I’ve been AWOL from this blog since early July, but I’ve been busy with a new poetry project titled COLORADO CHRONICLES. I’ve already completed first drafts of eight poems and read several at open mics in the Capital Region. I’ve got more in mind, and I hope to include some illustrations as well.
I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll have a table at the first-ever Albany Book Festival presented by the New York State Writers Institute on September 29. I’d hoped to have this new book available by then. That may be a tad unrealistic, but it will definitely be available before the holidays. I plan to offer a signed and numbered first edition for free to a few lucky followers—subscribe and follow this blog so you won’t miss out on the details.
Here’s the beginning of the book’s forward, which describes its genesis:
Last spring I had my sights set on attending Thrillerfest in July. I’d attended once before, and I loved hobnobbing with and learning from the world’s leading authors of thriller and suspense novels. Sponsored by the International Thriller Writers, the conference is held in midtown Manhattan, and the focus on intrigue, murder and mayhem is solidly in my wheelhouse as a novelist.
Meanwhile, my husband was making plans to attend the annual conference of the Romance Writers of America in Denver a week later. Like me, he writes edgy novels that veer toward the dark side, but he was interested in breaking into the enormous and lucrative romance market as well as exploring the old gold and silver mining towns of Colorado, where one of his works-in-progress is set.
Attending two major conferences back-to-back was financially out of the question, so I took a look at the schedule for the RWA conference. Surprisingly, it appealed to me more than Thrillerfest, especially because of the many sessions on marketing, building your brand, effective use of social media—all the topics I tend to avoid but need to conquer if I’m ever going to make it as a writer. Robb offered to foot the bill, and two weeks in Colorado with my husband began to look more attractive than a long weekend alone in Manhattan, which is an easy day trip on Amtrak from my home in upstate New York.
But there was a major problem: I’ve never been a romance writer, and I have no desire to be one. Decades ago, I managed to land a well-respected agent in New York City for my first two novels. She advised me to try my hand at romances, since that genre would be easier to break into for an unpublished writer. So I diligently set to work on a new novel where the hero and heroine meet on a horse farm in the Hudson Valley, but the more I wrote, the more depressed I became. A sunny plot with the mandatory happy ending? No murders, no mysteriously alluring villains? I was boring myself to tears, and I gradually ground to a halt.
Besides, detailed and prolonged romantic scenes, especially if they involve graphic sex, have never been my forte. All my novels include attractive men—some heroic, some villainous—and women who find them alluring, but I generally cut away before they fall into bed together, if they ever do. More often, whatever lust they’re feeling remains unrequited or unfulfilled. This was true of the two unpublished novels I wrote in my late thirties, and it’s even truer now that I’m in my seventies.
But I reframed this problem as an advantage. With no ambitions and no agenda, I was free to enjoy the conference and what it
had to offer without worrying about whom I should network with, which authors and agents I should try to impress. Even so, ever the diligent student, I rushed from one workshop to another, taking copious notes and never cutting class.
After three long jam-packed days in the stale air of the Sheraton’s conference rooms, Robb and I were ready to head for the hills—specifically the foothills of the Rockies. In a rented black Jeep Patriot SUV, we drove to towns I’d never heard of: Manitou Springs, Victor, Leadville. And Cripple Creek, which I knew from the Band’s song with Levon Helm’s funky country vocal, though no one in the town could tell me if this was the same Cripple Creek Robbie Robertson was writing about.
Robb had planned the itinerary, and as at the conference, I was along for the ride, with no goals or agenda. But as we climbed higher into the mountains and the altitude began hitting us harder, it occurred to me that maybe I should write some poems about the experience, maybe put together a small chapbook. Over several days, the potential project morphed into something bigger and more ambitious, and I began keeping more detailed notes and jotting down the rough drafts of poems in a golden spiral-bound notebook I’d picked up in the back-to-school aisles at a Walmart near Colorado Springs.
I’d deliberately left my laptop at home, but I began to envision the book as an on-the-road saga with a story arc, beginning with our leaving home and leaving our dog Sirius at the Hair of the Dog kennel, then climbing ever upward till we reached Leadville, the highest incorporated town in America, where we purchased our first marijuana candy, then descending down once more, increasingly exhausted and feeling our age, till we arrived at last at the place where our adventure began.
Stay tuned for more as I keep you abreast of my progress. I’ll be previewing some of the poems too, so please subscribe by clicking on the menu at the right. And by all means leave comments—I’d love to hear from you.