Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy 2006!

I don't make resolutions.

Well, that's not entirely true. Mostly, I've stopped making them.

In 2003, I resolved to join a gym and to sign with a top literary agent.

I joined the gym on January 3 (about 5 days after I made the resolution), and missed my self-imposed signing deadline by less than a month.

Close enough for me. I'm still going to the gym, by the way. I don't need any more resolutions.

I'd like to have a publishing contract in 2006, but it's not a resolution.

The closest I'll get to an actual resolution is: I'll write another novel in 2006. Whether I get the entire first draft done is a function of how much time I spend on this outline, but right now, I'd bet good money that I'll finish at least a first draft.

Either way, 2005 went by a whole lot faster than 2004 did. I know, 2004 had more days, but still, I feel like 2005 has just begun, and here I am, with 2006 right here.

It's an hour and fifty seven minutes away as I write this sentence.

So where did 2005 go?

It was a terrific year. Here are a couple of highlights:

1. I made a bunch of new friends.
2. I spent more time with my kids than I did in 2004 or 2003 or 2002 or 2001.
3. Ditto: I spent more time with the saint. (Tim can cue the music any time.)
4. Everybody in my family is healthy.
5. I got a new job. My colleagues are wonderful.
6. The saint got a new job. She loves it.
7. I made a lot of progress toward selling my book (OK, my agents did most of that work, but I did do an actual New York meeting with one of my agents and a publisher and an editor, and the meeting resulted in fantastic feedback about the book).
8. I started another book.
9. I saw four Springsteen concerts: 2 in Boston (5th row at the Orpheum, from the drop line, once at the FleetCenterTDBankNorthGardenWhateverthehelltheycallthearenanow); 1 in Albany; 1 in Providence.
10. The Saint and I saw our first U2 concert. Yeah, it was cool. It wasn't a Bruce concert, but it was better than anything but a Bruce concert (the saint would disagree).
11. I took 2 full weeks of vacation for the first time since 1999.

2005 will be a tough, tough year to top. And I can't wait to do it.

Happy 2006, everybody.



Friday, December 30, 2005

"San Quentin, I hate every inch of you..."

I'm pissed off today. The Saint inadvertently tossed an envelope yesterday. It wasn't technically inadvertent. She fully intended to toss the envelope. She just didn't realize that I'd outlined ten chapters of my novel on it. In nice shorthand and code... A couple of days up in smoke.

Not her fault. She was just cleaning up. I should have put the damned envelope in my briefcase. So I'm pissed at myself.

But I'm back at work. Prison is central to this new novel. I need to be realistic in the portrayal, right?

Random Thought #1: The best prison album of all time is Johnny Cash at San Quentin. Puts me right inside the walls every time I hear it. Brings my mood right down into the gutter, in a good way. But I wore out two copies of the cassette a long time ago... And in the only other CD version I'd heard, you can't hear the son of a bitch. Shel Silverstein, the Chicago poet and children's author, wrote the spectacular "A Boy Named Sue." The poem is really goofy, laugh out loud funny. If you haven't heard it, you should. If you have heard it, you already know where I'm going.

Back to the poem-song. The whole premise is that an old drunk names his son Sue, then abandons the family. The son ends up as much a derelict as his father. Then they meet in a bar and try to kill each other... Very heartwarming.

The father convinces the son not to kill him, in part by saying, "I'm the son of a bitch that named you Sue." Except that for 30 years, all you hear is a bleeeeeeeep! instead of "son of a bitch."

Then Columbia re-released the CD... complete, unedited, with 9 songs not on the original release.

I bought it at the mall today: And there's a glorious, bleep-free "son of a bitch." I'm in heaven.

Imagine a guy walking into a prison and joking about all the dope stashed in his gear, then singing "Folsom Prison Blues," "A Boy Named Sue," "Wanted Man," and dropping the bomb right down the smokestack with "San Quentin."

In a room full of prisoners, he's singing:

"San Quentin, you've been livin' Hell to me..." Inmates half a step away from rioting.

"San Quentin, I hate every inch of you..." With the warden in the room.

"San Quentin, may you rot and burn in Hell..." Guards everywhere.

It's quintessential Johnny Cash. In your face for 18 songs. You'll never again think of him as (just) a country singer if you listen to this album. Sure, there's a country beat, and quite a bit of rockabilly, but this CD flat out rocks. There are about 80 reasons why Johnny Cash is one of only two men in the Rock and Roll, Country Music and Songwriters Halls of Fame (the other is Hank Williams). But this record is Exhibit A.

All the Cash purists love it, and thousands of country-music-haters became converts, just with this album.

Cash in Full Badass Rock Star mode... Johnny Cash in full Outlaw Country mode... all at once, with some Gospel thrown in at the end.

By the way: Right after Cash played "San Quentin"...

He played it again. Because the inmates requested it. Another one down the smokestack.

Random Thought #2: I lost all those outlined chapters.

I got most of them back by listening to Johnny Cash at San Quentin. Just getting back in the mood was enough to trigger all those lost thoughts.

What was seeming like a bad day just got a whole lot better. In fact, it's a great day.


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Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Joys of the Season include Video!

So... Christmas... I love it.

I'm on vacation all week. First Christmas Vacation in years. Getting good writing time and some outlining done on the project. End of writing discussion for the day.

Let's talk Video. Who knew Santa would be such a great video guy?

I guess I should have clued in: He's fat, so he probably sits around watching DVDs 364 or so days every year.

Anyway: The Saint got me the new Call of Duty 2 Big Red One game. Yes, I confess, I love the WWII first person shooters. I have 2 MOH games, one Brothers in Arms, and both CODs... And they're great.

I got the Saint two U2 DVDs and a U2 CD. She loves Bono like I love Bruce. 'Nuff said.

Oldest Son got an iPod and a cell phone. Middle Child got a bike and a karaoke machine. They shared the seriously addictive From Russia with Love...PS2 game, not DVD... which they play all the time. Middle Child learned how to ride his bike in less than 15 minutes. It took me a couple of summers and a lot of crashes (a telephone pole and at least 4 trees).

Daughter got a Dora the Explorer DVD, which she's watched 137 times or so. Yes, everybody got books and clothes, too. It wasn't all junk food.

All the kids were terrific all through the holidays. All the kids are terrific now. The Saint is always terrific. She puts up with my need to write. OK, really. Enough about writing.

I need to hit the gym. I haven't been there since last Friday evening. It's been 6 days. I like to go every other day. One of the benefits of working out is that my brain goes into overdrive, which leads to: Writing! Seriously, I don't want to talk about writing today. I want to talk about lazy stuff like PS2, and eating bad food. By "bad," I mean, "delicious but with limited or no health benefits."

We ate 3 masterpieces at my sister's place: Seafood on Christmas Eve (Nantucket scallops my parents dug themselves, chowder, clams, mussels and 3 kinds of shrimp). King crab legs and beef tenderloin on Christmas Day. Fresh pasta with sausage, home-made meatballs and my Dad's bracciole on the day after. I had seconds on the meatballs and bracciole. I wanted fourths. I also made a serious dent in the Knob Creek I brought to my sister's place. Wisely, I believe, I left the remainder in Vermont. I don't remember the vegetables, but they were tasty, for vegetables.

The only sad Christmas story this season: My daughter is terrified of Santa. She's a little nervous about anybody who comes into the house while she's asleep, even if he's only there for a few minutes, leaving books and toys in the process. I keep telling her that Santa's back at the North Pole, but she's nervous anyway. This is a kid who is already potty-trained, but she won't turn 2 until February. But Santa: No way.

Here's hoping Santa didn't scare you this year.


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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Back at Work on the New Novel

I just spent Christmas with the Saint, the kids, my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, their two daughters (my nieces), and my brother-in-law's mother and brother. In Charlotte, Vermont. It's (Char-LOTT, not CHAR-lut, by the way). Charlotte, Vermont, makes my hometown of Cooperstown, or even the actual town where I grew up, Fly Creek, look like Manhattan.

It's 220 miles due North of Boston. Only a couple of hours from Montreal. In other words: The North Pole.

We had a wonderful time, except that my oldest son came down with strep throat. I got a terrific book from my mother, called From Fly Creek, by Jim Atwell, a guy from Fly Creek I've never met. If you're from Fly Creek, you'll know just how hard it is to be from Fly Creek and not know someone else from Fly Creek.

In my defense, Jim Atwell took early retirement in Maryland and moved full-time to Fly Creek just as I was graduating from college, getting ready for law school, and transplanting myself full-time to Boston.

I digress. Jim Atwell's book is a spectacular take on small-town life. First-rate storytelling and spellbinding prose. I had an inkling the book would be great, because I've been reading Jim's columns online in my hometown paper for years (many are reproduced in the book). But the book is even better than the collection of columns.

Note to self: Meet Jim Atwell on the next trip home. It's funny that a book by a guy who transplanted himself in Fly Creek makes me long for Fly Creek... You'd swear that Jim Atwell had lived his entire life in Fly Creek. Well, actually, you wouldn't, but you could. It's funny to read how a college professor became a pig, chicken and sheep farmer. Among other things.

Anyway, you can find out more about Jim Atwell's book at his website. I can't wait to read this one again.

A side note about the trip to Vermont (nice, nice vacation). Over on his blog, Joe Konrath is talking about how he hasn't taken a real vacation in 4 years. I logged in to say that I'd have answered Joe sooner, but I was on vacation.

Try it, Joe. You'll like it. All that rural, Northern countryside inspired me. I found about six chapters' worth of the new book up there in the Green Mountains. Even after edits, that means at least two chapters will take place there.

Don't knock vacation: I spent time with the Saint, my kids, my parents, and most of that side of my family. And the extreme rural... ruralness?... rurality... ruraliciousness?... And the extreme lack of people supplied the setting for some really good scenes from my new novel. Plus, the maple syrup was delicious.

I hope your holidays were as wonderful as mine were.


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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Another Boss Fan Found!

Or maybe I should entitle this post Thundercrack! This terrific writer named Paul Guyot posts frequently on Konrath's blog. And we all know that Konrath's blog is the place for new(er) writers. So since Konrath links to everybody who links to him, it was easy to find Paul Guyot's website and his blog.

First piece of good news: the guy can write. He's funny. He has good things to say. Guyot is an LA screenwriter who recently relocated to St. Louis. I've never been to St. Louis, but it's very near and very dear to my heart (the saint I married was born there).

Second (and best) piece of good news: He's a Springsteen fan! Now, have I actually corresponded with him? No. But I know he's a Springsteen fan because the title of every single blog post is also the title of a different Springsteen song... I always love to find new Bruce fans out there.

I've linked to Guyot's blog on the righthand side of this page, and you can also get to his website from there.

My friend Kelly Malloy is also a huge Bruce fan. The bonus is that her husband Tim is a huge Johnny Cash fan. It means that we're always guaranteed an interesting conversation or two when we get together, if the conversations about teaching (Kelly and the saint I married both teach), kids (Kelly and Tim have two, the saint and I have 3), writing (I may have mentioned that Kelly and I both write) or cooking (I love to cook; Kelly makes fantastic chocolate truffles).

Since these are Random Thoughts: One of my agents is also a giant Springsteen fan. My friend Eugena Pilek (I sat next to her for four years of high school English, and her novel, Cooperstown, is in bookstores now) is a moderate Bruce fan. Not a fanatic, but she fell in love with Nebraska, so she gets bonus points. She's also a Nick Alicino disciple (see my A rock star, 2 outlaws and an English teacher post below).

My friend Kevin Guilfoile, 2 years ahead of me in high school: Another Nick disciple. Another giant Bruce fan. He once wrote an article proving his Bruce bona fides: He's seen Springsteen perform in 3 different states, including New Jersey. I get partial credit under that scenario: I've seen him in 3 states as well, and I've also made the pilgrimage to the Stone Pony, in Asbury Park. The Pony is famous for a lot of things, but all of them involve Springsteen.

My whole Random Thought(s) pattern is in overdrive tonight: All these writers, who are also Springsteen fans. Or maybe we're all Springsteen fans who are also writers. Why do I find this cool? It's more self-explanatory than anything else.

Which also leads to another Random Thought: Dennis Lehane, another of my favorite writers-- another big Springsteen fan.

By the way, I hate all these colons and double dashes, too, but whatever.

I'd love to know which writers out there are also big Springsteen fans.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all of you out here in blog land.


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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Moving Right Along

I outlined 4 more chapters on the new novel, so I'm now through Chapter 16. On my first novel, I just sat down and wrote.... or it wrote itself... and when I had plot points, I kept them in a separate Word document, which I annotated liberally.

This book is different. I'm being strict about the outline. It's helping because it's not just a bunch of notes on the plot (surprise, surprise). The outline actually requires chapter by chapter discipline, so it's a real blueprint rather than a line drawing.

The outline is also very helpful because it exposes exactly which parts I need to research. The old novel's plot points doc was such a work in progress that I jumped around and researched points as I wrote them into the plot points document, rather than as I wrote them into the story. Made for a lot of duplicative research.

The bad news on the outline: Chapters 13-16 took almost three times as long to outline as chapters 1-12 did. I suspect that this will get more difficult as the book progresses, but I'm still very, very glad it's moving. I have a very strong, tough female character to go head to head with the tough, strong male character.

I'll be a little presumptuous and say Nick Alicino would have been proud. He'd have loved the book I'm envisioning. It's dark, but has a lot of humor in it. He thought my first book was terrific. He was my first real editor, and... well... let's leave that all for another day. Nick would have loved this one, and I wish he could have helped me lay it out a little.

The Saint I married may have to get involved soon. She's a terrific editor, too.

I suspect that the actual writing will be an easier task on this book than on the first. I mean, I've already written one, so I've learned from the mistakes I made on that book. Plus, I have more of a concrete idea where I'm going with this one. The first one wrote itself, plot and all. This one may still write itself, but it'll write itself inside the framework I erect around it.


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Sunday, December 18, 2005

12 chapters outlined!

I'm about a quarter of the way through the outline for the new book... I can't tell yet whether this is quick or slow... My guess is that I've been batting the idea around in my head for so long, the outline is moving because I'm not writing anything I haven't thought about already.

But wow, is it nice to be moving again, instead of stressing over a book that's out on submission.



Saturday, December 17, 2005

The outline progresses...

I sent some, well... random thoughts... to my agents this week... a bit on the plot structure of my new novel.

They thought it had lots of potential, but I still need a real outline, which is no surprise.

Plus they weren't sure if this was one book or two... again, not a surprise, since this was a bunch of random notes on plot structure. Not at all a formal outline, but I'm still kinda pissed that I didn't communicate as clearly as I wanted to communicate.

The whole design was to announce that I'm actually writing again, not sitting on my ass talking about writing. I've accomplished part one of the mission, and part two, the outline, is moving forward.

I referred a friend to my agents a month or so ago, and she queried them earlier this month, so she may have an update when we get together with our spouses and kids and another couple and their son for Christmas lights, beer and pizza this evening. My only suggested menu change is: Can I have bourbon instead of beer?

If you want to read my friend Kelly's blog, she's got great stuff about the earlier parts of the publishing process. She's at the point where I was a couple of years ago: frustrated about not having an agent. That part doesn't last forever. You can check out Kelly's blog at Hang in there, Kelly. When the horse throws you, climb back in the saddle as quickly as you can.

Joe Konrath has a terrific post at the top of his blog about what to expect from publishers. Since I don't have a publisher yet, I can't talk about that... but Joe and I have the same agents, and I can verify from experience that our agents are the absolute best in the business, and world-class human beings on top of that. It's a rare combination in this industry, and Joe and I are both lucky there. Check out Konrath's blog at the links section on the right.

This book I'm working on now has a darker protagonist than the guy in my first novel. The guy in my first novel is pretty dark in the beginning, but he lightens up... this new guy is, well, darker... and right now, he's staying just as dark... the fun I'm having is in trying to make a seriously messed up main character into someone sympathetic.

The other piece of fun is that this is moving, which I didn't necessarily expect to happen.



Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fire in the Hole!

I have finally, finally started work on my second novel. Only six weeks after I pitched my agents with the idea. This is fast for me, actually. It took me 2 months to start my last round of edits on my first novel, which was only a trim... I had lunch in New York with my agent, an editor and a publisher on May 6. They gave me a nice, concise list of edits. Which I began on July 5, at home.

Speed of light!

And now, a new project. For real.

I started putting plot points, character notes and research questions into an MS Word doc. These are all transcribed from the old envelopes I keep by the side of my bed to scribble Random Thoughts on at night.

The story idea is really taking off now, and I'm hoping to have the outline done by January 15. A guy like Joe Konrath can probably do an outline in a day and a half, but I'm a plodder. Once I start writing (as opposed to outlining, note-taking, researching), I can move the story along. Then the editing process slows it all down again, but that's a good thing. There are guys in Kentucky who can distill bourbon very quickly, but the real work is in the aging process. There's no secret to that: Time. That's the editing process to me. I take something raw and disjointed, and smooth it, over time, into something better.

Editing is glacial. Writing is pure speed.

When I'm in a groove, the thoughts keep coming faster than I can write them. Just one after the other, for hours. Feels like about 30 seconds, and I'll have spent the entire night at the computer. I wrote much of my first novel that way... started at 8 p.m. and was stunned to look up from the keyboard to find that it was daylight.

Outlining... If writing is speed, I guess the outline is the race course. Or the track. Something to keep the car from going (too far) off course. I'm used to going off course, so this whole outlining thing should be a lot of fun. I've met authors who swear by outlines, authors who swear at outlines, and authors who've written some books from outlines, others without.

I'm trying an outline this time for two reasons:

1. Author friends have suggested one.
2. My agents have "suggested" one.

I learned very early in the process to listen to my author friends and to do whatever my agents tell me to do. My agents are terrific. Wonderful human beings, and the funny part is, they treat my work as... my work... Which is very funny, because they've also put a ton of work into "my work," so it's "our work" now. And that's a good thing.

But the point is, when they want me to make changes, they "suggest" them.

"It's your book, in the end." Which, of course, leads me to make every change they want me to make, and every one of them has made my work better.

The author-agent relationship is sacred. Tighter than an attorney-client relationship. It's part priest-penitent, part shrink-patient and part something else entirely... They're career counselors, but also editors, guides, keepers of secrets. They learn, very quickly, how you think, which is pretty liberating.

So I'm taking a new approach to outlining this time (I'm actually using an outline instead of a bunch of random notes, or in addition to a bunch of random notes). I'm hoping I'll cut out some of those all-night sessions, which were okay with 2 kids and my own business, not okay with 3 kids, working for other people, even people as nice as the other people are.

To recap: The good news is that I've formally begun putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard or whatever I usually do to push the thoughts from my head onto the medium of choice. I'm using an outline, and the thoughts are flying.

Progress. I love progress.



Saturday, December 10, 2005

Favorite Fiction Characters

I was compiling this list and it made me laugh, because most of the characters on it are named Jack.

For instance, I love Jack Flynn, Brian McGrory's political reporter-protagonist in The Incumbent, The Nominee and Deadline. Check McGrory's website at for more details. You can also link to it on the right.

I also love J.A. Konrath's Jack Daniels. No, not Jack Daniel's, the Tennessee Whiskey (though I love that, too). Konrath's Jack Daniels is a woman, Lt. Jacqueline Daniels of the Chicago Police Department. One of the best new characters out there. An insomniac detective. Konrath has an amazing website, particularly helpful to new readers. I've linked to it, but you can also click here:

Jeremiah Healy has not a Jack, but its precursor, John. Healy's John Francis Cuddy is a terrific fictional private investigator. Healy writes the best Private Eye books on the planet. I've also linked to him on the right, but you can click

Healy's John Francis Cuddy is a real treat if you think you've seen everything. If you've read the Cuddy series but it's been a while, go back and read a few titles again. You'll be amazed at Healy's prose, and at the complexity of his most famous character.

My favorite Jack in current fiction is Lee Child's incomparable Jack Reacher. There's not much I need to add. Go to for more information. Reacher is a serious, serious badass... I dare you to read just one of Child's books.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention perhaps the best character in the thriller genre, by the amazing David Morrell: John Rambo. I don't mean the guy Stallone played. Well, I do mean that guy, but the guy in Morrell's book, not the guy in the movie. They're very different, and as usual, the book is better.

Deviating a little from popular and current fiction, we'll round out today's post with my two most favorite characters in all of literature.

Number 2 on the list is not Jack or John, but Atticus. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird might be the best lawyer ever created. He's certainly one of the most compassionate protagonists we'll ever see. Harper Lee created an absolute masterpiece of a book, with stunning characters in Scout, Jem, and Boo Radley, but Atticus is the noblest of all. There's a reason why Mockingbird still outsells every book in this country except the Bible.

Last on the list, my favorite, from my favorite book, back to Jack: Jack Burden from All the King's Men. As flawed a main character as any author has ever created. This guy is seriously tormented. If it's been a while since you've read a classic, if you like politics, or if you enjoy reading about the seedy underside of human nature, grab Robert Penn Warren's classic, considered by many to be the greatest American novel.

Feel free to add your own favorites in the comment section.


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Friday, December 09, 2005

A rock star, 2 outlaws and an English Teacher

Some day soon, I'm going to post about the novelists whose work led me to write a thriller. I mean, they're all thriller writers, and it should be a fun trip down memory lane.

I'm also going to post about the writers who have assisted me with the writing process-- friends of mine, old and new, who have helped me to navigate my way through the publishing business. Most of them already have links on the right-hand side of this page, and I encourage you to check them all out. Buy their books. Buy them in hardcover. Every one is a great read.

But for this post, I want to talk about the writers who led me to become a fiction writer... not a novelist, or a guy who pens mysteries, or short stories, or novellas... but a fiction writer.

Before you can write in a genre, you have to want to write in the first place. Four guys led me down that path. You'll recognize three names and I really wish you'd known the fourth, who is really first in importance.

1. Nick Alicino
2. Bruce Springsteen
3. Johnny Cash
4. Kris Kristofferson

It actually starts with Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. As I've mentioned, I listened to them in utero. My mother's doing, not mine, but she did it right. They were my caretakers until I discovered Springsteen in a blatant attempt to curry favor with my 9th Grade English Teacher: Nick Alicino.

Born in the USA came out in the summer of 1984, and it blew me out of the water. More importantly, I knew that my new English teacher loved it as well, so I tried talking to him about it. Nick started loaning me other Springsteen music, and it was like a sledgehammer blow to the side of my head, but in a good way.

I was also starting to write a lot of short fiction at the time, because Nick was encouraging that in his class, and encouraging me specifically. It's amazing how much you actually want to write when somebody tells you you're a good writer. Eventually, it takes on a life of its own and you write a novel or two or ten, or you make a career out of it.

I'm getting a little ahead of things. I developed my love of writing at the same time I found my Springsteen addiction. That's one of the reasons why I've always wanted to write fiction the way Springsteen writes songs... the way Johnny Cash wrote songs... the way Kristofferson writes songs. The goal is to say a lot, in as few words as possible. And that's what any really good song does.

An 800 page novel should tell a great story. But if you cut that 800 page novel to 400 pages, and keep the same story, the 400 page novel will be better. Cutting words is a much more effective editing tool than adding words.

It's harder to write a 375 page book than it is to write an 826 page book. I learned that from experience. I had to tell the same story I was trying to tell in the 826 page book, in only 375 pages, without sacrificing anything important. It's harder to cut than it is to add. Short stories and poems are the hardest of all.

Which brings me back to the late, great Nick Alicino, who was a hell of a poet, and wrote wonderful short fiction, too. You'll read about him a lot.

Everyone hears the question, "Can you name one person who changed your life forever?" It's an old question, so common that it's usually boring. And I'm not talking about spouses, children, parents, or friends you've chosen. I'm talking about people who've entered your life, but they aren't genetically linked to you, and you don't have much choice as to whether you get to associate with them.

Can you name one person who changed your life forever?

Yes: Nick Alicino.

Before Nick, I was a kid who liked reading and not much else. Various teachers had let me know that I could tell a good story. But after Nick, I was a Springsteen fan. And a writer. Those titles are part of who I am, right after Husband and Father, and right before Democrat and Baseball Fan. They're way ahead of the "What I Do" descriptions (PR guy, campaign operative, Recovering Lawyer).

For more than 15 years, I had this crazy dream that I was going to write a novel. I had this other crazy dream that I wanted to go to a Springsteen concert with Nick.

Being a writer, being a Springsteen fan... Nick Alicino had everything to do with those.

After I wrote my novel (more or less), I went to a Springsteen concert with Nick. Nick went home with my novel. Nick liked it. Nothing else really mattered.

When I got an agent, Nick was the first person I told. He would have been my second, but Lisa, the saint I married, was standing next to me when the call came in and she figured it all out. I would have told Bruce, but I haven't met him yet. Turns out my agent is a Springsteen fan, too... so I can thank Nick all over again.

My high school (Cooperstown Central, in Cooperstown, New York) has produced 2 published novelists (see my links for Kevin Guilfoile, class of '86, and Eugena Pilek, my classmate from 1988). I'm in limbo, and there's a guy a couple of years younger than I am who is a little farther back in the publishing pipeline.

All four of us had Nick for 9th Grade English. This is a town of 2,000 people that graduates around a hundred kids per year. At least four of them are novelists, two of them published... That can't possibly be some quirk of fate. That's Nick Alicino, who was a better writer than any of us, and better still as a coach and mentor and friend. You be the judge. Nick died almost two years ago, but his website,, is still up. Check it out.

So I try to write fiction the way Springsteen or Johnny Cash or Kris Kristofferson write/wrote songs.

But I thank Nick Alicino because without him, I wouldn't be writing anything at all.


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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

How a lawyer became a fiction writer

Insert your own lawyer joke here.

I went to law school. I enjoyed the academic exercise, but hated practicing law. So I went into public relations as a way to get involved with political campaigns (Equation: Law Degree + Press Experience= Lots of fun working with politicians).

After 4 years with a couple of top Boston firms, I started my own business. Had a lot of fun, made the time to write a novel... a political thriller my agent is shopping around... and spent not enough time with my wife and kids.

So when the opportunity came to start working with a terrific non-profit here in Boston, I took it. In the meantime, my agent really likes my idea for a second novel, but you know, since I have a great new job, I can't spend any time on my employer's dime actually writing a novel, and since I love this newfound time I have with my wife and kids, I'm not spending a whole lot of time writing... or even outlining... Soon, right?

Plus, there are things like the gym, which can be fun, and Springsteen concerts, which are other-worldly. They're great ways to avoid writing, actually. Even healthy. I highly recommend them.