The Reluctant Father: A Serial Novel Where the Reader (You) Determines the Next Chapter

What follows is my first attempt at utilizing WordPress to write a serial novel (a novel printed in installments.)  You, the reader will play a significant roll in the evolution of this story.  Read the current chapter and leave a comment briefly letting me (the author) know where you think the characters and story should go next.

FATHER

THE RELUCTANT FATHER

Chapter One: Tatiana and Irina

Had she shot me point blank in the heart, she could not have done more damage.

I met Tatiana eight years earlier.  She was sitting alone in an Armenian café on the corner of Santa Monica and New Hampshire.  This was the “Little Russia” enclave of Los Angeles. Not the safest place for a 28 year old red-headed Anglo to be perusing at fifteen after midnight.  People disappeared in this neighborhood for a lot less than satisfying a piroshki craving.  Reflexively, I patted my .32 Baikal pistol tucked beneath my sweatshirt. My stomach gurgled with hunger.

She was stunningly gorgeous. And well, she wasn’t exactly alone.  Clutched  close to her ample breasts, wrapped in a coffee stained tattered blanket with “LA Children’s Hospital” emblazoned across the hem, was a baby.  Normally, this is when I tune out and continue on my way, but she was too fucking beautiful.

“привет,” (hello) I whispered, not wanting to wake the child.

“ебать с,”  (fuck off) she whispered back, glaring at me with the softest brown eyes I had ever seen.

“Why?” I replied, in full voice, hoping I would wake the child just to annoy her.  “Is Daddy coming…ever?”  I felt mildly ashamed at offering such a cruel comeback, knowing full well she was probably a single mom struggling just to keep her sanity for one more night.  Now she had to further her misery with flirting from some asshole the likes of me.

As if it were possible, her soft brown eyes turned even softer, as tears started to well.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “you didn’t deserve that.”

“I’m sorry, too.” she replied, in broken English.  “My name is Tatiana.  This is Irina, and no, Daddy isn’t coming…ever.”

“Tony,” I offered. “So, where’s Daddy?”  I looked at the sleeping child.  She was so pink and I swear there was a smile on her cherub face.  A beauty, just like her mother…but without the stain of a hard life that her mother was wrestling with at midnight in an Armenian café.

“In prison, “ she replied.  “He doesn’t even know he’s a Daddy.”

“Well, he couldn’t have been in long.  How old is she?”

“One month.  We broke up when he was arrested.  I was two months pregnant.”

It was a bit of an uncomfortable introduction, but we meet people how we meet them.  It was obvious that Tatiana was starving for some contact other than the baby she held.  Without thinking it through, I offered:

“Do you need help?”

“Help?  How can you help me,” she spit.

“Do… You  …Need … Help? I repeated, softly.

She looked away for a moment, lifting the corner of the baby blanket to dab her eyes.  After about 15 seconds of silence, she replied,

“Yes…we need help.”

———————————— end Chapter One

Why We Need WordPress

WordPress

Every week seems to bring unwelcome news from a new corner of the globe. Death in Syria, a massacre of innocents in Newtown, hurricanes in New York, gridlock in Washington, and the list is endless. You can try to unplug from all of this, but only if you unplug from life itself. Perhaps it all seems so much more pervasive because we have so many more media outlets inundating our lives.

But if that’s true, where then are the uplifting stories? Where are the tales of human heroism that lift us beyond our everyday blues and reveals the true range of human experience? Why aren’t these stories profiled more?

Much like the gluttony of Wall Street, main stream media is obsessed with the belief that the only thing that sells is grief and despair. Don’t get me wrong; to overcome evil, we must be vigilant about the abuses we humans bestow upon one another. We cannot stick our head in a bucket of flowers and hope that things get better. But to get better, we need inspiration. We need stories of triumph and victory. We need to be able to imagine and create.

How, then, do we tap into that inspiration if it is so miserably doled out? How might we convince the media that there’s money to be found in hope?

WordPress is so much more than a place to deposit our mental meanderings and provide snapshots of our lives. I spend my fair share of time on WordPress, a preeminent social interactive outlet of our day. To be sure, I do so because it is a source of inspiration, albeit a vicarious one. On its pages I read story after story of shared love, creativity, hope, and shared promise. Most of it from contributors I really don’t know, but the threads of our lives are imperceptibly bound, and so I delight in the photos, the wealth of talent of emerging writers, and watching a new generation move out into and experience their worlds. I revel in the creative outpouring of strangers, reminding us that the true nature of humanity is to seek higher ground and to give voice to our inner genius. I am inspired by the artistic, the storytellers, and the spirituality.

It just makes me feel good, if only for a moment.

Curiously, I don’t see a lot of call for sharing misery; that seems to be because WordPress’s design is at its core inspirational. On its pages we get to live the vicarious joys and triumphs of our fellow man, awash in creative genius and altruism.

I don’t think WordPress intentionally designed a utopian community bulletin board seeking to share love and joy and hope, but there you have it.

Perhaps one day, our media will be redesigned so that the stories that diminish us will be supplanted by those that lift us up. At its best, WordPress can increase our capacity to love, overcome, and persevere. We already know where to go to get our unfortunate daily fill of grief.

And now we also know where to go to recharge our souls and learn to rebuild our sense of what it truly means to be actualized humans.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

A Writer’s Resolutions

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New Year’s Resolutions – we hear about them every year. It’s always a good idea to write out your life goals, but have you put down your writing goals?

Some writer goals may include daily word counts, monthly submission ambitions, markets to tackle or even research to complete. No matter what level you consider yourself (beginner or professional) here are four matters to attend to this year.

1) Talent – the size of your writing gift doesn’t matter. You can always learn or improve. If you’re a beginner, you are probably overwhelmed about where to begin. Whether this is true or you’re a more advanced author, I suggest reading or revisiting both Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. These two books are as much biographical and philosophical as they are lessons for the writer.

2) Agent – Make this the year you get an agent. Research which ones represent your favorite authors – this can usually be found in the acknowledgments sections of the book, but you can also find out on the internet. Use search sites such as http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/ , http://www.writersmarket.com/ , and http://absolutewrite.com/ to read reviews of agents in your genre. PLEASE be sure to examine an agents personal website and submission guidelines before you contact them.

3) Publisher – Whether you have chosen the self-publishing route or not, it’s always a good idea to attempt traditional publishers. More and more authors and agents are suggesting you publish both routes.

4) Platform – An agent or publisher wants to see you can market and sell yourself before they put any of their own work and money into you. It’s about visibility and requires a focus on developing an unobstructed back and forth between authors and their readers, with the authors — not the publishers — controlling the flow. So get on facebook, twitter, pinterest, LinkedIn, get a blog or a website or do a combination.

As with everything else in life, you’ll need to find a balance for your time. And remember, even the best writers have days when their resolutions flounder. Each day is a new beginning – make them count. Happy New Year!

 

Writing for Ghosts

It is 4 a.m. and once again I am planted before the keyboard attempting to craft words into clever sentences…and there you go, failure in the first keystrokes. The good news, based upon my dearth of hits on WordPress, is that no one will read this anyway.

I once envisioned myself a budding writer, but now I am thoroughly convinced that feeling was nothing more than insomnia in the early morning hours combined with a pot of cheap coffee flushing out last night’s indigestion (don’t worry, that’s as graphic as I am capable of writing!)

I know I could be a good writer, if it wasn’t for all that grammar and words and things. But who am I kidding? It’s all about the words…the fucking words! (Hey, I used “dearth” in my second sentence…doesn’t that count for anything?) Well, I don’t have words or ideas or pesky plots, but what I do have is way too much time on my hands, so here you go.

When I write, I don’t have a particular audience in mind. Well, sort of, I guess…I have the ghosts of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Hemingway, and Plath. Sweet Sylvia Plath. Lots of dead people who, while not necessarily helpful critics, at least show up in my head and watch the circus of confusion unfold. Sometimes I can hear the occasional clicking of the tongue, a sure sign to lay on the backspace and come at a line from a new direction. Or maybe the clicking is the melting cubes in Ernest’s posthumous cocktail. The revolver of his pistol being locked into place? Who knows? The point is, I’m often guided by the whispers of spirits.

It feels as though when I write it has less to do with me having something to say than something that has to be said having me to write it. (Wow, I just plagiarized myself..that last line was something I wrote a year ago!) But it’s true, nonetheless. I often find that it is sufficient for me to just press the keys, and somehow the story will tell itself. Don’t believe me? I just wrote everything above without a thought in my head.

The key to being a great writer, I’m convinced, is to be a great reader. There is nothing I can say now, or will ever write, that hasn’t been said or written before. But a studious reader understands that there are a million ways to say the same thing, and that’s the beauty, and salvation, of writing. You don’t have to be original. You just have to have a unique dialect. In my case, it also helps to have a really poor opinion of most of today’s writing. I continually lie to myself and say, “I can do better!” And sometimes…I do. Then I pull down a worn copy of Pushkin and think, “shit..fuck this!! I can’t write!” And again, I am right.

So I continue my early morning ritual and if it’s true what they say, that if you give 1,000 monkeys 1,000 typewriters, in a thousand years, one of them will bang out the complete works of William Shakespeare, then surely, if this continues for a thousand mornings, I can bang out something worth reading.