Larry talks about…Sarah's diary

I thought about a character interview vs posting something from one of the character’s journals or diary. I immediately opted for the interview format but no one would cooperate. Dancer told me had homework to finish (yeah sure, good one Dancer). Beeker whined that he had promised Lefty and Righty he would help them clean the hallways in their building (their dad is the super) and Joanie suddenly had a date with Scratch. As for Teddy, I could not find him anywhere. So, what to do? Well, I swiped Sarah’s diary and took a peek. I feel a bit guilty about doing this but my justification is that since I created it anyway I guess I can learn to live with it. I hope you understand. I do respect other people’s boundaries.

January 1, 1966

Dear Diary:

It is New Year’s Day and my own mother is not talking to me because I did not get home until this morning. She knows the car would not start. She knows it was only 5 degrees outside. But, it’s all about Teddy. Always about Teddy. It isn’t fair. I try so hard. I think Momma and Daddy actually hate each other. Daddy is so mean to her. He doesn’t talk to anyone. He just sits in that ridiculous red chair watching TV. I found out that he had a big yelling fight with Kevin last night and threw him out. His own son, he throws him out on New Year’s Eve. How could he do that? I was not there so Momma was probably in her room just crying and feeling alone and blaming me for it. It is not fair. I hate this so much. They have not spoken a word to each other in months. Why don’t they just separate? She makes him supper and I have to give it to him. If he needs something from her I have to get it. I’m supposed to keep them together? For what? The whole thing is insane and I can’t talk about it at all, even with Teddy. Teddy? Oh my God, she wants me to go out with Bert. Bert’s a jerk. All wrapped up in himself. Just because he goes to NYU and is going to be a doctor. Teddy is just a “stupid construction worker”. Well, I don’t care Momma, it is my life. What am I supposed to do? She always is sick and says she has chest pains and is dizzy. If something happens to her I’ll get blamed by everyone. Oh sure, it will be all my fault. I don’t know what to do. I really love Teddy but I don’t want to kill my own mother. Oh my God—I have to put this down.    Happy New Year diary, Sarah

Larry talks about…character development

Let me begin by throwing out this disclaimer: I do not consider myself an expert in the craft of writing. I say that because I am about to give you some words that relate to character development and the words will reflect how I do it. They do not make it the “right way.” The “right way” is ultimately “your way.”

First of all, I am a bit of a “pantster.” That is, I fly by the seat of my pants when I write. If I am going to outline I more than likely do it after the fact. Probably not a good thing but, it is me. Many writers
have character charts and they may profile a character before they begin to write about them. They want to get to know them first. For example, they may list: male/female; height/weight; age; ethnicity; hair color; eye color; single or married; child or teen; religion;; education and so on.

When I get in the writing mode and words begin to pour out of my pen onto the paper, (yup—pen & paper, the keyboard comes later) all sorts of thoughts start floating before me. Many may consider that a chaotic way to develop a story, no less a character. But my main character is in my head already. I know him/her. Their development and personality is almost a given when I begin. As I go along, this person has to interact with other characters in the book. Many of these characters just happen to come along, unexpectedly, as I write. Then, having met them, I begin to know them. For example, in “The Priest and The Peaches,” the character of “Fadeaway” Walker shows up. I have no idea how Fadeaway came out of my pen. But—he did. Suddenly he is a pathetic -0 year old, sort of a lost soul, soft spoken and gentle. But his incessant visiting of the local taverns never having any money and trying to get someone to buy him a drink has turned him into someone most of the guys despise and want to avoid. But then “Pops” comes along and all of that changes. There is a poignant scene at Pops’ wake when Fadeaway quietly steps to the casket and slips a pint of whiskey under the lid. Tears coming down his cheeks he whispers, “Thanks Yimey, Happy New Year.” No one sees him and he leaves. 

The point is, Fadeaway Walker came along unexpectedly and I ran with him. I never planned on his showing up but there he was. So, that is how it goes with me. I will admit that sometimes so much stuff comes out of my pen that unscrambling it and figuring it all out can be quite the challenge. So, if it works for you, develop a character chart and use it. Outline first if you must. Here is one thing I do know; we are all different so we must do our work in the most efficient way possible that fits who we are. Ultimately, we all have the same goal, to be able to write “The End.”

Larry talks about…writing about struggle and loss

Here’s something about my own experience working through “pain” and how books and writing have helped me push through. Well now, this topic truly challenged me, forcing me to look inside myself and, I must admit, that many of the memories that have been stuffed into the far recesses of my mind have been resurrected and it is sometimes unnerving for me when they start suddenly and unexpectedly begin reappearing. (Man, I feel like I’m writing in a journal here and maybe it is a good thing–not sure).

Understand this—writing and books have come after the fact. I was 15 when my mother died. Strangely, I could hardly remember a thing about her. The sound of her voice, what she liked to eat, her favorite color, favorite actor, etc. The only thing I remembered was that she loved the “I Love Lucy” show. That was it. Even writing the book did not jar the memories loose. What has freed some memories from their dark cave has been posts like this one. They have forced me to think about what has been. This is a place I rarely go. I mean, I do know that this place exists but I avoid it. Sometimes I think that sub-consciously I have done this as an act of self-preservation. I’m not sure. We are all so uniquely different yet we are all so similar. Fascinating–

I have personally experienced the death of my folks when I and my siblings were quite young. I have lived through the death of my daughter at birth, the death of my first wife from cancer, the death of my kid brother and the death of my best friend. My second wife is recovering from chemo treatments and her cancer is in remission. I have had major surgery for prostate cancer and, after almost five years, I am cancer free. I also have MS which, for five years, left me almost unable to walk. That was 25 years ago and today I am doing great and walk around just like most folks. How all of this affects my writing, I have no idea. I guess it must and maybe someday I’ll figure it all out.

Here’s the thing and I know you guys are a lot younger than I so, take some advice from an “old guy”. The key to overcoming adversity, first and foremost, is having faith in God. Now, I know a lot of folks think that is “gobbley-gook”. But many know I am right. Faith is that great intangible. You can’t see it or touch it or smell it. But, it is the greatest of all gifts and all one has to do is ask God to walk with them. He’ll DO IT! Once you do that you have laid the very foundation to build an inner peace that will transport you through any adversity you may encounter. Then–write your little heart out.

Larry talks about…character building and dialogue

I shall start by being honest about myself. This kind of thing intimidates me because I do not consider myself an expert writer no less an instructor. Okay, I have thrown out this disclaimer because I am probably worried about what will follow. Anyway, here goes.

Let’s start with “plotting”. For me, I have the idea in my head. The more I think about this idea the more vivid things become. It is as if I am picturing a house I want to build. I know where the foundation will go and I can see the finished product with its roof, windows, doors, shutters and even shrubs. But, I have not been inside that house nor have I painted the outside. I still have to install plumbing, heating, electrical, cabinets, sinks, decide on colors etc. That’s what it is like for me when thinking the story through from beginning to end. Where and how all of those necessary parts and pieces will fit together I do not know. It happens as I write and there are many changes that continually take place. By the time I have actually finished I have re-constructed that “house” many times before I even considered moving in.

As far as the characters are concerned, (the people living inside this house), you have to get to know them quickly but only enough so you want to know more about them. As I write, these folks develop and sometimes even I am surprised when I find out who they really are and what they are capable of. Actually, it is the same as meeting real people. Sometimes you may meet someone and become life-long friends. Then there are those who initially impress you but you find out soon enough that they are trouble and you quickly distance yourself. But, you never know that immediately.

As far as dialogue: I try to write just the way people speak. I use slang ie; “ain’t got” or “I dunno” depending on the character speaking. I also try to dialogue interaction where there is a minimal amount of “he saids” and “she saids”. I try to do it in such a way that the reader knows who is speaking even though you are not saying who is speaking. That can be a bit tricky at times but I think it is important to do. Also, try to avoid long winded dialogue and speeches. Get it done in one or two sentences if possible.

Larry talks about…his top vacation destinations

I am not a world traveler. In fact, I am almost a non-traveler. Vacations in my life have been few and far between. The last time I went anywhere it was five years ago and that was to a funeral in NY. Pretty dull, right? I understand that most everyone needs to get away from it all, have a change of scenery and re-charge the old batteries. As for me, I really don’t care one way or the other. I’m content where I am. Call me peculiar (it’s OK–I have been called a lot worse than that). Don’t get me wrong. There are certain places that I do like to visit. Let’s start with St. Augustine, FL, the oldest city in the United States. The city was founded in 1565 (42 years before Jamestown) by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles under the orders of King Phillip II of Spain. The old coquina shell fort still stands as do the original city gates nearby which is the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the country. If you like history, it is an amazing place to visit. I will be going there–again.

My favorite places to visit are Civil War battlefields and, without a doubt, Gettysburg, PA tops the list. If there is anyplace I love to spend time it is at Gettysburg. This place is truly hallowed ground. The battlefield is immense covering many square miles and over 50,000 young Americans died here from July 1 through 3, 1863. When I visit Gettysburg I am overwhelmed by what happened here almost 150 years ago. If you go up to “Little Round Top” and stand next to the statue of General Warren you can look down at the “The Devil’s Den” and “The Peach Orchard” and actually sense the fury and chaos that went on there on day 2 of the battle. Standing up on “Cemetery Ridge” you can look out across the vast field that leads to a line of trees. Picture 15,000 Confederate soldiers, under the command of Gen. George Pickett, stepping out from those tress and heading toward you. Imagine waiting and waiting as they slowly advance across the several mile long field. Then, all hell breaks loose as thousands of muskets and cannon began blasting away. “Picketts Charge” fails and the division is almost wiped out. This was the final battle at Gettysburg and the beginning of the end for the Confederate States of America.. Four months later, Abraham Lincoln, delivered the Gettysburg Address here and you can visit the boarding house where he stayed the night before as he finished up the two and a half minute masterpiece. Of course there are other battlefields like Fredericksburg, VA and Chancellorsville and Antietam and Fort Sumter off the Charleston, SC coast.

Well, I guess I just like history. Sometimes, when you go these places, you can just feel it.

Larry talks about … gaining inspiration from his own life story

The Priest & The Peaches is a fictionalized account of the travails of five newly orphaned kids who are just beginning their quest to stay together as a family. The truth is this—my brothers , sister and I did, in fact, lose our parents when we were very young. I can honestly though, I never planned to write a book about us or based on us. What happened was our brother , Bobby, passed away suddenly in 2007. The four of us, while hanging out after the funeral, began to reminisce about the “old days” and one memory triggered another and an explosion of “remembers” turned into an avalanche that swept us away in back-slapping laughter and tears.We must have been quite the sight because we were at a bar and restaurant in Monroe, NY and the place was filed with both friends and strangers. We had a great time and this was right after the funeral. It was a beautiful thing and that was when I began to think about writing the book.

I said that the book is a work of fiction and it is. The antagonist in the book and the priest, two main characters, are complete fiction. Many of the incidents are fictionalized but based on reality. Being ‘orphaned” and on our own was true. So, I ran with that and the actual research involved consisted of some translation from German to English and from Latin to English. There was also a bit mentioned about the dreaded illness called “pancreatitis”. This was only mentioned in dialogue and since I knew quite a bit about it (three family members had it) I just confirmed what I had written by checking various medical sites on-line. I am no expert.

The sequel I am working on will actually require a bit of research. This book is fiction also but there will be places I go and things that happen while writing it that will require definite research. Maybe next year I can come back and tell you where I have been.

Larry talks about … the man behind the book

Get to know the author behind the book. Okay, that’s me and I am my least favorite topic. I find it easier to discuss “The Priest and The Peaches” itself or the characters in the book or maybe the writing process. But, here goes.

First of all, I have always wanted to be a writer but my journey followed a winding sometimes circular road in getting to my destination. I spent 15 years working in the building trades in NYC with the Metal Lathers/Reinforcing Iron Workers until I was forced to leave that business when an insidious little demon known as MS (a handy little acronym for Multiple Sclerosis) attacked my central nervous system causing me to begin stumbling around like a drunk and then leaving me almost unable to walk at all. That was 30 years ago and today, after a lot of prayers, hard work and therapy, I use no walking aids of any kind and get around like most everyone else. My wife, Loretta, my three kids and I moved to Florida (doctor’s advice) when this was all going down and I have been here ever since.

Loretta died nine years ago from cancer (melanoma) and I married a widow, Marty, about five years ago. Marty spent almost all of 2011 undergoing chemo treatments for cancer (Lymphoma) and, thank God, she is now in remission. I myself had prostate cancer and, in May, I will be five years out. It seems that cancer is like Al-Queda—always sneaking around and attacking people trying to kill them. Fortunately, due to incredible advances, cancers are not nearly as successful as they used to be but there is still a long way to go before, like Al-Queda, they are eradicated.

I began to write seriously about four or five years ago and my first book “Slippery Willie’s Stupid Ugly Shoes” (children’s) was released in January of 2011. My first novel is “The Priest and The Peaches” and was officially launched January 1 of this year. So, I am a husband, father, grandfather and officially a “senior citizen”. Experiencing the life of a writer is my “permanent senior moment.” It’s ALL GOOD and I am not turning back.

Larry talks about … writing for the Young Adult market

I have to admit that in writing for the YA market I am not sure where the cut off is between YA and adult. I am generally of the mindset that it falls somewhere between 7th graders and high-school seniors. Let’s face it, kids today have been exposed to so much worldly supposedly “grown-up” stuff from TV, the movies, print and electronic media and YouTube and who-knows-what when they surf the web. Many of them think that they know about “everything” when, in reality, so many of them are so emotionally immature they probably do not know what reality is or is not, especially when it comes to the world of sex.

I feel that writing for the YA market is not just about story telling it is also about being responsible to your youthful audience. There should be a sense of the finer human traits we possess like caring, camaraderie, loyalty, honor, and selflessness woven throughout the narrative. It does not have to be blatant, just subtle, enough for the reader to sense it and be impacted by it. You never want to be “preachy”. Sexual interactions between a boy and girl should be approached carefully and gently and never be explicit. The reader will get the idea without all the pronounced description. We are human beings after all with feelings, emotions and the ability to reason. I think it is important to show we are not just creatures primarily controlled by our desires but rather that we, as people, have the right to say “No” or “Stop” and in return hear back, “Okay” or “Yes” and that this type of behavior is honorable and deserves respect.

Let me finish up by saying that the YA level of writing should probably also be an enjoyable read for adults. I have found some great reads at the YA level and I would recommend that adults who have not tested the waters of this genre ought to “jump in.”

Larry talks about … his plans for 2012

So you might ask, what are my plans for 2012? First of all, let me say this. In this 21st century world of high-tech communications, constant travel hither and yon and keeping up with the Kardashians, I would classify myself as a dinosaur. I’m still more or less stuck in the 80′s and 90′s watching “Cheers” and “Seinfeld” re-runs on TV. In fact, I only have basic cable which includes none of the upscale movie channels like HBO, Showtime etc. I do watch football and baseball although rooting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can give you a migraine.

Plans for the YEAR. I’m not kidding, I do not project past the day I have been blessed to have. I know, I know–I have to schedule appointments and such and I do that sort of thing. But, for me personally, I’m happy as a clam in my little corner of the world. Bottom line–I have everything money can buy. I drive a 92′ Chevy with 170k on it and it runs great. Does the same thing a new Caddy does without the “bells & whistles”. I do admit that it could use a paint job and I know that I’ll need new tires in the next month or so–big deal. I have a roof over my head, a nice bed to sleep in, a refrigerator with food in it, a TV, a computer, a DVD player, a cell-phone, a microwave, a stove and oven, a washer & dryer, friends I can count on and family that always has my back. Most importantly, I have good health and so does my wife who spent most of 2011 undergoing chemo treatments and is now in remission. The way I see it is I have all of the stuff that even a Donald Trump has. He just has bigger and better. I don’t care. Good for him.

So–my plans for 2012 are as follows. I will be voting (if I am still here) and I will be writing and trying to get better at it. Otherwise I am going to enjoy the rest of today. Tomorrow will be here soon enough.

Larry talks about … researching a historical fiction novel

My new YA book, “The Priest and The Peaches,” officially launched January 1st and it has been categorized as “historical fiction” because it takes place in the mid-1960s. Now, one might ask, what was it like doing research for the book? Well, first of all, it was not the 1860s, it was the mid-1960s. So, the answer is, it was quite easy to do. Why? Because I grew up in the 1950s and 60s and the majority of the information I needed was right inside my head. The downside to having so much information readily available was that it made me blurt out, “Oh my God, that makes you a historical figure!” Talk about suddenly feeling your age. Not to worry, since I am resilient it only took me a couple of hours to get over that.

Honestly though, the streets, the stores, the behaviors, and things like that are vivid memories for me even today. Of course, there were things that I did have to research; For example, the Tridentine Mass (the Latin Mass of the catholic church) was replaced by the Novus Ordo (new order) Mass by the Second Vatican Council that took place during the 1960’s. The Novus Ordo Mass put things in the “vernacular” meaning, for us here, English. For other areas of the world the local languages were to be used; Spanish, French, German, etc. But that was not implemented until 1969 so I did have to research to make sure the small amount of Latin I used in parts of the book’s dialogue was correct. Also, the clothing and hairdos of the period are still quite vivid to me but I could not remember what they were called. That had to be researched and that is how “Bee-hive’s” and “Bottom Flips” and “Shaggy Cuts” were found and also the old “Empire ” dresses and “Dollie” dresses to name a few.

One thing is for sure. With the world-wide web and its gaggle of Google, information on most any topic known to humankind is available with the click of a mouse. I guess I am lucky. Since I am a historical person I have over 60 years of “stuff” inside my own true PC, my brain. The problem is, sometimes I have trouble downloading the information I need and have to use my mouse to fetch it.