Take a ride on this new ‘Subway’

Today marks the publication of my newest novel, Subway Visions. It’s an ebook at Smashwords.com.

It’s a thorough reworking of my earlier Subway Hitchhikers, a work I first drafted back when the hippie movement seemed torn between heading in two directions.

One was out into the countryside, where you could hitchhike with ease in most places.

The other was back into the cosmopolitan center city, where you could get around on an underground subway network. (I loved the double meaning of underground, by the way – the idea of counterculture going back to, what, Dostoevsky?)

I wanted to bridge that gap.

Nearly a half-century has passed since that early manuscript took shape. It was eventually published in 1990. A lot has transpired since then.

There’s not a lot about hippies in the new book, for one thing. And there’s no longer a need to sketch out other facets of the broader narrative, now that Daffodil Uprising and Pit-a-Pat High Jinks are available.

The revised story now focuses on Kenzie’s monthly three-day forays into the Big Apple from his perch in the hinterlands to the north. These trips soon center on his jaunts to study with his Tibetan Buddhist guru in a derelict tenement in Manhattan’s SoHo district.

Getting there, of course, means taking the subway, and each venture takes him further and further into surreal realms – many of them rarely seen by the average commuter.

The revised story also builds on Kenzie’s new friends, especially Holly as a fellow Buddhist and, later, T-Rex as a legendary tagger.

The book – like the others in my Freakin’ Free Spirits cycle – is meant to stand alone, though the novels altogether form a larger, overarching narrative.

Let’s just say it’s a wild, comic ride.

Be among the first to read my newest novel.

THAT VICTORIAN APARTMENT WAS REAL

The once grand dame of an apartment house turned shabby that I describe in my novel Daffodil Uprising was real, though situated in Upstate New York rather than southern Indiana. A little bit more poetic license, if you will, in my relocating the blocky building.

I use the past tense, because satellite searches inform me the structure has been demolished, no doubt because of some of the health and safety issues the story relates. Bringing everything up to code would have cost a fortune.

Well, maybe a fire did it in. That, too, feels quite plausible.

When Kenzie and his two buddies flee their dorm, they have such high expectations. So did I, in what was supposed to be a haven after college. Look, this was what a professional journalist could afford – slum housing.

Still, the moldy manse was memorable and possibly haunted. I certainly heard rumors to that effect.

RUNNING IN A NAME

How can you not appreciate the way the word flows on the teeth and tongue and along the lips?

Given its name, Oyster River, in the Lenape tongue for the profusion at its mouth in Chesapeake Bay, the word ripples and sings.

Upstream, where I lived, a different name would have been fitting but, I’ll presume, no more beautiful.

Susquehanna 1~*~

For your own copy, click here.

MEETING IN THE MIDDLE

The prose-poem presents a subtle challenge. In theory, it should be a natural fit for the English language. In practice, however, what I see all too often is simply wordy prose. Somewhere, the poetry gets trapped or tangled or loses its spin.

Coming across a guideline to keep a prose-poem under a hundred words spurred my thinking. As I considered revising a clutch of drafted poems, a sensed an opportunity. Recast without line breaks, they flew – especially when I removed the punctuation that pushed them toward prose.

I’m satisfied with the results, which I feel are more powerful and vibrant and authentic than either a straight-prose or straight-verse version would present.

Take a look for yourself. Just click here.

harbor cover.jpg.opt370x493o0,0s370x493~*~

 

POOL BUM

“Hey! You! Come here!” Black man, about thirty, in Pitt sweatshirt and Pirates cap, stands at the fence and motions one of the tough talking grade-schoolers over. “I said, Come here! Yes, YOU! I’m warning you, leave my daughter alone. Don’t call her, don’t talk to her, don’t approach her.” He fiddles with his car keys. The kid smirks. “Listen to me,” I suspect he wants to add “you little asshole,” but he restrains. “If I ever hear that you’ve said anything like that again, you’re in deep trouble. Understand me? Real deep trouble. And that goes for my wife, too. You’re to leave them both alone, got that. You can tell your mother what I’ve said to you, I don’t care. You can tell your pa, too. I don’t care. But I’m warning you, hear?”

(The blond brat, walking back to the pool from the fence, smirks to his buddies.)

I’m itching like crazy. This has been going on the past two weeks, ever since the first flea bites. Those are gone now but the itching gets worse. Hellfire. Mites? Fungi? Anemia? Allergies? (WATER! Hot showers or swimming?) Negative effects from the sun? First sunbathing in three weeks: my tan’s faded to half.

Hot shower and soap up thoroughly. No relief.

Much lotion, which I’ve been using for a week and a half anyway.

Iron pills.

Spray, for relief: Solarcaine. Tinactin. Bactine.

Avoid water now. Salute the dad.

Riverside 1~*~

For more, click here.

IN ITS URBAN DECAY

It’s life in the inner city, usually not far from downtown and often in an enclave near the river. High density population, at least compared to the suburbs, and filled with children. Usually blue-collar or poor or a mix of students added in, it’s noisy and lively, even colorful in its urban decay. You can walk to the store or corner bar.

We lived on the second floor and later, a street over, on the third.

That’s where these poems originate and resonate still.

Riverside 1~*~

For your own copy, click here.

MOODY RIVER WINDING AWAY

What may appear to be a lazy river meandering amid its wooded isles deserves consideration and room to run wild.

Passions arise and freeze over. The flow dwindles to rock. Rats run along the shoreline of factory brick at the dam. A few miles on, either direction, the dairy herds gather.

All of it reflecting my soul when I lived there.

Susquehanna 1~*~

For your own copy, click here.

HOW WOULD THE AUTHOR REACT?

I never know what will show up in our household after a Saturday morning round of yard sales, and Vince Passaro’s novel Violence, Nudity, Adult Content is a perfect example. At least it wasn’t another chair.

OK, it’s a catchy title – one I’m afraid generally oversells the story. While the novel’s excellently written, what really strikes me is the way it’s essentially four related novellas that are woven together. And, yes, it is set in Manhattan.

There’s the big law-office intrigue and infighting. There’s the one rich client’s murder case. There’s another lawsuit resulting from a brutal sexual attack. And there’s the marriage with two young kids that’s coming unraveled. (So far, it’s not that different from the three stories in a single television episode of Love Boat, a formula that quickly spread across programming. Here, though, the braiding feels more integrated into a whole. Well, not everyone was on the boat at the same time, in effect.)

Now, for a little confession. In a more conventionally structured novel, I will often leap ahead somewhere around the middle to the final pages. If what I find there makes perfect sense from what I’ve already learned, I’ll likely drop the book – perhaps picking it up later and skimming for supporting details. Of course, it the plot’s much thicker, I continue on the linear course.

What I found myself doing in this case was jumping from page to page to pick up just one of the threads, all the way to the end, before returning to the point of departure and following another thread the same way. Hey, I was pressed for time! The fact that one of the threads, presented as emails, appeared in a different font made the process that much easier.

So I’m left wondering how the author would feel about readers like me. Or whether an author even cares how a reader moves through a story.

Maybe it just depends on the book. Or an ego.

WITH FLAMES AND A DEMON OR TWO

Anais Nin once contended that each of us has a demon. My response was – and remains – Just one?

Each demon, we should note, is different.

Our struggle is what thickens the plot – or dulls it. It can draw us together in intimacy – or drive us apart.

The eleven prose-poems of Harbor of Grace reflect that energy.

They tell of intense friendship propelled by a shared faith that flames and then explodes. Of the Old Ways bordering Amish and other Plain peoples in addition to urban conflict over the horizon. Of commitment and human shortfalls, too.

Harbor of Grace is the translated name of the town at the mouth of the Susquehanna River where the dedicatee of this collection was born.

harbor cover.jpg.opt370x493o0,0s370x493~*~

For the chapbook, click here.