletters, where they tell you about works in progress (that’s wip for you non-authors), offer giveaways and provide the details about the hummus sandwich they had for lunch. Anything to keep a precious reader connected and interested. I rarely write about writing or my life as an author because quite frankly—it’s boring as shit. It would just be a lot of conversation about getting up early and sitting in front of a laptop, the tyranny of the day job, complaints about having to workout, bourbon and why U2 sucks. 
     So, I don’t write about writing. But, the other day as I was up early sitting in front of my laptop I stumbled upon something in my writing that I want to talk about, and it doesn’t include anything about the tyranny of the dayjob, working out, bourbon or goddamn U2.

Sunday, November 18, 2018


To celebrate Joni Mitchell's 75th birthday here's an essay I wrote about the song Hejira. At some point this will be included in a book titled The Last Playlist. As a stand alone here, it lacks a little context and is in need of a professional edit, but for now—it's good enough. Happy Birthday Joni!  

Hejira- Joni Mitchell
     My road to Joni Mitchell began from an unlikely place—Rick Ocasek of The Cars.  Back in the early nineteen-eighties, Rolling Stone magazine would do these little cut outs of what musician were listening to at the moment, which was like an early version of this whole playlist phenomenon. Amidst all the garbage from the likes of Sammy Hagar and Bonnie Tyler, there was this really cool, obscure little list by Ocasek which included the album Blue, by Joni Mitchell. I didn’t much like The Cars, but was really impressed by his list.  
     Up to that point I was only familiar with Joni through songs on the radio and Court and Spark which my buddy The Doctor inherited from his sister and would sometimes play while we were hanging out in his room instead of doing our Chemistry homework.  
     Unlike most of us who were occupied with the flavor of the day—Queen, Fleetwood Mac and the like, The Doctor, had a PhD. level record collection that was small, but very hip and included jazz greats like Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Chick Corea and Court and Spark. I guess I liked the album, but not enough to explore further due to my very limited resources which went to Friday night beer and other brilliant albums like I’m In You by Peter Frampton.
     So I kind of forgot about Joni for several years until I saw Ocasek’s list. A little more evolved and a little further along with my resources I picked up Blue and it hit me hard.  The intimacy of these revelatory songs featuring Joni’s bittersweet voice accompanied by minimal instrumentation—often just a lone guitar or piano, were so visceral and so real and were such a welcome break from hairdos and bombast of the punk/new wave I was listening to at the time.  
     I also felt a kinship with Blue’s aspirations and disappointments while the wide open spaces, not suffocating with sound, were wondrous. Like many before me I not only fell for the music, but Joni as well. Beautifully blond, with an arresting smile she made you think of flowers and sunshine while informing you with an intelligence that was gritty and deep. The empty pinup she was not and my heart didn’t stand a chance against such a woman.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Interview With Book Blogger/Writer Anthony Avina

1)Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
 I grew up in a small three bedroom/one bathroom house with my parents and nine siblings in Buffalo, New York. Presently, I live in a suburb of Buffalo with my wife and three college age children, who are never going to leave.

As far as how I started to write. I went through a pretty aimless period after high school where I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do and was in and out of college.  Finally, in my early twenties I started read in a pretty serious way—stuff like Kerouac, Philip Roth, the poetry of Anne Sexton—which led me to want to give writing a shot. Problem was by the time I was all read up I was in my late twenties and had the pressure of trying to keep a roof over my head and a pretty serious girlfriend, whom I would eventually marry and have children with, so I had to shelve the writing thing. But when the kids got older and needed me less, I started to get up before work (really the middle of the night) make some coffee and write for a few hours. Few years later I have two published novels and a book of essays on the way, plus a million other ideas for books.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Indie Music and Leaving Jackson Wolf . . .

     In  Leaving Jack Wolf  available November 2, 2018 on Amazon and other on-line retailers we find the main characters: Jackson, McDougal, Lexi and Syd to be huge fans of cutting edge indie music. From the end of Chapter 1, this is McDougal listening to his favorite new song by Mitski. Of Mitski, rock legend Iggy Pop said: ". . . probably the most advanced American songwriter I know . . .  she can do whatever she wants- she writes and sings and she plays too."

From Leaving Jackson Wolf . . .
“This is Mitski. She’s my favorite.”
And from the mini Bose poured a voice with that rainy-afternoon vibe similar to Lana Del Rey’s, backed though by a broader range of instruments that included some ass-kicking guitar. The arrangements and Mitski’s voice also had more range. Sometimes it was apathetic, sometimes it was desperate and it ticked both up and down. Whatever it was, it was really good, and you could see McDougal totally lose himself in it. We all had stuff we got lost in, but McDougal brought it to another level under that ominous gray sky when “Your Best American Girl” started to play.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Origin of O'Malley

In the midst of the Great Depression, on a hot summer night in 1931, a girl barely twenty years old of dubious eastern European origins and reputation enters a northwestern Pennsylvania hospital. Anxious and scared, accompanied only by her stern, disapproving mother, she gives birth to a son, whom she will call William.
     William is the result of an unholy union between the young woman and a local business owner’s son of German descent. The exacting business owner forbids his son from having anything to do with the woman or her son and thus young William begins life with the shame and illegitimacy of a bastard child. But, not being acknowledged by his father was only part of it. Within a few years young William will be rejected again, this time by his mother when she meets an Irish man named O’Malley and follows him to Buffalo, NY. There, she starts a family proper, while young William anguishes with his grandmother in their ethnic enclave in Pennsylvania.
     Though wanting to be with his mother very badly William thrives as people rally around him in the tightly knit community. He does well academically, is a good athlete and is the star of school plays.
     In his mid-teens his grandmother becomes ill and William is sent to Buffalo to finally be with his mother. On the long train ride to Buffalo not only does he bring the shame of his illegitimacy, he also brings a strange eastern European name and a funny Pennsylvania accent for which he is mocked and derided. Sheltered in his ethnic enclave his entire life, William isn’t prepared for these these verbal assaults and is hurt by them. But, he fights back and eventually loses the accent, takes the name O’Malley as his own and acclimates to his Irish/Catholic neighborhood.