Monday, November 22, 2004

Second Draft Complete

I finished earlier this morning. 54,584 words in total. I'll be back with a full wrap up and closing thoughts.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

First Draft Done!

Sometime just before sunrise, I completed the final chapter which meant that I am now done with the first draft of Gumbo. I will be crashing now and taking the day off from writing. On Friday, I'll begin writing the second draft which will take up to five or six days.

If you are currently writing a NaNoWriMo novel (BG, MeanGene, Jason) send me a 750-1000 word excerpt and I'll publish in this month's issue of Truckin'. Please send it to me sooner than later. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


I reached the 50k mark sometime around 4:20pm EST. I guess I officially won NaNoWriMo. I'm not quite done yet still working on the final chapter.

Today's Writing Music...

1. Charles Mingus
2. Eric Dolphy
3. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
4. Phil Lesh and Phriends
5. Sidney Bechet

Monday, November 15, 2004

Week 2 Update

Ocean view

I completed Week 2, my first real full week of writing Gumbo, and I'm happy to say that I'm way ahead of schedule with 35,000+ words. After a slow start and penning only 3380 words in the first week (all in one single session), I'm more than pleased with some of the characters. I've set the novel to take place in several cities, at least in six different locales so far, and that's been a lot of fun to write.
This week's binge:
Monday: 6734 words
Tuesday: 6440
Wednesday: 6085
Thursday: 4639
Friday: 5801
Saturday: 1971
I actually hit than 5,000 words on Saturday. I didn't like the majority of what I wrote and decided to make a crucial decision and rewrite the bulk of the chapter. I put aside what I originally wrote for future use as a springboard if I ever choose to go back and re-write the novel heading in that particular direction. As is, I needed a break. On Sunday I rested and didn't even look at any of the previous pages. I wanted some distance. I wanted a fresh start today. The material I was grappling with on Saturday was hyper-intense, personal, and at times painful. I had to visit some not so nice memories of my past and that serious task drained me emotionally (for the first time this project). There has come a point in every one of my previous novels where I hit an point of emotional exhaustion (usually due to sleep deprivation) and I had to walk away for a day to preserve my sanity.

I usually begin each session reading the previous chapter twice. That gives me a better idea of where I'm headed. I print up pages at the end of the writing day. Before I crash I'll take notes and read it through. At some point everyday, I make an effort to read the entire novel from start to finish. With almost 70% done, it takes me a lot longer to do that but that also tells me that I'm very close to finishing up.

The chapters are all about the same length, on the average of 5,000+ words.
Chapter 1: 5083
Chapter 2: 5034
Chapter 3: 6440
Chapter 4: 4563
Chapter 5: 5344
Chapter 6: 6618
I am trying to work at a slower pace to insure that I don't rush the ending, a major flaw in my previous manuscripts. As I'm approaching the final stretch, I don't want to burn out. It's going to take all my energy to stay focused.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Random Rhode Island Pictures

Could be a postcard.

Signs for the beach.

Sea stones.

Senor's Mailbox

Jodd's shoes.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Excerpt #5: Chapter 6

As soon as you deplane and enter the terminal at Las Vegas McCarran Airport, you are greeted by a couple of rows of slot machines and a sorry lot of exhausted, hungover, and unkempt passengers awaiting to get on the exact plane you just exited. The demure scowls on their faces immediately tell you their languishing stories about the dark side of Vegas. You could see clouds of depression looming over their sunken heads. One clown from Detroit had too many Grey Goose and Red Bulls to drink and dropped $500 in a strip bar. He had to get home before his credit card statement arrived in the mail and was innocently opened up by his wife. Another Starbucks guzzling hipster from Park Slope lost his entire bankroll trying to beat blackjack at the Venetian in a failed attempt to perfect a winning system counting cards and ended up getting creamed. A soccer mom from St. Louis looked distressed as she quietly obsessed about her new found addiction to slot machines. A college kid from Tampa, with over $200 in poker books recently purchased on stashed in his carry-on luggage, blew his entire semester’s tuition with pipe dreams about becoming the next Chris Moneymaker. Instead of returning to campus with a wad of rolled up $100 bills, he was bitch slapped into the harsh reality that he was nothing more than dead money and severely overmatched when he foolishly sat down with a table of sharks at the Bellagio only to get his testicles served to him on a lukewarm bed of bead beat lettuce. Las Fuckin’ Vegas. Don’t these idiots know that when they do win, they get paid with loser’s money? It’s a twenty-four hour endless cycle of transferring money from the trembling hands of a lifelong luckless losers into the itchy pockets of a fellow degenerate gamblers. Do you want that kind of karmic paper trail sitting in your wallet?

© 2004

Friday, November 12, 2004

Recent Writing Music

1. Pink Floyd... Delicate Sound of Thunder (Live)
2. Phish... Fukuoka, Japan 6.14.00 (Live)
3. John Coltrane... Village Vanguard Nov. 1961 (Live)
4. Bob Dylan... Blonde on Blonde
5. Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane... New York Five Spot Cafe, Summer 1957 (Live)

Phish in Fukukoa, Japan

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Excerpt #4: Chapter 4

She stopped surveying the room and started thumbing through a stack of books near my closet that was at least three feet high. I had about eight or nine of those stacks spread throughout the room.

“You sure have a lot of books.”

“Yeah. When people know you’re a writer, they seem to give you a lot of random books.”

“Read all of them?”

“Most. Each stack is actually organized. The ones over there,” as I pointed near the window, “are the books I read and I really like. Those I’ll keep in my collection because at some point I want to read them again. Spalding Gray. Samuel Beckett. Milan Kundera. The messy stack over here are the books I read and I will try to sell because they are written by popular authors or have some kind of cult following. Tom Wolfe. Carlos Castenada. William S. Burroughs. I can fetch a decent resale value on those. The stack over here are books I started reading but never finished. David Sedaris. Paul Camus. Marshall McLuhan. The books in the corner are books people gave me but I never started reading them. Michael Chabon. Chuck Palahniuk. Simone de Beauvoir. That’s the biggest stack and it actually spills over in to the stack near my bed. The books on my coffee table are the books I’m reading now.”

“You have three or four there.”

“Five actually,” I quickly corrected her. “I’m unable to commit to any of them just yet."

© 2004

Monday, November 08, 2004

Excerpt #3: Chapter 2

Isabelle left me a letter which I tore open at lunch time. The first page was a poem she wrote in French and translated it into English. The next few pages was a letter written in English.
I liked our last conversation in the diner before you left, how you have to be alone to do your art, yet you have to live it to be capable of it. I keep thinking about your words.

I think I will now tell you about my family therapy sessions when I was sixteen. Did I ever tell you about those? You probably do not need to know about that part of my life. It did not last long anyway. My parents and I went to a therapist just outside of Paris to try to discover what was wrong with me. The whole of each discussion ended up revolving around my sister as usual and about her constant need for attention. How ironic? That was all indirectly caused by me and my depression and with my father guilt tripping everyone. I never got to speak during those sessions. My parents argued back and forth and I think the doctor was a pervert because he kept staring at my breasts.
Her English and grammar were better than mine. And I was supposed to be the writer. I folded up her letter and shoved it in my pocket and sipped the last of my coffee before I went back to work.

© 2004

Week 1 Update

I wish I could better explain the writing process. I realized that I'm more comfortable deconstructing my poker play than being able to analyze the ins and outs of writing a novel. I'm not at ease with openly talking about the process because I honestly cannot tell you how I write. I just write. I feel bad when other writers hit me up for advice and all I can tell them is "Keep on writing." I guess my only other advice is to find things that inspire you and surround yourself with those things, whatever they may be.

My writing sessions are increasing in length and for now I am content with the first 8,000 words. If you cannot hold a reader's attention in the first 25 pages, then you are doomed to have a novel that everyone begins, but few actually finish.

Week 1 started out strong but after my first few days in Rhode Island, I fell into a weird funk where I was spending more time working out personal problems than working on plot structure. I got over that hump and now I am focused on writing.

I also was distracted by a side trip to Foxwoods Casino last Thursday, a 35 minute drive from Narragansett. I met up with Felicia and her husband Glenn and wanted to cheer her on during her appearance in a World Poker Finals event. In a total random instance, I met Greg Raymer. While I was chatting with Felicia, Raymer wandered over and started talking to her. Felicia introduced me to Fossil Man as "a real writer". That was cool and got me pumped up when I went home to write. Felicia also introduced me to Jean Gaspard. Both were nice fellows.

I expect to have half the novel done by the next update. Hopefully I won't have too much research to undertake. That always kills any writing rush. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Excerpt #2: Chapter 1

Cassandra was more fit to be a stripper than be a bartender. Included in her work experience were several stints at titty bars in West Texas and in Nevada, in addition to the three months she spent as an escort in Los Angeles when she was twenty-two, and numerous photo shoots she'd do from time to time for various second-rate trucker porn magazines. By the time she was twenty she had been married twice. By her thirty-first birthday she was on husband number five. I suspected she had a kid or two out there, but she never talked about that. Late nights we'd become engrossed in long and fascinating conversations about her psychotic ex-husbands. I always encouraged her to write her experiences down because they'd make for a great novel.

© 2004

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Healthy Distractions

I'm starting to realize that writing in a beautiful setting has become more of a distraction than I anticipated. I've been getting plenty of alone and quiet time but I'm spending more time gazing out at the grey sea than physically writing. Sure, my mind has been jumping back and forth between ideas, flashbacks, and memories... but I've also been thinking about characters and settings and motifs and themes. My daydreaming sessions aren't a total waste. That's actually good for the creative process. I've slowed down my writing pace substantially... not looking to set any records here... rather looking to let the words flow out of me instead of forcing them out. Confornted with majestic sunrises and cool early morning ocean air, I'm in good spirits, moving along at a very relaxed pace. Hanging out and playing with Senor's kid is extremely inspiring. We've been watching a lot of cartoons and caught The Cat in the Hat yesterday.

I'm going to sleep more during the day and write more at night when I can't see a those distracting views. Today is supposed to be overcast with fluffy grey and off white clouds leading up to plenty of wind and rain tonight. Perfect writing weather... I hope.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Writing With a View

I'm settled into Rhode Island. From where I write, I could look out into the ocean. Stayed up until 4am watching election coverage and did not get as much writing done as I expected.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Excerpt: Chapter 1

She always worked the bar with a tempestuous attitude. She'd show up late and take long breaks in the bathroom. She snapped at drunk customers and blew off every guy that hit on her. Cassandra was hot and nasty and the guys loved it. My favorite vixen slung cheap beers four nights a week while she paraded around nearly naked scooping up as many tips as she could get. She was sweet to me, though. The more we talked, the more I sensed that she was hitting on me. That notion was absurd when I rationally thought about the possibility. Cassandra was married to a freaky long haired guy named Lucky Larry who looked like Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin except for a bad looking goatee and a red Winston Cup racing hat that I never saw him without. She told me that he was a coke dealer and a wife beater, which explained why he drove around in a brand new BMW convertible and why she'd have a new bruise to show me everyday.

© 2004

Q & A

What is NaNoWriMo?

November is National Novel Writing Month. Here's a good page which explains everything.

Will you write this novel in less than two weeks?

Most likely. I penned the first drafts of all four of my novels in less than 15 days... with the fastest written in nine days.

What will your new novel be about?

I'm taking a chance with a new format. Let's see if it works out. Aside from that that's all I can tell you. You'll have to wait for the first excerpt for a glimpse.

Can I expect to see Ivan the Russian Cab Driver making a cameo appearance?

Hmmmmm. Now, there's an idea.

What other writers have you been reading recently?

Haruki Marukami, Samuel Beckett, Arthur Nersesian, Marty Beckerman, and Dostoevsky.

Will the finished project be called Gumbo?

Probably not. I usually start out my projects as: Untitled. This instance, I used the first idea for a title that popped into my head.

Why call it Gumbo?

This novel will resmble a pot of Gumbo... it'll be a thick dark stew that tastes yummy and hopefully, will stick to your ribs.

Isn't there a Phish song called Gumbo?

Indeed there is. That's part of the reason why I picked the name. Here's the lyrics.
There's a mouse starin' out of the window
His car is trapped in the snow
He's planning a family vacation
But he just can't go
Around the next corner's a red bird
His feathers are trapped in a sling
He's passed by some gunslinging parrot
Who's jealous he ain't got no grin

There ain't no time to stash the gumbo
Or rattle around in a cage
The sacrificed child's made bubbles
And spittle is everywhere enraged
In a hot sand or in a my feet
They're blistered and caked with debris
Chez rolez is guarding the tote board
While Angry piddles with glee

There's a fool writing notes out on sandpaper
He's sending them off to himself
He gets them a couple days later
Who put them along his top shelf
If you get tired of shavings
And carve up a good hunk of wood
Remembering to check on the sausage
He's got cooking somewhere look good

That's it for the Q&A. Check back for updates and novel excerpts.


Starting November 1, 2004, I will untake another wild journey otherwise known as the brutality of writing my fifth novel and participating in NaNoWriMo. This attempt will be another chance for me to experiment with fiction writing. Any thoughts on the process of Gumbo, will be posted here on this blog.

As of today, I am taking a hiatus from full time blogging and from part-time playing poker to concentrate on this new literary project. I am leaving NYC and withdrawing from society for an unspecified amount of time, relocating to Naragansett, Rhode Island to write in a less stressful setting. I penned all of my previous novels (and both screenplays) in my old studio. I have never completed a major writing project in any other environment. I have a challenging and terrifying task ahead of me. And I'm ready to write.

More to come.