Saturday, May 30, 2009

Reading Again, And Again

I don’t mean to steal another writer’s thunder but I find myself in full agreement with Verlyn Klinkenborg who had an excellent essay on the pleasures of re-reading books in today’s New York Times.

I have the same habit. Could one reading of Shakespeare ever suffice? The same might be said of Dickens, Cervantes and numerous others.

Klinkenborg points out his work requires a certain amount of re-reading. But the re-reading on which he focused is that done purely for pleasure, to reacquaint himself with old and cherished friends.

I agree, and I have my favorites. I can't recall the number of times I've read Wuthering Heights and Moby Dick. And don't even get me started on poetry. But we needn't be high brow or limit ourselves to literature with a capital L. I enjoy a visit with Thoreau, William Bartram and Gilbert White (subject of Klinkenborg's The Rural Life. And I confess to finding something new every time I read writers as diverse as Katherine Anne Porter, Peter Matthiessen, Ruth Rendell, Vladimir Nabokov and James Lee Burke.

In some ways I'm like the narrator in Maugham's wonderful tale, The Book-Bag, who says "Some people read for instruction, which is praiseworthy, and some for pleasure, which is innocent, but not a few read from habit." Maugham says the latter is neither innocent nor praiseworthy. Personally, I think there are worse habits.

Klinkenborg says the characters in the books he re-reads never change, the words remain the same but the reader always changes. It is that change in ourselves gives the habit merit.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Talent Tuesday

Author Jenny Turner (Dead Friends Forever) hosts an event called Talent Tuesday in her blog and I was her guest yesterday.
Traffic was lighter than we might have hoped--though she said we had over 60 hits. But I did have an interesting exchange with one visitor on several topics, including my writing process and the subject of revision.
Jenny has asked me to visit again and I've agreed to do so.
If you weren't among the visitors, you can visit Jenny's blog at and read it in the archive. Check out some of the other interesting material she posts on a regular basis while you're there.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Opportunities Materialize

The economy is proving difficult for many small businesses. One recent victim of the decline was the independent bookstore of my friends, Don and Karen Dobson.

The Dobsons were true friends to many struggling area writers, stocking their books and hosting signings throughout the years the shop was in business. But struggling with increasing cost of doing business and competition from the chains has finally forced them to close the doors of their shop.

This is a loss for the Dobsons and all those who love the independent shops. And, of course, all the area writers who benefited by their friendliness and support lament the closing and will miss the opportunities they provided.

We search now for other venues to promote our work.

I've been working to find opportunities both here on the homefront and on line. I have a signing scheduled for June and have been talking to librarians about some others. But yesterday I had a phone call that surprised and pleased me.

A woman who has been a supporter and buyer of all my books called and asked if I would speak about writing and my work at a meeting of a literary group she chairs. Naturally I was willing. The surprise was that the event isn't until February 2010. It seems they schedule their events well in advance.

To quote Cervantes, "Fortune may have yet a better success in reserve for you, and they who lose today may win tomorrow."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Love, Lust and Skulduggery in the Coal Region

My novel, Watch The Hour, is now available from Whiskey Creek Press,, in both print and electronic forms.

Fleeing famine and brutal oppression, more than a million Irish refugees flocked to the United States between 1846-1855 in search of opportunity for a better life. They worked whatever jobs they could find and were routinely exploited.

Many found their way to Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region where they encountered some of the worst exploitation and hatred.

By the 1870s, mine owners and their employees, particularly the Irish immigrants, were in conflict over working conditions.

Private police forces commissioned by the state but paid by the coal companies were sworn to protect property of the mine owners. The miners knew their real purpose was to spy upon targeted agitators and intimidate and break up strikers.

The Mollie Maguires—a secret society some see as working to improve the lot of the Irish and which others damn as a terrorist organization—were now seen as an increasing threat.

In this place and time, I've created one Benjamin Franklin Yeager, a coal company police officer. He does his best to follow orders while trying to be fair to the workers whose lot he sees as little different from his own. Despite his efforts at fairness, Yeager’s job makes him the enemy of the Irish.

And that’s the crux of his troubles.

For Ben has fallen in love with an Irish girl.