Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What's next?

For the past two years and then some I have been writing a novel which is why the number of blog entries here have been few and far between. It takes a lot of mental energy and concentration to write a novel. Over that period I have not written a single poem and only one or two short stories that popped up spontaneously. This novel was long overdue. Poplar Hill, this particular novel started out as a chronicle the life of my mother and her family. They were an American aristocratic family. There aren’t many of them left and they have mostly been replaced by the gouache vulgarity of the Donald Trumps of the world. 

I abandoned the first attempt at writing this story when it became apparent that the main character was not going to be Kitty Stevenson but her nanny Bessie MacDermot. I am tempted to make Bessie’s story the second in a series. Bessie’s real story is that my grandparents, as was the custom, made a pass through the orphanages of Ireland searching for intelligent children about to be cast off into the wild at age 12 but willing, grateful even, to be offered a life of service.  Bessie, at age 11 plus was whisked away from the orphanage she grew up in and sent to New York where she was trained to become a nanny. The book is written from the perspective of the 104 year old Bessie living alone in a nursing home in Florida having outlived all the children of those she served. It wasn’t the story I wanted to write then so I stopped writing it.

The second attempt clicked. Here is the briefest possible synopsis:

Poplar Hill is in the middle of the biggest ice storm in a century and Kitty Stevenson is having a heart attack. Her friends and neighbors mount an effort to save her. As she winds her way through the medical system, Kitty decides that as long as she has a story to tell she won’t die, so she tells her life’s story to Barb Barb is Kitty’s closest friend, confident and ultimately caretaker. Kitty came from a wealthy New York family. When Kitty was six she was put in an austere French convent school. During the Depression Kitty was told to leave the convent and find her own way home. After high school Kitty went to Germany to study opera and spend the money her father had invested there after World War One. Hitler had blocked the Mark. Since Kitty couldn’t take the money out of Germany she spent it. She lived the Cabaret lifestyle, she was Sally Bowles but with money. She photographed the Dachau concentration, shook Neville Chamberlains hand and met Hitler face to face on the eve of “Kristallnacht.” When thugs broke the windows of Jewish shops, she took in and protected her Jewish neighbors. As one crisis followed another, she found herself on a Jewish refugee boat heading to Palestine, in a Swiss chalet and on a train to Vienna during the Austrian Anschluss. She escaped Germany, just days before Hitler invaded Poland, arriving in New York on a German ship that had been ordered back to Germany by Hitler. Kitty’s quick thinking convinced the ship’s Captain to continue on to New York.

Of two dozen literary agents only one has sniffed at it and asked to see more, many have dismissed the proposal with a curt form email while the majority are as yet silent.  The literary ecosystem is badly broken but that’s not a windmill I’m going to spend much energy tilting at, at least not today.

So the story of Kitty Stevenson is largely done. While I wait impatiently for my readers to tell me where I need to polish I am confident that it won’t need a major overhaul. So while there is still work to be done on Poplar Hill my mind is wandering elsewhere. It wonders indecisively examining all the projects I’ve started and abandoned or simply outlined. As I said before Bessie MacDermot is high on the list.

The idea that I think I will do next is Tale of the Dragon. If Poplar Hill is based on the life of Kitty Stevenson Glines, then Tale of the Dragon is based on the journal of my father, E. Stanley Glines as he worked in China in 1920 – 1935. Think of a more sedate American version of Harry Flashman showing up at every major event in the history of modern china. He lived the life in 1920 Shanghai, shot his way out of a train robbery on his way to Peking, discovered that he was an unwitting gun smuggler and ran for his life as Cossack army bore down on Ulin Bator in Outer Mongolia. It’s the wild, wild west but in China. Sun Yet Sen, Mao Tse Dung and other characters wander through this work of near baroque art.

Also on the list and the nearest to completion in terms of words written (about 25,000) is War Stories. War Stories takes place in a run down bar in Watertown Massachusetts. The narrator is the bartender who listens to two old veterans and a civilian tell war stories. Most of the stories revolve around a vet who is never present but is the former roommate of the only civilian in the crowd. The story is fashioned after The Waves by Virginia Woolf, which has five characters and a very present, yet absent, sixth character around which the conversation revolves. In War Stories Jack and Peter Grimsey start out as roommates right after Jack returns from Vietnam. Jack and Peter both love sailing so they buy a sailboat together and there the problems begin. Jack is always almost sinking their boat and has adopted a fatalistic approach to life. The other two Vets are an old Navy Chief who served during Korea and the other, the owner of the bar is a ROTC marine Captain who spent the Vietnam War as an embassy guard. They have their stories to tell but none compare to the stories of Jack who lives to talk about it, he has 5 purple hearts, a bronze star, a silver star and is nominated for a Congressional Medal of Honor and is also charged with attempted murder of an officer and escapes Vietnam by blowing opium smoke in the face of an Air Force colonel.  

War Stories is a must finish book but it’s not the next one I want to work on, I have three more. The first novel I started changed names many times but the last title was “A brief history of Avalon. Avalon for short, is about the history of Newfoundland after Québec succeeds from Canada and the United States breaks up and balkanizes after defaulting on its debt. Obviously this story takes place in the not too distant future. Québec is determined to not only become a major force in North America but to reclaim the lost French territories in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. France having become an international superpower after taking over the EU intends to join with Québec in reclaiming dominance over North America. Only Newfoundland can stop this from happening and Johnny D., an expatriate American history buff and engineer, is called on to defeat a French juggernaut. Since novels take on a life of their own once you start to write them I had to quit when I wrote myself into a corner where Johnny D had to be killed. I think I have more discipline now and can control the story. 

The next idea is the one I’m most passionate about, besides Bessie, and the least developed idea is Jury Duty. Jury Duty is based on my experiences with the U.S. Judicial system. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been in any serious trouble but I’ve made it a point to watch how a trial went and how my petty dealings with the court system unfolded. I’m not encouraged. Petty corruption is rife and when I was called to jury duty for a murder trial I let loose my thoughts on the presiding judge. He was not amused and threatened me with contempt. I dared him to hold a juror in contempt when all I did was truthfully answer his questions. I told him I had seen cops blatantly lie on the stand, prosecutors knowingly make false statements and defendants’ attorneys so incompetent Perry Mason, or the actor who played him could have done better. I told him that a tie goes to the runner and to convict there could not be the slightest shadow of a doubt in my mind regardless of his instructions. When he objected I reminded him of the principle of Jury Nullification. That’s when he got mad. The tenor of the novel would be that of Twelve Angry Men but aimed at the system instead. I need to develop an outline and plot.

Finally, I have a Creative Non-Fiction project started years ago but abandoned when I realized how much research it would take. I spent about 2 years developing this project complete with a detailed list of items I needed to research: The Arc Effect.

What if the lost Ark of the Covenant of Israel were real? What if how it worked could be demonstrated? What if it could be shown to exist today, hidden in a church in Africa? What if the lost Ark of the Covenant were just the tip of the technological Iceberg?

In 1990, Graham Hancock published a book titled “The Sign and the Seal.” He detailed, via literary evidence, the travels of the Ark of the Covenant from its creation on Mt. Sinai through its disappearance and subsequent possible travel to Ethiopia. There is also just enough evidence in the literature to deduce how the Ark may have worked. If I am right I can not only recreate the effects of the Ark I can also confirm if the Ark is indeed in Axum Ethiopia as Hancock suggests.

Chapter 1 - The Nature of Insight

Chapter 2 - The Tablets of Moses - The literary effects of the tablets of Moses are illuminated, as are the effects of radiation. They are shown to be identical.

Chapter 3 - The Design of the Ark - The literary design of the Ark is discussed, as is the design of the cloths and accouterments that accompany the Ark. It is shown that the Ark displays a different set of attributes from the tablets themselves. The origins of the ark and the history of its behavior and migrations.

Chapter 4 - The Enigma of the Ark - The problem of reconciling two different phenomena is discussed and a solution proposed. Historic precedent is shown.  A verity of cause and effects are looked at and rejected. The Ark with the tablets enclosed display the attributes of a highly charged body. The effects of the Ark are can best be described as St. Elmo's fire.

Chapter 5 - The Ark Effect - The mechanics of the Van De Graff generator are shown. The mechanics of radiation induced charge is documented and shown and a theory of how the ark worked is displayed.

Part II - History Reconsidered

Chapter 6 - The Challenge - The accepted view of the History of Science is presented.

Chapter 7 - History Reconsidered - Evidence that the accepted history of science is wrong.

Part III - History Reconstructed

Chapter 8 - The Egyptian Scientist - Imenhetop and the gods of Khnum.

Chapter 9 - The Ancient Scribe - It is shown that there are ample literary allusions to radioactive substances.

Chapter 10 - The Travels of Moses - Placing Moses in the right place at the right time; means motive and opportunity

Part IV - The Philosophers Stone

Chapter 11 - Finding the Right Stuff - Geological explorations in Sinai and Egypt

Chapter 12 - Modern Alchemy - The simple chemistry of turning ore into the tablets of Moses

Chapter 13 - The Ark of the Covenant - Building a modern prototype

Part IV - The Quest

Chapter 14 - The Search for the Lost Ark of the Covenant, a trip to Axum

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Allegedly perpetrating a crime

It was the third time this week the reporter had stood in the middle of the street to report a bank robbery by saying, “The alleged perpetrator exited the building, hopped in a getaway car and took off at a high rate of speed and is still at large.” The first time I heard this I laughed. This was a professional reporter whose eloquence is supposed to set an example. Where did this guy learn his English? By the third time he said this I called the station to complain. There must be hundreds of English teachers cringing every time they turn on the news and listen to a reporter trying to sound as tough (and as stupid) as the first cop on the scene. “The alleged perpetrator of the crime,” he said. Is he really questioning the commission of a crime? According to Merriam-Webster word alleged means “said without proof, to have taken place.” He could have just said, “After robbing the bank the perpetrator hopped in a car and left the scene.” Not as dramatic but more accurate if you actually believe the cops that someone robbed the bank.

Why did the perpetrator have to take off at a “high rate of speed?” Allow me to parse this abomination. Speed is already a rate as measured in miles per hour, inches per second, etc. So a high rate of speed should mean that the speed is changing quickly. Isn’t that called acceleration? The reporter could have said: “The robber ran out of the bank, hopped in his getaway car and got away leaving a trail of burning rubber in his wake.”

He could have said that but then he would have sounded smarter than the cop he interviewed.