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Jan 27, 2013

R.I.P. Jack McCarthy

The following piece was written by my one of my writing mentors and friend, Josh Peterson, who has graciously consented to share his remembrances of one of his early writing mentors. I hope his eloquent sentiment touches you in the same way it did me. I've still not stopped thinking about that poem.

Back in 1993, when I was just starting to seriously think about my writing, I saw an advertisement at the Newton Free Library in Newton, Massachusetts for a writing workshop held there on Saturday mornings at 10:30 a.m., run by a man named Jim McGarry. Poetry? Who writes poetry anymore? But it was free, and it late enough in the morning that even a recent college graduate should be able to get up, and so I went. Jack McCarthy sat there in one of those uncomfortable metal chairs, with his jeans and an aged long-sleeved shirt rolled up for heavy labor, his moustache framing a mouth in a mischievous curl. There, and on the many weekends to follow, he, Jim and the others fostered in an ignorant scientist a love for poetry that nothing in my schooling had ever encouraged. Oh! the places he took my mind. The things he shared. Jack helped me to understand the value of precision in writing, of intentfulness, of playfulness, and, most importantly, of the need for candor, and the value of writing itself. Jack showed me that writing didn't matter much--never mind be fun to read--if you did not drop your guard and show the weaknesses we conceal. He revealed the need for risk in what you lived and wrote.

What a man, Jack McCarthy.

 I imagine a part of him registering unhappy satisfaction that it wasn't the alcohol that caught up with him, or cholesterol, but the coffin nails in their Camel packaging he'd smoked for so long. I imagine that part saying, "Well, that's about right." After so many betrayals, another one was to be expected. His last words to me were to introduce me to another writer whose poetry reminded him of something I'd once written:

Wood Cut 

My father used to carve 
in his workshop 
in the cellar I would sit at the foot of the stairs 
and watch him 
peel off slivers 
crack back a chunk 
always a puddle of chips 
smeared across the floor 
I know what he would say 
if I could tell him that I missed him: 
"When you carve, 
you take things away." 

 Jack, you carved well. Enjoy the rest. Enjoy your victory.


Jan 22, 2013

Shaky Ground, Book Two of the Schattenreich: the cover and an excerpt

The trickle of water over rocks made me look up. Sebastian sat across from me studying a globe that floated between us a few centimeters above the grass. 

"Hey, Sebastian, good to see you."

He glanced up. "Are you ready to try again, Frau Schwarzbach?"

I examined the floating sphere more closely. Its surface resembled the version of the Snakes and Ladders game I had played once with a metaphysical Sebastian on my first night in Germany. The board had been flat and resembled the one Gus and I had played as kids. It had been an antique, possibly a family heirloom, although my mother had never told us where it came from. That board was hand-carved wood, highly intricate in detail, and more sinister-looking than the U.S. version, Chutes and Ladders.

This version also had wooden ladders and snakes, but looked realistically earthlike. The landscape moved as if alive. And the surface was now wrapped around a sphere. I wondered if there were fault zones and magma chambers underneath. Were there mantle, core and crust? My wooden cat stood where it had last been, between a snake and a ladder.

Sebastian sat with legs folded yoga-like, his back straight and head erect. Was this a shared dream with Sebastian? Did it have something to do with the presence of the talisman? Sebastian had alluded to my first Snakes and Ladders dream on Samhain. How was that possible? Or had he wanted me to believe he knew what I was talking about?

"Frau Schwarzbach?"

"Sebastian. I have so many questions. Things just don't make any sense. Why is it now a globe?"

"A good question. It may have something to do with evolving relationships." He bowed his head. "One question. Many questions. Each question needs its own time and place. Do you have a specific question?"

Specific. I could do that. Heinrich. Talisman. Being bound. I started to speak, but Sebastian stopped me with a hand upheld. "Form the question in your head."

He held his hand out to the wooden ball covered with embossed symbols that hung in place above the globe, like a diminutive satellite. I couldn't imagine anyone talented enough to have carved them all by hand. They were so perfect and so tiny.

I paused, my finger poised above the ball. The last time I had done this, Hagen snubbed me. Gus disappeared. I nearly drowned. But several other things had also happened.

I saved Gus. Hagen said he needed me, adored me. Death tipped his hat to me, a gesture I interpreted as his personal endorsement of my decision to carry on living. I had new friends, good friends. Samantha and Anna and Tony and Jacqueline. I also had new enemies. Dagmar Abel and a man with eyes like mine. Exactly like mine.

That same man followed me to Hannover and back; the man I had shared an Otherworld vision with had threatened me and was in cahoots with Dagmar. My game piece was caught between a snake and a ladder. Not neutral but a little bit of both. Who was the man with my eyes?

Jan 7, 2013

Sign in for a free book - Primary Fault

In the countdown to the release of Shaky Ground, in cooperation with The Akamai Reader, we're doing a giveaway. It's for five days only so hurry on over there!