Thursday, February 25, 2010

Yearning

Out the small square window, Baltimore glittered, a patchwork of lights trembling beside the velvet black of the harbor. Somewhere below the shimmering mantle was my tiny, impermanent home. My tiny life.

The plane thudded on the tarmac. I hurried past security and headed toward the escalators. At baggage claim, the carousels stood desolate. Worry fluttered against my ribs; I dreaded the city at night, especially my neighborhood. I tried to focus on positive thoughts - a warm sudsy bath, curling under my down duvet with my new Margaret Atwood and a bar of Scharffen Berger’s dark. Then sweet, uninterrupted sleep until tomorrow’s alarm woke me, always too early.

The escalator discharged a stream of passengers. A loud rumble erupted at the opposite end. I moved with the crowd towards the carousel, hoping my suitcase was whirling around merrily there instead. Someone grabbed me around my waist. I jabbed back with my elbow.

“Hey!” The hands twirled me around.

“Kevin! Jesus, you scared--”

“Glad to see my self-defense lessons worked. I missed you.” He rubbed his side where I’d poked him. “I think.”

His prickly chin pressed against my neck, smelling faintly medicinal. He pressed me close and I felt him, hard and angular. My knees jellied.

“You never pick me up at the airport,” I said.

“Babycakes, I’m here to rescue you from evil, expensive cabbies and dark, dangerous streets.” He dropped to one knee. “Your royal coach awaits. To the palace! There, I shall fete you with Red Velvet cake, a foot massage… and other, special caresses of an intimate nature and, therefore, unmentionable in proper Southern society.” He winked and extended his arm. My hand disappeared in his. He lifted it to his lips and kissed the diamond perched on my left ring finger. “Shall we?”

I looked down at his earnest slate eyes, wanting to make up for our last less-than-agreeable phone call. I thought of my solitary night, my bath, book and chocolate. My vast calm bed. Then I thought of my father, alone in his derangement, and remembered my longings.

#

The mattress jiggled when Kevin rolled off me. Stretched naked across white sheets, he looked like a sculpted bronze, a work of art produced from the intertwining of Irish and Dominican DNA. He turned on his side and faced me, a lopsided smile creasing his face. His fingers trailed down my inner forearm before circling my wrist.

“Ready for bed?”

He didn’t wait for my answer and clicked off the bedside light. Yellow urban haze filtered through the microblinds, casting the room in ashen dark. The wail of a fire truck exiting the station below overrode the clack and rattle of the light rail. The siren turned to an echo, along with the rest of the city noises, until only Kevin’s even breaths filled the dark.

When I awoke, the blanket had slipped off. My inner thighs were tacky from spilled semen. Trying not to let my teeth chatter, I reached for my nightgown and panties on the floor by the bed and crept into the bathroom. I squatted over the toilet, then peered into the bowl, just to make sure; ever since the miscarriage, I always looked before flushing.

I reached into the linen closet for my silk travel bag. The birth control pill snapped easily from the foil pack. I held the peach-colored disc, marveling at the compulsive pull of my body’s rhythms and desires, unseen and unrecordable, but mysteriously known. I paused – was I sure? – then dropped the pill into the toilet. It landed atop the small bed of tissue paper and dissolved.

I snuck under the covers and wondered why I was even trying to create another being - life’s loss was so much heavier than its possibility.

***

Excerpted from PURE, a novel semi half-way done. To read more about PHOEBE, the moral compass of my tale, click HERE.

Last week to read my essay The Week Before My Father Died, an entry in the EDITOR UNLEASHED "Why I Write" contest. Essays are open to popular voting through Sunday. You must be a registered member of the EDITOR UNLEASHED forums. Please take some time to read these often passionate pieces about the writing life.


Peace, Linda

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dark Angel

Bass booms through my feet. I push through the bar where the hets hang until midnight when the more sexually adventurous take over. Donna Summers wails. I will survive, I will survive… I squeeze past the pulsing bodies, to the back staircase leading to the second floor where the white collars eat outlandish Maki rolls at low tables. Up the spiral staircase to the loft overlooking the action. Here, it’s cooler and quieter, the smoke less thick. I drape my jacket over the back of the stool at the zinc bar. Images of tonight’s gunshot vics fade.

“Regular?” Mick asks from behind the counter.

I nod. He slides me a martini with three fat olives. The vermouth cools my throat. I’d prefer to hang out at my place, with Ben, and watch some tube, maybe get high, though maybe not; he seems pretty Puritanical these days. He’s probably asleep; he looked wrecked, like a stray mutt, when I picked him up. But I’m way too wound up to crash. Out of habit, I pat my side for the Vicodin, but my white coat’s in the locker. I remember the locked box. Jesus, how am I going to get my stuff? Nurse Ratchet’s on to me. Maybe Doreen. Hell, maybe they’re undercover. I bet there’s cameras in the can. Maybe the Chapel’s wired.

I look up. My drink’s sucked dry.

“Need another before I go off?”

“Why not?”

Mick smiles his toothy grin. He scoops the two twenties and shakes me a fresh one. Downstairs fills up. Mick makes room for his replacement, some kid with a ponytail I haven’t seen before. The kid nods as Mick points out bottles running low, then squats and slides open a cabinet. A tattoo plasters his lower back, a glory of greens and blues. My phone vibrates. I reach for it, then figure what the fuck, I’ll fall off the stool answering the damn thing. Probably Phoebe, it’s her bedtime. She has no clue I spend my weekends in this dive. I rationalize, telling myself I’m only looking at the candy, not sampling.

“Hey. Doc.”

The new keep leans over the counter. I admire his soul patch.

“Do I know you?” I ask. I hope I do.

“You treated me,” he says. “I skidded on my motorcycle in a freak t-storm. Wrecked my back.”

This rings no bells. I ask him how long ago and he says last August.

“And how is your back now?" I ask.

“Still twinges at times,” he says. “Need a refill?”

I shrug. I’m pretty loaded. Getting home will be interesting.

“How about my specialty?”

“Depends on what it is.”

He points to the bottle of Jaegermeister. “Dark Angel.”

Mick wipes the bar with a damp towel and snorts. “That’ll knock you off your keister.”

“That it will.” The kid laughs and measures shots of Black Vodka and Jaegermeister, then pops a Red Bull into the shaker. He pours the beige beverage into a highball glass. It’s sweeter than I tend to like.

“How can you drink that stuff?” Mick shakes his head. The kid just laughs, low and guttural, and sprays himself a coke from the fountain. Mick gives a peace sign salute, and bounds down the spiral staircase. The Dark Angel numbs my face.

“Exactly where does your back twinge?”

The kid turns and pulls up his black leather jacket. The top of his tattoo, a bird or a butterfly, something with a wing, swoops below his low slung jeans.

“Here.” He thumps above the tat. “Especially when I’m on my back.”

“On your back?”

He lets the shirt and jacket fall over his pants. He comes around the bar and sits on the stool beside me. “Yeah. When I’m on my back.”

“So what do you do?”

“I stand, or fuck in a chair,” he says.

“I mean about the pain.”

“Hey, doing it I forget about pain. But those pills you gave me helped – a lot.”

“Talk to your physician,” I say. “Get another prescription.”

“Don’t have a doc,” he says. “Don’t have health insurance. I’m an artist, blow glass.” His tongue works a cube of ice around his mouth. “Among other things.”

His words hang in the air like smoke. The Pet Shop Boys blast from below. His knee falls against mine. I swivel towards him, not losing contact.

“What did I prescribe?”

“Oxy something,” he says. “I could function, could spin my glass, plunge my pieces into the glory hole.”

“Glory hole?”

“The stove, man, where we melt our glass. You should come see my studio. Me and another blower rent space in an old warehouse by Fort McHenry.”

“I’d like to see your… glory hole,” I say. His knee presses harder. “Look, you were my patient, I could write a prescription for you. To help with the pain, you know.”

“That would be super,” he says.

“I could write you a script for twenty OxyContin,” I say.

“Why not eighty?”

If I didn’t realize before he was duping me, I know it now. But I don’t care, I’m thinking about that tattoo spreading over his ass, him sweating in front of his kiln, thrusting the fiery ball of glass into shape.

“Let’s start with forty,” I say softly. “For a hundred dollars.”

“A hundred bucks for a lousy prescription?”

“Cheaper than an office visit,” I say.

He frowns. “I don’t have that kind of dough.”

“How ‘bout we barter?”

His hand drops on top of my thigh. He squeezes, oh so gently. “For what?”

“I’m thinking you bring me half the prescription,” I say.

He cocks his head at me, then nods, getting me. Understanding we have a lot more in common than glory holes.

I reach for the prescription pad inside my jacket pocket; you never know when it’ll come in handy. I click my pen.

“So tell me, what’s your name?”

***

Excerpted from PURE, a novel finally falling together. Read more about Kevin, my sexually-confused, pill-popping anesthesiologist.

Take a gander at my essay The Week Before My Father Died, an entry in the EDITOR UNLEASHED "Why I Write" contest. Essays are open to popular voting through February. You must be a registered member of the EDITOR UNLEASHED forums. Please take some time to read the other, often passionate pieces about the writing life.


Peace, Linda

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Need a Shot of Optimism?

Read this most excellent post by MARIE MUTSUKI MOCKETT about how debut authors and small presses are slowly winning their deserving readership.

Graywolf Press published her debut novel Picking Bones from Ash last fall.

Kick tush, Marie!

Peace, Linda

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Kissing Tree

Up at Michael Solender's wondermous Blog NOT FROM HERE, ARE YOU?.

Lately, I've been pondering place, mostly North Carolina and Baltimore, and the meaning of home. The kissing tree is a 'character' that shows up in several stories and poems. When my family travels to my parents, a signpost telling us we've almost arrived is a huge oak smothered with mistle-toe. We always kissed as a family at the intersection. Shortly before my father died, I traveled alone, and only the tree trunk remained. A poem was born...

Thank you Michael for the chance to grace your pages. I am honored...

Peace, Linda

Saturday, February 13, 2010

An Interview -- Honest Scrap

The Prince got his revenge and interviewed me last week. It was fun being interviewed by royalty -- and as a journalist, he asks fun questions. You can read about our creative endeavors on his blog The Dark Side of the Soul. Thanks Jimmy - you're a gracious host and a kind soul.

***

Blogger friend ERIN KUHNS dubbed me with an Honest Scrap Award. Thank you Erin -- I am honored. Erin's a cool writer chickola living in Quebec -- aka Paradise. To claim the award, I have to share 10 ten things about myself. Erin's were funtabulous -- check 'em out. Here's mine:

1/ I am a pharmacist. Really.

2/ I once hid a boyfriend -- butt naked -- in my sister's college for 5 hours when my parents came home early from a vacation.

3/ My secret yen is to be a lounge singer.

4/ I spent most of my life trying to live up to my father's expectations. I'm glad I did -- I like the way I've turned out.

5/ There is nothing or no one I love more than my two children.

6/ It's difficult for me to walk away from 'success', but I'm getting better at it every day.

7/ Although I have only been writing since January 2, 2006, I've lived and learned more in the past 4 years than all the prior years combined.

8/ My mother is my hero.

9/ Sometimes, I feel too much.

10/ I believe in a greater power.


Before I sign off, I get to pay the Honest Scrap Award forward to three women who always speak the truth:

~The brilliant Poetess Melissa @ WINDSPIRIT GIRL
~The always vivid Photopoet Paige @ Paradise Valley 2
~Greta the word-weaver @ For Write or Wrong


Peace, Linda

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Waiting for Love

It’s way past midnight, I should go home, but I’m not tired – my crazy lovesickness keeps me up. This, and my lithium holiday. But Jesus, I feel great, less zonked out. Wired. I keep staring at my watch, distracted Phoebe’s not back from studio, imagining all sorts of horrible things: punks lurking behind bushes, kilns exploding, or, worse, her in a bar, holding hands with some other guy. Sleeping in his bed.

I try to squelch the catastrophizing. At least I’m in her house, watching this stupid psycho-slasher movie with her roomies. In the dark, their faces glow an eerie bluish-white from the flickering screen. Scrunched on the couch beside me, Sarah sits so close we might as well meld. Her hand rests in her lap inches away, a magnet willing me to hold it in mine. Across the room, Bethany’s glasses seem to laser holes through me. I feel guilty preferring Phoebe, but not guilty enough to stop my attention from flitting to the front door.

Bored with the gore, my head drifts to sex. Unwinding Phoebe from her layers of skirts and sweaters, sucking on perfect pink lips, mouthing soft, ivory breasts. Undoing her glorious hair, whipped honey strands draping over me, trailing down my chest, my face, my thighs. Licking her until she screams. I slouch deeper into the sofa, grateful for the dark.

Sarah shrieks.

“Jesus, Sarah. Not in my ear. Please.”

“Sorry, hon,” she says. But her hand wedges between our legs. I kind of wish she wouldn’t but don’t stop her. Accompanied by sense-surround, my erection grows with my fantasies.

Sudden light from the hallway seeps under my closed lids. The front door sighs shut; a shadow passes. Missed her. Damn. I scrabble up from the cushions, tugging out my shirt to cover my tented crotch. Sarah’s feet tangle in mine.

“Where you going?” She pulls on the back of my sweater.

“Water,” I whisper. “And the can.”

She releases me. Pulse thudding, I rush from the warm, dark room. The kitchen’s bright fluorescence makes me blink. “Hey,” I call softly, but no one answers. I poke around back to the glassed-in porch. Empty. Leaning against the counter, I down the obligatory glass. I open a door; jars of peanut butter, cans of Campbell’s, and a year’s worth of Grape-nuts line the shelves. Turning from the pantry, I pull on another doorknob, find the bathroom. I lock the door, flip on the faucet. Water burbles. I lean against the closed door. Unzipped, I concentrate on Phoebe moving under me, fingernails digging into my back, her--

“Bennnnnnn. Oh honnnnnn.”

Oh Jesus. Sarah. Still hard, now aching, I zip up. The water ices my trembling hands.

The kitchen’s still deserted. A purple backpack hangs from one of the chairs. Hers. The rough canvas smells musty, like turned earth in early spring. A single golden hair, at least eighteen inches long, spirals there, a shimmering nautilus. I pluck the strand, wind it carefully around my fingers.

In the hallway, at the foot of the stairs, I pause. The water-stained ceiling rebukes me, but soft footsteps above reassure me of her presence. I waver, hoping she’ll need something, anything – a drink, a snack, a book from her bag – and float down the steps. To me. Longing thwacks against my ribs like a crazed bird fluttering at a window pane. One foot lands on the first step, then the next, I have no idea what I’ll say when I reach her garret--

“Hon.” Sarah’s voice snakes around the corner. “The movie’s almost over.”

I stop breathing. Upstairs goes silent. Sudden, deep heaviness descends, echoing down the stairwell. I drag myself back to the living room to a possibly surer thing, fingers deep in my pocket, twisting and turning the solitary strand.

***

Excerpted from BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, a novel about crazy love and choosing too much feeling over sanity. A finished novel looking for a home. To read more about Ben after his life goes to schei├če, read AFTER THE LEAP.

***

My essay The Week Before My Father Died, an entry in the EDITOR UNLEASHED "Why I Write" contest*, sums up best why I write. *Essays are open to popular voting through February. You must be a registered member of the EDITOR UNLEASHED forums. I appreciate your honest vote. Please take some time to read all the other, often passionate pieces about the writing life.

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Write Your @$$ Off Day

This past extended weekend, Moonrat, aka Editorial Ass convened a group of us to commit to a day of writing, nothing but writing. Blizzards, chipped teeth, birthdays, kids, and life interfered, but we got yogic in our attitudes and worked around our interruptions.

I got in four hour blocks on Friday and Saturday, producing 3,800 new words on two outstanding scenes for PURE. I also ploughed through a second revision of a 36 page chunk of the novel, did some research on scales used to assess mania and anxiety in mouse models, and edited two poems and a quick run through of a short I'll submit today or tomorrow.

Success, I'd say. Between writing and shoveling, the old posterior seems quite a bit tighter.

Thanks Moonie and the rest of you gracing her WYAOD Wall of Fame!

Live hard, write harder...

Peace, Linda

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Why Bother?

Shoveling? Thirty inches delivered over the weekend, and another twelve due for midweek.

Writing? Dani Shapiro, novelist and memoirist, pens a powerful, must-read essay pubbed in today's LA TIMES She describes the uncertainty of creating a writing career; indeed, she tells her new students that their degree will guarantee them nothing.

Indeed, as she states, "Every single piece of writing I have ever completed -- whether a novel, a memoir, an essay, short story or review -- has begun as a wrestling match between hopelessness and something else, some other quality that all writers, if they are to keep going, must possess.

Call it stubbornness, stamina, a take-no-prisoners determination, but a writer at work reminds me of nothing so much as a terrier with a bone: gnawing, biting, chewing, until finally there is nothing left to do but fall away."


I've been pondering the MFA lately, whether to pursue some formal education in the science and art of writing. But even though a recent small inheritance puts the degree in financial shooting sight, Shapiro's essay makes me queasy; I still haven't defined what writing 'success' means for me.

Why I write varies each day I pound the keyboard. The days my characters or my plot or my inability to spit out words with more than one syllable make me want to heave my laptop through the window and make ruby red jars of raspberry jam; after all, how wonderful to actually produce something tangible, useful, and valued? Then there are times when words are the only thing that anchor me.

Like The Week Before My Father Died. My grief poured out that week, and still manifests itself in stories, poetry, other scribblings. This essay, an entry in the EDITOR UNLEASHED "Why I Write" contest*, sums up best why I write.

If YOU write, why? If not, why not? Peace, Linda


*Essays are open to popular voting through February. You must be a registered member of the EDITOR UNLEASHED forums. I appreciate your honest vote. While there, please ponder the other essays describing this madness called writing.

Photograph taken by my husband Henry.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Tea for Two

The train slowly rocked as it ascended from the tunnel. Across the river, industrial stacks belched white clouds against the backdrop of lower Manhattan. The gap in the city’s skyline reminded me of my constant nightmares of smoke, of burning, of the imagined death of the man who raised me. The train gained momentum, hurtling me south toward my uncertain future.

My knees jittered from nervous exhaustion. From worry over how my bosses would react over the mice fiasco. Of course, Stan would freak out – the damn drug was going into human trials next month. I counted on Tien to keep him calm. I just hoped he’d save his lambasting until later. Because today was pivotal, for all of us, but especially for me. Although our decamping Harvard for Hopkins was pretty much a done-deal, my rank, post-doc or assistant professor, remained the outstanding point of contention; the Hopkins professors were pissed some unknown post-doc was leap-frogging over their post-docs into a tenure-track position. I had to nail my seminar; no way could I afford living another year on a post-doc salary.

I powered up the laptop, punched in my passwords, and ran through the slide deck blessed by Stan and Tien two weeks ago. I stared at slide six; none of JM-25’s side effects alluded to biting, fighting, or any forms of mutilation. Nothing. If mice could murder, couldn’t people? People like me?

The laptop quivered on my thighs. I reached for my quetiapine; the antipsychotic would calm me. My hand hesitated over my backpack. I couldn’t afford to be a zombie, not today.

I cupped palms over kneecaps and breathed. Lead me from ignorance to truth, lead me from ignorance, lead me to truth... The laptop whirred warm in my lap, the wheels’ gentle click-clack lulled me… lead me from ignorance…

“Bawl-eeee-more!”

I spiraled awake. The conductor’s sweaty face peered down at me.

“Baltimore, sir.”

I had arrived.

#

Down by the Inner Harbor, the vestiges of a surprise snowfall camouflaged the grit and grime I remembered of the city. The hotel gleamed in sunlight reflected off surrounding water, hurting my eyes. Inside, people milled about reception, luggage trailing like obedient dogs. My room wasn’t ready, so I checked my bags except for the laptop and asked the clerk for Tien Zhao’s room number.

“She’s my wife,” I said. “I wanted to surprise her.”

His gaze wandered to my bare left hand. “Sorry, sir. Security, you understand. I’m happy to ring the room for you.”

He turned to the monitor. I leaned against the counter and made out the number as he lifted the phone.

“Hey,” I said and pointed towards the cafe. “Thanks, but no matter – I see her.”

I strode past the Starbuck’s, then cut left to the bank of elevators. I found her room on the tenth floor, half-way down the hall. Low voices seeped from behind the door. Television? Maybe I had the wrong room - Tien never watched the idiot box. Neither did I. Ear against the door, I smiled at discovering her singular vice. Tien’s distinct chortle floated over the television’s drone. When I knocked, the murmuring ceased.

“Yes?” Her voice sounded tentative.

“Hey, baby, it’s me. Missed you.”

The chain rattled. Tien’s perfectly painted red lips peeked through the four-inch crack. Her mouth parted into a tight semi-smile.

“You’re early,” she said.

“I snagged the Acela. Let me in?” I peered past her into the light-filled room. Disheveled bed linens tumbled on the floor. A breakfast tray rested on the small round table, laden with a carafe and two white teacups.

“I was just getting into the shower,” she said.

“I’ll join you.” I reached for her terry-wrapped body.

She pulled the towel tighter and edged away. I laughed, but my gut hardened into a knot.

“Ten minutes,” she said. “Downstairs in the lobby. I’ll call Stan.”

The lock slid back. The peephole’s glassy eye rebuked me. Then the television cut through the muffled thrum of water hitting tile. I raised my fist to pound on the door, then let it drop; Tien was resolute. What did it matter? I’d see her in a few minutes. Unlike most women, when Tien said ten minutes, she meant nine.

I hustled back to the elevator, wondering why she was always so unpredictable with her affection. So inscrutable. Wondering why I put up with her aloof bullshit. Looking back, I couldn’t recall specifics of how I ended up sharing her bed. Sure, we’d worked together for years, but like everything she did, her seduction of me was a well-controlled protocol - unwavering, systematic, always within pre-ordained parameters. Back then, she needed my mind and I needed someone beside me at night; I wasn’t good alone. But after two years, I wanted to crack her, peel off her shell until I found the soft part I knew was there – I’d seen glimmerings.

These thoughts bounced around in my head as I returned to the thronging lobby. Mostly, though, I wondered about the two cups.


***

Ben, in Baltimore, after the mice committed hari-kari and after his Mother's funeral. Excerpted from PURE, a novel slowly stitched together. I appreciate any and all feedback...

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Cause and Effects

Snow covers the grit of the city, secreting its spent syringes, derelict cardboard shelters, and desiccated chicken bones. Here, farther west, wood and lawn glisten, pure. The metro is warm, too warm, and crowded with people shuttling between Owings Mills and Hopkins. At midnight, when the lines shut down, where will they sleep?

*

I have a story to write, a story about a man, an immigrant who drives a bus, so filled with anger or hurt or something so strong that it flings out of him, down his arm to his hand, balled up, and lands on the left cheek of a small girl, his passenger. It is all I think about, this man and his story. But I cannot write it – it is to close; the child is my daughter.

**

I called my mother and she was out. The answering machine picks up, my father’s voice tells me Bill and Carol are not available, please leave a message, and I hang up, but the sound of his voice follows me all day, all night, unforgettable.

***

I am 47. Why has it taken me so long to recognize what is important?

****

February has the fewest days of any month, yet lasts the longest...


Peace, Linda

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Dark Side of the Soul -- Interview with a Prince

A single pulse. No drop hits the golden ether. Yet the circle ripples once, a curve grooves it in twine, and a moan like a whistle and a song escapes as it widens.

It splits in two. Knowing they were One, two selves – one, light gold, the other, darker – awake from an endlessly dreaming mind.

I am.


Thus two souls are ripped apart by an angel, doomed to spend an eternity’s eternity searching for each other through countless incarnations in The Dark Side of the Soul. And it is the characters assumed during these incarnations – transgendered Native Americans, evil cowboys, hustlers, young rebels who live in the bowels of New York City, a young Ottoman prince who finds love on a Grecian island - that make this story such a fantastical read. The novel is explicitly about longing -- the yearning for one’s other, the other that makes one complete – one’s soul mate. The two souls experiencing the full spectrum of human emotion as they search for their other is the original premise of this tale.

A caveat: The author, His Imperial Highness Prince Selim Djem, is a friend, one I ‘met’ nearly four years ago in an on-line writing class. I knew him then – as now – as Jimmy, and it wasn’t until months later, when we’d agreed to read and critique our novels, that he ‘came out’ to me and admitted his royal lineage. His status didn’t stop me from ripping apart, and then patching together, The Dark Side of the Soul. He returned the favor with my novel Brighter than Bright, still seeking a home.

Jimmy graciously agreed to an interview...

Yours Truly: How long have you worked on The Dark Side of the Soul?

Jimmy: Stephen King once wrote that we all have ONE story in us that we repeat it continuously, embellishing it, filling it with maturity as time goes by, deleting beautiful unnecessary sentences and chapters, writing it over and over again. In a way, I’ve been writing and will continue writing this story all my life. Perhaps it will come out as a painting or as music – who knows? Maybe I’ll finally learn to play an instrument? The DSOTS first emerged in the 1970s as a collection of poems and, later, as a series of graphic novels I never published... Never the same characters, never the same objective, never the same story, but always the same mood, atmosphere, theme. Then, 10 years ago I wrote what was to become chapter one of The DSOTS. I had no idea who the two beings were. Next year, I wrote about a struggle between two entities trying to invest the same body, that of a young savage fostered by a wolf clan. Another year passed and I wrote the story of a group of mountain climbers. In 2001, I flew to Montana, and The Crazy Mountains became the nexus of my story. In other words, I wrote various, unlinked chapters, many ending in the wastebasket, while others completely rewritten in my novel.

YT: You have a wealth of unique, even eccentric, characters. How did you come up with them and make each unique?

J: Characters were not difficult to create because they write themselves through their dialogues, their inner thoughts, the interactions they have between each other. Since I’ve interviewed hundreds of people over the years, it gave me a slight edge when writing dialogues. It’s something I do –thanks to my work in journalism – quite easily.

YT: What aspect of writing your novel did you like the most? The least?

J: Every day, I ran for an hour and during that time, my heart pumped blood into my dreamy mind and unasked for ideas popped out. I call these ideas “conceptual atoms”. These conceptual atoms linked unrelated chapters, scenes, characters, whatever, making them totally coherent and harmonious with one another. That’s the greatest part of the writing process.

The part of the writing process I did not enjoy at all was choosing which scenes, chapters, sentences to delete. Thankfully, during the downsizing process, the conceptual atom shtick worked as well.

Writing a novel is like solving a succession of riddles, puzzles, mysteries, enigmas and conundrums... and that’s real fun.

YT: Do you have a single character you love most of all? Tell us about him/her?

J: Not one, but these are my favourites: Nimble Foot, Wolf Shield, Two Souls, Pederson, The Kid, Max, Jack and Wolf. I loved creating Nimble Foot, Wolf Shield and Wolf (same soul within different incarnations), Max and Pederson (same soul within two distinct incarnations), and Two Souls, The Kid and Jack (same soul within different incarnations and different periods of his life.) Pederson/Max were interesting to write because they are so evil. I enjoyed thinking up all the horrible things they do to the protagonists.

Why not Alex and Gwen or Tania? Because they’re too autobiographical and so less interesting as the characters I invented from scratch.

YT: What character was the most difficult for you to write? Why?

J: Nimble Foot/Wolf Shield. Because of the amount of research I had to do in order to create the personas in the most realistic environment I could come up with. I read numerous books about the history of the Native Americans in the Rocky Mountains at the time the Europeans hadn’t conquered the West of the American continent yet.

YT: You are a Prince, 9th in line to succeed the Ottoman Empire if it still existed. How did this very unique perspective inform your story? How autobiographical is this story?

J: The Sifnos part where Alex meets Gwen is autobiographical in the sense that I met a girl in summer 1973 in Sifnos and fell in love with her. I described the various locations and situations as best I could, but for the most part, Gwen is a total creation. The girl I met and I never had long philosophical conversations, were not interested in religion at all, and she was not a painter. Father Zinon is a total fabrication and I never went to Artemonas with her at night or even during the day. In fact, the first time I visited Artemonas was in 1995. Everything that happens in Switzerland is true – everything concerning Alex, his mother, his sister and his niece is accurate. I wrote it from memory, but omitted the ugly parts, parts that only concern my family. You don’t wash your dirty laundry in public.

Finally, I used this novel to state as clearly as possible my point of view about how the Turks abused the Ottoman Family and continue to do so to this day. I was disgusted by their attitude at the time, but I am much more so today. If I would rewrite this story today, I would use much harsher language against the Turkish government.

YT: What can we expect from you next?

J: The story of the Ottoman Dynasty from the very beginning – 700 years ago – to today, with a very detailed description of my close family’s life and of mine.

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Read more about the The Dark Side of the Soul, including how to order. HIH Prince Selim Djem blogs HERE and tweets HERE.


Peace, Linda