Sunday, February 26, 2006

Rejection and Redemption

Yesterday, I received my first rejection letter from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It was my very first rejection for my writing. I must admit it stings. It was a form letter of about three sentences.

It came at an interesting time in my life –on the very day I was to meet a former love to see if our relationship would be worthy of another try – it wasn’t. She rejected me. Our relationship has been over for several months and this last conversation hammered the total and complete end home. Finality. I know it’s for the best, and in deep in my heart, I know she made the right decision. Though, knowing that doesn’t make the pain any less.

I just got back from a trip to see my parents. They are aged and in frail health. I only get to see them once a year. This year may have been the last time I will see them. I tried in vain to say the things I wanted to say to them but the words would not come out.

For several months, I have been taking a personal inventory, looking hard at actions, motivations, and myself. Specifically, how so I have seemed to ruin good relationships with very good women. I feel lucky to be have been involved in more than my fair share of them.

The last few months have been turbulent for me but good in ways that will bear fruit later this year. My personal reassessment has identified several areas that I need to work on, which I am doing. This time has been very painful but also a particularly fertile time for my personal growth and enrichment. The hurt has been beneficial.

Rejection has caused reflection, improvement, and in the end made me stronger. I feel redeemed, renewed, and ready for the challenges ahead.

The rejected story will polished a little more and will be going out tomorrow afternoon to another magazine. I will be reentering the dating scene this week also. I am working out eating better, drinking less, and ready to continue the journey that this life has for me.

Thank you, everyone in blogland that has supported and given encouragement through my rough patches in the road. I will be blogging full strength tomorrow.

Sincerely,

RJB

Quotes of the Day: Rejection

There's nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself.
James Lee Burke

Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.
James Lee Burke

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Quotes of the Day: The Task

A man may fulfill the object of his existence by asking a question he cannot answer, and attempting a task he cannot achieve.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Substance coming soon

I have been out of town for the last several days, working through some personal issues and have been unable to blog with any substance.

Thank you for continuing to visit. I will return to substantive blogging early next week.

Thanks.

RJB

Quote of the Day: Resolution

The changes in our life must come from the impossibility to live otherwise than according to the demands of our conscience not from our mental resolution to try a new form of life.
Leo Tolstoy

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Quotes of the Day: Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the remission of sins. For it is by this that what has been lost, and was found, is saved from being lost again.
Saint Augustine

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heal that has crushed it.
Mark Twain

Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit. Peter Ustinov

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


It was 2 degrees yesterday. Here is where my mind wandered. Posted by Picasa

Quote of the Day: Friendship

The language of friendship is not words but meanings.
Henry David Thoreau

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
Albert Schweitzer

True friends stab you in the front.
Oscar Wilde

The true friend stabs you in the chest,
to excise the tumor that is within,
for without its removal,
you shall surely perish.
R.J.Baker (insired by Oscar Wilde)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Flashing in the Gutters....a little late.

Sorry, for a week I have kind of been sucked into life's abyss. I haven't been able to blog anything of significance as I battled internal demons in my head and external demons in my life.

I finally made it over to Flashing in the Gutters, a flash fiction site by Tribe. Please check them out, if you haven't already, there is a whole lot of really good free short fiction there.

Quote of the Day

I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day. Abraham Lincoln

The course of true love never did run smooth.
William Shakespeare

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Sunset in Venice Posted by Picasa

Quote of the Day: Inspiration

Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model. Vincent Van Gogh

Each morning my characters greet me with misty faces willing, though chilled, to muster for another day's progress through the dazzling quicksand the marsh of blank paper.
John Updike

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Unblocked and Writing Long Hand

I woke up his morning at 3:30 with a story idea. Afraid of losing it, I immediately wrote it out long hand. The words flowed. They were coherent. The story was actually pretty good.

Later, I typed it out, edited a few mistakes, and printed it out. I plan on doing revisions in a few days and submitting it. I liked the process.

Several months ago, I spoke briefly with Matthew J. Bruccoli about his edit of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon. I told him of my budding interest in writing and asked him for advice.

One of his main points of guidance was to write everything out long hand first-pen or pencil and paper. He said writing on a word processor hurt style.

I was skeptical, but after this morning, I think he may be right – at least for me.

I think it was Hemingway who said that he wrote everything long hand, then typed it out (or had it typed), reviewed and made changes in draft form.


Do you write first long hand?

What do you think about the effect of the word processor as the point of original entry and your writing style?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Mystery of a Book Deal

In an attempt to understand the business side of a book deal, I will lay out the issues that seem important and my understanding of them. I know there are many variances and differences between small and large publishers but I will try to review the issues in general terms.

Once the book is written the next goal is "the deal" but at what point is a deal a "good deal"?

Advances. From what I understand, advances run from $0 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. With the typical first time author getting an average of between $1,000 to $7,500. J.A. Konrath signed a three book deal with Hyperion in 2003 for "low six figures" for discussion purposes only let's assume the advance was $150k or $50k per book. A good deal? Yeah, probably in the scheme of things. He recently signed another 3 book deal beyond the original.

When is the adance paid? Probably a triggering event, like submission of completed manuscript for edit.

Royalties. I've read that royalties are paid once the advance is recovered. These royalties can run from 5 to 15% of the cover price. I've recently heard $3 a book for hardcover. How are these paid? Monthly? Quarterly? Annually?

Hardcover, Paperback, Trade Paperback, and Audio Books. Royalties vary. There may be a different publisher for each. The original publisher may get a significant cut of the royalties. Anyone know how this works?

First Print Run. I think this is very important in determining success. I have heard an average hardcover print run for a first time author is around 7500 though it's a little murky how many are actually printed. If these sell out will there be a second printing? How many then? Over what period of time?

Remainders. What happens with remainders(unsold books)? Can the author buy them at a pre-determined price? This should be in any deal.

Out of Print/Back List. Will the publisher keep your backlist in print? If not can print rights revert to the author? What happens to an authors backlist?

Copyright. Who retains the copyright? Author or publisher?

Subsidiary Rights & Movie/Merchandising. I don't know enough about these to discuss them. I would assume for a realitively popular book they may be more valuable than the royalties but this is only a guess. Anyone know how these work?

Earn Out. This will be a big determining factor of whether an author is published again. The calculation should be part of the deal. There are squishy numbers like overhead that can effect how, when, or if an author will earn out. It should be in the contract.

I am sure I have missed many other aspects of a book deal and would appreciate any insights published authors out there in the blogsphere can add. These are the issues I view as critical to a good deal. Your thoughts?

Quote of the Day: Love

Love.

Fall in love and stay in love.

Write only what you love, and love what you write.

The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.

Ray Bradbury

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Big Al's Valentine to Bugs Moran: The gift that keeps on giving... Posted by Picasa

Quotes of the Day: Beginnings

The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first.

In my beginning is my end.
T. S. Eliot

Monday, February 13, 2006

Blocked....The Mystery

Blocked.

Not the type ruffage will clear.

I haven't even been able to blog, write fiction, write anything for a while now.

It woke me up at 4 a.m. today - I've written 2 paragraghs of fiction in the last couple of weeks.

Why?

Personal shit getting me down? Maybe.

Story well run dry? Don't think so.

Introspection? Yep.

Soul searching? Yes.

Fear? Na.

Loathing? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Fear? Maybe.

Self doubt? Getting warm.

Fear? Yep, you caught me.

A writer I respect wrote me a long email after I whined to her. She said write 1000 words a day, even if it sucks the big hairy green one.

Today I write. . .

Quotes of the Day: Blocked

When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages a sick sense of failure falls on me and I know I can never do it. This happens every time. Then gradually I write one page and then another. One day's work is all I can permit myself to contemplate and I eliminate the possibility of ever finishing.
John Steinbeck

Just get it down on paper, and then we'll see what to do about it.
Maxwell Perkins

Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.
Kurt Vonnegut

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Quote of the Day

Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.
Truman Capote

Writing stopped being fun when I discovered the difference between good writing and bad and, even more terrifying, the difference between it and true art. And after that, the whip came down.
Truman Capote

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Where Do You Stop Writing?

I read somewhere that Hemingway, at the end of his writing day, would stop mid-sentence, or even mid-word, in his attempt to keep his writing fresh for the next day.

A writer friend of mine says he does the same thing. I am intrigued.

How many other writers do this?

Does it help?

I complete my thoughts, scenes, and words. Maybe this would help when I begin to write in the morning.

Just a thought.

Quote of the Day:Attitude

Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.
W. C. Fields

Friday, February 10, 2006

Quote of the Day: Good Sex

Good sex is like good bridge. If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand. Mae West

A Mystery...Can We Find Good Sex?

“…my tongue traced circular arcs down her tanned belly to her navel following a fine line of hair. She moaned and arched her hips to meet my lips as I …”

Why is that so hard to write and so much harder to read?

Sex is a major part of the human existence and actually the better part. Is it our puritan roots that cause us to cringe, recoil, or skip reading sex scenes in novels?

A recent panel of well known best selling mystery authors struggled with description of how or if to write compelling sex scenes. They came to very few conclusions other than the sex or love scene must advance the plot and reveal character in one or both of the participants.

Why are we as Americans so afraid of sex? I don’t get it. Sex permeates almost every aspect of our society from all forms of media. We can’t drive past a billboard, pick up a newspaper, magazine, listen to radio, watch any movie or television program without being overwhelmed by it.

Ok, it’s hard for many writers to write and many readers to read. But we can sure kill a lot of people in novels very graphically and most people have no problem with writing or reading it. Are we just immune to violence and still up-tight about sex?

I had a law school professor that wrote a book that’s premise was violence in itself was obscenity.

Do you think sex has a place in novels? If so how graphic, and why or why not?

Don’t you think that as graphically as we kill someone we should just as graphically show a love or sex scene? If not, why not?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Quote of the Day

Friendships, like marriages, are dependent on avoiding the unforgivable.

John D. MacDonald

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Another Literary Hoax

How much more can the publishing world be damaged?

The Washington Post reports today that "the writer penning the novels of "JT LeRoy," a purported 25-year-old former male prostitute and drug addict, has been unmasked as a 40-year-old woman who allegedly undertook the ruse to get her work recognized."

From the article posted today:
"LeRoy never existed and Laura Albert authored the books, according to an attorney for her estranged partner, Geoffrey Knoop.
Knoop, 39, who apologized for playing a role in the hoax, said the stress of keeping it secret had become too much to bear. The couple split in December after 16 years and were trying to work out custody of their young son.
"He's wanted to come clean and let JT fade away," attorney Eric Feig said of Knoop late Monday. "He wanted to take the high road."
He has also secured a movie deal to tell his side of the story, Feig said.
The unveiling of LeRoy comes as the literary world is questioning the work and identities of other authors with hard-luck stories. Nasdijj, an award-winning Navajo author, is believed to be a white writer named Timothy Patrick Barrus. James Frey acknowledged fabricating or embellishing parts of his memoir, "A Million Little Pieces." St. Martin's Press recently added a disclaimer to an upcoming book by Augusten Burroughs, another memoirist who has been challenged."

...and the beat goes on.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Top 10 of Love is Murder Chicago

After three days of intense immersion and many drinks at the Chicago Love is Murder Mystery Conference, I have emerged, tired as hell and enlightened.

I will list the Top-Ten significant ideas I took away from the conference.

Summary
The Love is Murder Conference was very well executed, rich with information, interactivity, and mingled the published, the unpublished, fans, reviewers, publishers, bookstore owners, magazine publishers, and librarians. I would recommend it to any one who loves mystery. Everyone was open, honest, and approachable, from the most famous to the unknown. A finer group of people, I have never met.

THE TOP TEN
10.) Writing Sex Scenes are Hard
I was surprised how many talented well-known writers had difficulty writing sex scenes. It was unanimous that any sex scene should advance the plot and reveal something about the characters in the scene.

9.) Need for Viral Marketing and a Platform
David Morrell gave the Keynote speech on “viral marketing” and “platform”. This became the buzzword that permeated the conference.
David Morrell’s daughter, Sarie Morrell explains on her blog that is basically the essence of a book in a very few words. For example, "Great white shark terrorizes New England beach community…" or "12-year-old girl possessed by the devil…"

Viral marketing is the use of the defined platform to uniquely market the book- guerilla style. The example used was of a book about a fly fisherman amateur sleuth sold at fly-fishing shows.

While I agree, in principle with these concepts, I disagree that writing specifically for a market is a good thing.

8.) Pitching at Conferences
Conferences are great to polish pitch skills and feel out publishers and agents. I pitched to Bleak House Books. I was very impressed by the comments they made, their love of books, and their commitment to the mystery genre. It reaffirmed that I am on the right track and look forward to the possibility of working with them in the future. If, like me, you write something that is not mainstream, self publishing or small publishers may be the only true viable options.

7.) The Need for a “Ringer” Reader Prior to Submission
Michael Black graciously critiqued a short story of mine. Michael won an award during the conference for his most recent novel. He is a former Chicago Policeman and was both informative and complimentary of my work. From his experience with handguns, he had an issue with a main premise of my story - a gun jam. After I explained my thoughts, he bought it, but said I needed a sentence or two that reflected my thoughts. This proved to me the need for a ringer as a reader to ensure specific issues outside of your expertise are caught prior to submission.

Michael Black has a very good article about short story rules at website, Hardluck Stories.

6.) Get Your Book to Reviewers/Buy Your Remainders
Reviews drive sales. Librarians specifically look to reviewed books for acquisitions. Be nice to reviewers and suck-up as much as possible.

Remainders. Buy as many as you can afford at the publisher's discount. Sign, date and number them. Use these as books sent to reviewers, give to librarians as gifts, use for contests and giveaways, and sell on your website as collectors items. This also assists in keeping your remainders from ending up on Amazon for one penny.

5.) Librarians are Cool
Ok, other then sexual fantasies, I never really thought about librarians. What I didn’t know is they LOVE books and authors. Love them back, it’ll be good for you and your career. Most libraries have events all year round that can get you exposure and sell books.

4.) Nobody Knows the Future of Genre Fiction
There was a panel of publishers, agents, best-selling authors, & reviewers. None of them had a handle on where the publishing and genre fiction is heading. This is scary and exciting. Emerging new technologies confused everyone and many believe there is a renaissance emerging for small niche publishers. Were ever choas resides, so does great opportunities.

3.) Small Niche Publishers are Impressive
There were five small niche publishers represented. What impressed me was their sincere love of mysteries and books, their obvious passion for the genre ,and their openness and accessibility for aspiring authors. The down side is they have limited funding so advances are small, and the viral marketing falls to the author, which actually is happening more and more at the larger publishing houses.

2.) Short Stories, limited market, huge upside for career
There is a very limited market and few paying mystery markets for short stories. However, the exposure and publicity in these markets can create a following and generate buzz. These can be used to build a career and enhance chances for novel publication and success.

They are also a good way to hone the craft, improve writing, and get practice writing complete stories as a training ground for novels.

1.) Write What You Love, What’s Inside You
David Morrell in the Master Writing Class and Judith Guest in her interview reinforced what I knew and believe; good writers use writing to excise internal demons and explore emotions and experiences in a compelling human way. David Morrell said it is similar to “chasing an internal weasel.” Mr. Morrell’s early books, as he described them, were an exploration of his quest for a father figure. His later book’s an attempt to come to terms with the death of his son, from cancer, at age 15. Judith Guest’s books have been an analysis of her family and the dynamics of family.
Because of these, I don’t buy in to the platform premise. Though I can see the marketing need for it, I think it has the possibility to stifle creativity.

I hope out of these you have found one thing that assists you in you career. Let me know if you have a favorite. Thanks for playing along.

RJB

Quotes of the Day: Eleanor

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot.

Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, February 06, 2006

Quotes of the Day: FDR


To reach a port, we must sail - sail, not tie at anchor - sail, not drift.

It isn't sufficient just to want - you've got to ask yourself what you are going to do to get the things you want.

When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Punt

The Love is Murder conference is over. I had planned to write a good blog about it today, but my mind is mush - the sponge is full - as my mother would say.

I just watched the Super Bowl with mild interest.

I wanted to write something, but nothing is making it to the page.

It seems Blogger was constipated yesterday, when I did have something to say.

So tonight, I'll punt.....

Quote of the Day: an Apple a day

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
Steve Jobs

My girlfriend always laughs during sex - no matter what she's reading.
Steve Jobs

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Hardcover v. Soft

I asked two questions over the last few days and Mark Terry was gracious enough to answer them.

My question:
Mark;
I don't understand the dynamics of Hardcovers for new authors - the economics don't seen right. How can the book buying public be expected to shell out $25+ for an unknown author. Does it have to do with library sales? Why not trade paperbacks. It seems like the new author at least then has a fightling chance for someone to spend $10-$15 and everyone should still be able to make some scratch this way.

John D. MacDonald, an author I admire and respect, put out most of his in mass market paperback. I have read where he made more money this way. Some were eventually published in hardcover, but most came out originally in paperback. What do you think?

An Excerpt of his answer:

Always a worthwhile question, RJ, and I wish I understood it.

I suspect it's part prestige. The rest is probably library sales, which can be considerable, in that there's about 10,000 libraries in the U.S., and they often buy multiple copies of more popular books because they wear out. It's important to remember that, by and large, paperback originals don't get reviewed as much.

This is probably the alligator eating its tail thing. They may not get reviewed as much because the publishers don't send them to reviewers as much, focusing their energies on the hardcovers, because they have more invested in them. There's also a collectibles market in hardcovers, although I really have no idea how big that is. As a book reviewer I do actually review paperback originals if I'm interested, and from time to time even paperback reprints.

My editor reviews romance novels, which are predominantly paperback originals. I see no shame in being a paperback writer. (Gee, and we even have a theme song thanks to the Beatles). The advantage to being in hardcover is if you have the hard/soft deal, so you can get more money. And of course, there's more money in it for writers and publishers if the hardcovers take off.

The royalties tend to be a bit higher on hardcovers versus paperbacks. 12-15%, I believe. On trade paperback 10% is typical and on mass market paperback it's around 6-8%. So, oddly enough, the more the book costs, the higher your percentage, the more money you make. Here's an odd little tidbit and I have to take it at face value. An agent I had a conversation with a few years ago notes that at one time you had hardcover publishers and you had mass market paperback publishers who predominantly bought the rights to reprint the paperbacks from the hardcover publishers.

The deal was often a 50/50 split with the author. In other words, the paperback publisher paid money to the hardcover publisher to reprint the book, and the hardcover publisher gets half that money and the author gets half. Along comes a gentleman writer named Stephen King, says this agent, who writes a novel called "Carrie," which sells to Doubleday for the whopping advance of $2500. (Larger than mine over 30 years later). There is a pre-emptive bidding war by New American Library and NAL offers $400,000 for the paperback rights. Doubleday gets $200,000 and King gets $200,000.

King becomes a bestseller over the next few books, one of Doubleday's top authors, movies, brand name, etc., and he and his agent try to get a bigger cut of the paperback pie because, after all, Doubleday doesn't do a damned thing for that money. It's essentially an agent fee by the publisher. Doubleday says nope and King walks. This agent claims the publishing biz, which was dealing with a lot of huge paperback reprint deals in the '70s and '80s, starts restructuring to solve this problem, essentially offering hard cover and soft cover under the same deals, so they don't lose out money to the reprinters, etc., blah, blah, blah. ....

Check his blog for the full text.

Quote of the Day

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”
Elmore Leonard

Friday, February 03, 2006

A Few Random Thoughts


Why do most large publishers bring out new authors in hardcover, instead of trade or mass market paperback?

Does love really conquer all?

If you were stranded on a desserted island and could have one book with you, which one would you choose?

Quote of the Day:Sinatra & Gretzky

Hell hath no fury like a hustler with a literary agent.
Frank Sinatra

I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day.
Frank Sinatra

You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.
Wayne Gretzky

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Quote of the Day: Ashamed

The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of because words diminish your feelings - words shrink things that seem timeless when they are in your head to no more than living size when they are brought out.
Stephen King

Ashamed: A Short Story

There's a place I go. A bar. A nice bar. A really nice bar. Money dwells there. Lots of money.

Oak paneling.

Jazz.

Thick steaks.

Rich.

Fat cigars.

Fatter rich men.

Young attractive female bartenders hustle me, angling for big tips.

I was a high roller at one time and people know it.

Good looking folks hang out there. I'm there.

Fifth beer there. I look around and the dish hustler winks at me - a woman of forty or fifty, seen many a rough day, not attractive at all, a little mentally handicapped would be my guess. I turn my head away, towards the twenty year old bar tender bending over getting my next beer. I look at her ass and wink at her.

A few more beers go by and the owner asks the dish hustler to play a few tunes on a saxaphone. Everyone laughes and turns their eyes towards the dish hustler. She pulls a shiny golden sax out of a case.

Then silence.

The notes that come out of the sax are not only melodic but brillant. Beautiful, sexy, romantic, moving notes. I stop mid-sip and glance over and the dish hustler is in a moment of rapture. The sax pitched up towards the cieling. Everyone in the bar has stopped talking and is looking now at this artist holding the sax.

Oxygen has left the room.

Suspension. No movement.

She stops playing, puts the instrument away, and walks by the bar towards the door. I grab her by the arm and stop her. I tell her that was a moving piece and ask her where did she learn to play. She smiled and says she learned it in church. She turns and walks away. As she left, people at the bar snickered, joked, and made fun of her.

I felt sick.

I slowly put on my jacket. Everyone but her had shrunk in my mind. Myself a whole lot smaller than anyone else in my own mind. I walked outside with tears in my eyes.

How many people do we discount in our life that have superior talent and knowlege, that we ignore because they look, talk, or act differently then we do?

I am and remain truly ashamed.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Southern Cross...A Perfect Storm: Short Story


A few summers ago a personal “perfect storm” gathered. My life had slipped into utter and complete chaos. I turned forty, went through a brutal costly divorce, and contemplated a career change. Amid this confluence of personal woe, I managed to arrange my first and only true sail date. It became the best and the worst date I have ever had.

My wife and I had harbored and sailed out of the Lake Michigan port town of South Haven, Michigan for several years. We loved South Haven and sailing. It is a beautiful touristy city full of shops, restaurants, bars, marinas, and boats - located on Michigan’s west coast. Unfortunately, my love of sailing outlasted the marriage. The bloodletting of divorce left me both boatless and emotionally bereft.

Anyone who has passed the event of turning forty knows it can be a life-changing occurrence. For those who

haven’t yet reached this pivotal point, trust me-- your time will come. My receding hairline relocated itself to my

back and in my ears. Younger women now gave me the jaundiced glance of a neutered parental type.

Everything about my life seemed out of date. I faced these issues with cold reality, I mourned the loss of things past but came to relish the freedom of not giving a damn.

A metamorphosis occurred. I quit wearing suits, socks, and most times underwear. I grew a goatee, quit cutting my hair, began wearing boat loafers, bright Hawaiian print silk shirts, Columbia trail pants, and a natural straw Panama Jack hat. I began smoking small cigars like Clint Eastwood smoked in the spaghetti westerns. I also acquired a taste for Mexican beer with a lime wedge, Italian Chianti, and 12-year-old single malt scotch.

I quit the well paying job to find myself and sail. I haven’t looked back.

When the divorce was finalized, I licked my wounds and purchased a classic Cape Dory sloop. Because my ex-wife still slipped in South Haven with my ex-boat, I took my new boat about 19 miles north to moor at a marina in Saugatuck, Michigan.

One day at dockside in Saugatuck, a friend that docked across from my boat introduced me to Christine, a cute tanned blonde in her mid to late thirties. She owned a slightly larger sailboat moored in South Haven named Ball-Sea, pronouced "ballsy". We had an immediate common interest and chemistry. After a couple innocuous introductory dates on land and a growing mutual attraction, we set up a late afternoon sail date on her boat in South Haven.

When I arrived that day, I dutifully brought two bottles of chilled Chianti, a small CD player as her boat didn’t have one, a couple of Sinatra CD’s, and a Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young (CSNY) CD. She smiled as she admitted her love for red wine and CSNY.

There were menacing gray thunderclouds several miles out over the lake but from my past experience, a storm, more often than not, blows northeast and my guess was this one would hit the coast about 15 to 20 miles north above Saugatuck. Christine and I had a few glasses, actually plastic cups, of wine while we debated the merits of sailing ahead or behind a storm front. I was for it; she was against. Some of the best sailing winds are right before or after a storm.

We turned on the marine radio and listened to the weather channel. It had very little to add to what we could see. I finally convinced her to sail out to the channel, and if it looked too rough we could just come about, return to the dock, and go to dinner or have our date dockside. As we reached the end of the channel, just beyond the lighthouse, we could see that the storm would indeed miss South Haven and would likely hit landfall somewhere around Muskegon. We raised the sails, cut the engine, and proceeded to sail due west towards Wisconsin.

There is something cathartic about passing the South Haven lighthouse and entering the open water of Lake Michigan. Once the motor is turned off, the sails hoisted and filled with air; the silence and tranquility seem to erase the pain, suffering, and turbulence of life.

There were 15 to 20 knot winds and 1 to 2 foot waves. 75 degrees. No bugs. Perfect. I put CSNY in the CD player and poured us each another cup of wine. Christine was at the tiller. It was the most beautiful sailing experience I have ever had. We chatted about sailing and our love of it. The mood, ambience, everything, couldn’t have been planned better. The song Southern Cross came on. I thought – wow, Lake Michigan, a beautiful woman, good wine, good music, sails trimmed I couldn’t help but get well … amorous.

I must admit that I was completely out of my element. I had been married for 13 years prior to my divorce and this was the first “date” that I had been on since Ronald Reagan was President. Getting back into dating was horrifying, awkward, and difficult to say the least. We did a little light necking in the cockpit during the sail but nothing beyond G rated. Ok, maybe PG13.

So we sailed for a couple of hours, came about and returned to the channel just as the sun was setting. And oh what a gorgeous sunset it was. The sky was full of bright yellows, muted oranges, and vibrant reds that very few painters can duplicate. The clouds were disbursed and reflected sunbeams in varied shades as the sun descended into the horizon.

As we sailed up the channel, I felt as if I was one of the luckiest guys on the planet. We docked, tied up, and buttoned the boat up. It was then that she gave me the brush off. She said she had to meet some friends, and when I turned around she was gone. I never saw her again. I tried to call her a few times, but she didn’t return my calls.

When I think back to that time, and I often do, I see that the wounds inflicted by my personal situation had left me unfit for female consumption. The wounds were exposed and I, still too bitter. It was too fresh and it showed.

Every time I hear Southern Cross it brings me back to that wonderful sail. Those moments spent in the company of an intelligent woman, the taste of chilled red wine, the sounds of wind, waves, and music. The scent of the lake combined with the beauty of Lake Michigan upon reflection move me still. I long for lost love and love that might have been.

It is said that life is a journey not a destination. My journey continues.

Quote of the Day: Writing Inspiration

If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
Vincent Van Gogh

When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer - say traveling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep - it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best, and most abundantly. Whence and how they come, I know not, nor can I force them.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
F. Scott Fitzgerald

An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn't know why they choose him and he's usually too busy to wonder why.
William Faulkner