I have led a disorderly life. I draw upon it heavily in my novel.
I grew up in a chaotic home, and bolted as soon as I could. At eighteen I was off to art school, in the days before kids were raised to deal with life on a realistic level. A mythology major? Fun! Go for it! (My major: Costume Design.) We were the first baby-boomers, the world was our oyster. We could do no wrong.
I erupted from college, landing in Cambridge, MA – hippie heaven. Some of us were on a career path, but I knew damn few of that sort. My crowd hung out, ate a ton of brown rice, did a variety of (fairly innocuous) drugs. The guys were frantic to avoid Vietnam. Sorry, Mayor Pete. I can’t fault Trump for that. Grad school was my brother’s strategy until the father of his Harvard housemate finagled him into the National Guard.
I found work with a costumer, one Hedy Jo Starr, who created elaborate ensembles for exotic dancers. Cleopatra, Southern Belles, sequins and beads, handwork galore, we went all out on outfits that sold for four-five-six hundred dollars forty-five years ago. Hedy had been a stripper herself. Fiftyish, overweight, belly over-hanging her g-string, she still did a strip/hypnotism act for fans who followed her from date to date and, let me tell you, it was sad.
In her publicity, she proclaimed herself the first sex-change done in the US. Google her, you’ll find photos of her in her prime. Last I looked her up someone had declared her a heroine of transgender rights. She lived life bravely, I give her that. Let those who admire her understand this: she was racist and anti-semitic to a sickening degree. She may have soft-pedaled it in other situations, but she didn’t hesitate to show needing-that-paycheck-peons exactly who she was.
I dumped that job, made costumes on my own. I hung out with the dancers in Boston’s low-entertainment district – the Combat Zone, it was called. A few girls went on to bigger-better. One became a Penthouse Pet. A long-time friend snagged a partner at Bain and Company, the entity that birthed Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital. Thereafter, we lost touch. I didn’t fit into her V.I.P. existence.
You hit thirty, you realize, time to grow up. I took a graphic production job, with benefits! I bought a house, worked two jobs to support it, one of the reasons I’ve been at my novel for thirty years. I had neither time nor energy to write. Semi retired, I’m back on it.
An idea got hold of me and never let go. I wrote a short story. It grew and grew. It’s now seven novellas, three complete, the rest partials. One episode was nearly done, but, twenty years on, my conception of an assassination plot has changed radically. (I discovered John Dee.) It needs a major overhaul.
I’m light-fingered when it comes to yummy language. I’ve plucked juicy bits from books for decades. My favorite sources, sappy Victorians and their melodrama-mush. The stories may be rot, but the phrasing is frequently sublime. You find the stuff in gobs at the library sales. Folks! Jump on those sales now. Each year the odd-obscure diminishes. Popular-pap is taking over. Danielle Steel? No thanks. Essays by a long-ago President of Harvard College? My speed, absolutely. Sly is well-furnished with loopy musings (he’s a philosophical booger). Those crumbling volumes are pure gold.
I never had an English class post high school but for one semester of creative-writing, which replaced Freshman English for those who’d scored well on the SAT. I don’t recall what I served up, but most everything I have involves crafty critters wise-cracking their way though an arch nonsense.
My engagingly annoying MC is a big-mouthed brat with a thing for a certain type of footwear. His mama had invented a remedy for a runt’s weak ankles, styling the business as pirate boots, and he took to them, immediately and forever. I had weak ankles. I wore high-tops, way before they became fashionable. My husband says, ya, I know you’re writing your autobiography. He figures in it also. Sly’s a scholar. He formulates a theory of gravity, seventy years before Newton. Eberhard, with his passion for math and physics, is my indispensable research assistant. My cat (Sly’s a cat, kids) is also a poet. He courts his females with semi-delightful verse. Wanna see some of it? Sure you do.
Shall I compare thee to a crippled jay
or sluggish wren, its belly overfilled,
whose juicy promise steals my breath away
and breeds such yearning as will not be stilled
save by attainment of the morsel craved,
the sop which tempts my tongue to drip and drool,
by which indulgence am I left enslaved
and, for the sake of that sweet taste, a fool?
Sly is not the deep dive into feline angst of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Tomcat Murr, though I try to create an equally rich inner life. In Hoffmann’s account, Murr speaks for himself. I sell my premise with sham-scholarly details. One reader complained, “I didn’t know I was going to be plunged into a history class.”
It’s faux-history. Fun history. I work it for yuks. There must be nutcakes out there who will love it as I do. If it bombs, my backup goal to make it onto the site Life is too short to read bad books. I stumbled across Bad Books a while ago. I don’t see it now. It has to be there, somewhere. Don’t they say nothing disappears off the web? Maybe I have the name wrong. It was great, great fun.
I’d love to create a similar site, talk up my favorite awful authors. Charles Reade is one. Dorothy Parker, in an interview in Evergreen Review, said: “I’m the only person you’ll meet who has read all of Charles Reade.” Wikipedia calls him second-rate. (Generous, IMO.) Reade wrote crap but, man-oh-man! His description, gorgeous! Me and Dorothy Parker, birds of a feather, both charmed by his way with words. Parker–and me!A feather in my cap, eh?
I’d meant, when Sly is published, to dress Elizabethan (my tale is set in the sixteenth century) and hand out promos in Times Square. But my stamina is a thing of the past. I have to come up with other avenues for getting the word out. I’m designing a bumper sticker. Sly’s sweet-shyster face has to goose interest. I have high hopes for bumper stickers and decals.
Keith Haring got himself noticed by doodling his ‘radiant babies’ in the NYC subway system. I’ve considered slapping decals up down there. But, again, a full-tilt assault on Manhattan may be beyond me. I’ll probably concentrate on the web.
Find me on: Facebook
No personal page, but I participate at: Writers Co-op
My website/blog, is under construction, but you’re welcome to poke a nose in, see what I’m up to. Books one and six are finalized. Book two needs an aggressive revision. The remainder is yet to be installed. The art (not mine) is there to evaluate an approach. (My style is elaborate, I need to pare it back.) Eventually I will snake type around images in the manner of an illustrated book. I may tweak the font to boost readability. I’m fighting on multiple fronts–story, art, website design. It’s coming together, slowly.
I’m not published, but I’m close. I will give away book one, and offer subsequent installments for a buck or two. At that point my site will show first chapters, the balance withdrawn. This preview-peek won’t be up forever.