Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

For most of my life, if I was awake, I had a book in my hand.

Riding the bus, walking to school, in the quad between classes, lounging at home, I’d have a book open, thumb in the crease, my nose buried in its leaves. Novels, anthologies, treatises, memoirs, history, science, poetry.



I read it.

Then, about a dozen years ago, life went off the rails. Book deals dried up. Friends and family began to die (at least ten during this period). We fostered a young woman, giving her a place to live for a year. Work became a stress factory. The economy tanked, causing the Great Recession. Then along came Trump. And then this pandemic.

In response, my reading habits changed, radically. They became constrained, limited to news articles, political analyses, and works of non-fiction. Instead of a dog-eared book, I carried my tablet with its instant-on, 24×7 access to current events and a front-row seat to our increasingly divided society.

Even so, every now and again, I would return to my fiction books, the stacks of TBR novels that inhabit every room in this house. I tried, repeatedly, to read one of them, hungry for that immersive experience, that miraculous wash of words that would sweep away reality and bathe me in the light of a different sun.

But the miracle never came. I didn’t have the patience, lacked the power to focus., and was unable to drive away the here-and-now with worlds of what-if. Book after book I picked up, opened, began, and abandoned within a few days, the only evidence of my attempt, a bookmark left somewhere in the first thirty pages.

With all this as preamble, one might wonder why, during my recent time off, I decided yet again to pick up a novel and give it a try. I mean, there I was in the last month of the most turbulent election cycle of my sixty-plus years, with a pandemic raging beyond my door, a daily gush of political scandals and turmoil filling the airwaves, and everywhere people shouting and crying and grieving and protesting. Was it hope? Obstinacy? Desperation? Whatever compelled me, it was in this moment, amid this maelstrom of chaos, that I chose to try again, and opened up a 150-year-old book.

And I read it. Cover to cover, in record time.

And then . . . I picked up another book, and read it, too.

And now, here I am, wondering what to read next.

. . .

Do yourself a favor.

Turn off the television. Put down the phone. Leave the tablet in the other room.

Pick up a book. A real book. The one you’ve been meaning to read for so long.

Take a seat near the window, where the natural light will be over your shoulder. Settle in, book in hand.

Open it up. Stick your nose in it. Smell it. Feel the pebbled surface of the printed page, the tension of the spine.

Chapter One.


I tell you, it’s like coming home.


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Stack of BooksAlfie drove the black Audi up the hillside curves, through the grey dawn and springtime rain, stopping under the still-burning lamps of the Alta Mira. He got out and opened the passenger door.

She stepped out onto the quiet street, hair wild from the damp, portfolio of photos under her arm, and saw her ex standing at the curb across the street. Sleepy-eyed, disheveled, he looked as if he’d just wakened from a dream.

She smiled, and that was all it took. He stepped toward her.

“I miss you.”

She retreated, eyes glancing, smile snuffed like a candle. “Don’t go there, or I’ll be lost.”

Alfie interposed himself–her guardian, her protector, her armor–“Easy, mate.”

Her footsteps echoed on the brick pathway. The ex watched as she ran up to the hotel, to her dark room, her photos, and her memories.

“Leave her be,” Alfie said as he got her camera bags out of the trunk.

“For years now, everywhere I go, all I see is the light.”

Alfie’s chestnut hair gleamed with droplets of rain. He flashed white teeth in a devil’s smile as he shouldered the bags.”I know exactly what you mean.”

The ex frowned. “Where is she going next?”

“San Francisco. Then Portland.” Alfie walked across the street to the ex and extended his hand. “We won’t see you there, will we?”

The ex looked at the offered hand, then reached out as well. Alfie’s hand was strong, broad, and warm.

“No. You won’t see me.”

“Thanks, mate.” Alfie smiled again and winked. His leather soles scraped on the asphalt as he turned and walked to the hotel.

The ex watched him go, watched him toss his car keys to the valet, watched him go inside.

The ex sighed, smelling the fresh, rain-washed air. He put his hands to his face, scrubbed away his tears, and looked around at the newborn morning.

The light was beautiful.


Product of inverse clustering, 23Apr13

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A quick reminder: Today is the last day to put in your bid for the “Cast in Stone” rewrite documents.

Go to the contest post for info on how to enter to win the original story, my handwritten rewrite, and the final draft with markup.


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Kurt R.A. GiambastianiDrum roll, please….

This is the final version, rewritten top to bottom. As I was typing it all in from my handwritten rewrite (which you can win, by commenting on the “Contest” post before Friday), I found it interesting to have the original version open in a side-by-side window. When you look at them both, everything from the  original version is here in this final, but it all (at least to my mind) has more depth, and the characters’ actions seem more thought out. Getting inside a character’s head is something I did not know how to do, twenty years ago (among other things!)

This has been a very educational trip, for me. Back when I started this series, I was writing down things that I’ve learned but never put into words. And, coming face-to-face with my former self, I could see all the things that editors were saying to me over and over. I never had a “light bulb” moment regarding these errors. Learning how to write, becoming a better writer, is an accretive process, not a sprint from one epiphany to another. You might “get” the concept in a flash, but learning how to do it takes time and practice.

Anyway, I hope you’ve found it as enlightening as I have, and now, the big reveal…


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I heard the girls’ chirping laughs from across the atrium. They sounded like happy birds, echolocating in the grand space, and when I saw them, I could tell it was “Princess Day.”

They bounced along on their bendy, four-year old legs, dressed in pink and lilac and yellow and green. They wore leotards and leggings and big romantic tutus. On their heads were tiaras, pinned in their ponytailed hair, and on their feet were sneakers, their only concession to practicality.

They squealed and giggled, as only little girls do. Their guardian/pack-mule Dad followed along, dutifully observant, consciously laissez-faire. They buzzed around him like a time-lapse movie, his measured steps surrounded by streaks of pastel hues and tulle.

When they saw the fountain, their cries hit that dog-whistle range at 100dB, making every adult wince and smile at the same time. The fountain was surrounded by a shallow pool with pennies decorating its watered tiles.

One of the girls thumped purposefully down onto her butt and, with her tongue sticking out the side of her mouth and a look of decision on her face, she grabbed one of her shoes in both hands and began to tug. Her friend did likewise.

Dad, divining their intent, started juggling coats and bags so he could move in to stop the inevitable.

I turned and continued on my way, not wanting to know if they made it or not, not wanting to lose that mental picture of pure determination to have fun.

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