Freedom and Consequence Free Promotion (Ended)!

Note: This promotion has ended, but if people still would like to purchase the Kindle version of Freedom and Consequence, follow the link.Freedom and Consequence Front CoverFifteen stories about people facing difficult choices, or dealing with the consequences of choices made. Just as every action has a reaction, every decision comes with a consequence. How will these people learn to deal with those consequences?



A Tale of Two Sisters Animated Graphic

A Tale of Two Sisters Animated GraphicThe Long-Timer Chronicles: A Tale of Two Sisters, available at Amazon in print and Kindle format.

Freedom and Consequence Now Available for Kindle

freedom_and_consequences_cover_lo_resFreedom and Consequence is now available in Kindle format! Fifteen stories about people facing difficult choices or dealing with the consequences of choices made. Just as every action has a reaction, every decision has a consequence. How will these people deal with those consequences.

Available in paperback, Kindle, and as a Kindle Matchbook selection!

Genealogy and Writing

Genealogy is a process akin to assembling a massive jigsaw puzzle that has pieces scattered across multiple locations and times, some of which cannot be found, and with no indication of the picture that’s to be assembled. The more pertinent facts one has the better, because that can help establish who an ancestor was, and why he or she was in a given place at a given time. Working on my family’s genealogy, I found it helpful to develop timelines on each individual, and doing so helped me sort out a number of people with similar names, who were born within a few years of one another. The basic process is to take every known fact relating to an individual, and place it in order by known dates, and in doing so, often times a fuller picture of the individual begins to form.

In writing fiction, whether prose or scripted drama, the author is creating facts out of the blue, but applying techniques similar to genealogical research can be helpful in crafting a story that works logically as well as emotionally. In writing my original work, The Long-Timers, on which my current series of novels is based, I found that creating timelines for the characters helped me anchor them within the historical periods they were living. Of course, my novel is a historical fantasy, so placing the characters in the proper historical context was vital to the story, but understanding the relationship of a character to his or her time is as important as creating the environment and the interactions with other characters that occur in the narrative.

The process of genealogy is to reconstruct the story of a family, so it’s important to know where they were and, if possible, why they were there. In the wake of the Revolutionary war, a lot of people moved from Virginia, North and South Carolina to Georgia. One reason for this was that Georgia opened up a lot of land through a series of treaties and military actions that displaced the Native Tribes that originally lived there, and started giving away the land for little or no money. Revolutionary veterans were given preferential treatment in the lotteries held to distribute the land, but anyone who was white, of age, eligible to vote, or the child of someone who’d fought in the Revolution was given a draw. The land in Georgia was parceled out in lots of 202 1/2 acres, quite an incentive for someone looking to relocate and start over, which led to a lot of migration into Georgia between 1790 and 1820. A number of my ancestral families, including the Lupos, Striblings, Peavys, Hintons, Smiths, and Carters moved to Georgia during this time period.

While creating a formal timeline on a character may not be the solution for every writing project, it’s never wrong to consider why a character behaves as he or she does in a certain situation, and often, the historical context can have a bearing on the reasons behind those actions. Knowing the external factors that may be influencing a character can provide valuable insight into what’s motivating the character. For instance, someone born and raised in Alabama during the 1960s is likely to have vastly different experiences than someone raised in Oklahoma during the 1880s. If the story is set in a particular point in history, then the events of that history will no doubt play a part in helping to shape the characters’ point of view. Knowing the character’s history, and how it shapes the character, adds richness to the story, and provides a logic to a character’s behavior, regardless of whether the character is working in concert with the events of history or against them. In the opening chapters of Catch 22, Yossarian’s actions seem crazy, but once the proper context in which these actions occur has been established, they make perfect sense.

In working on the history of my family in Virginia, I was faced with the lack of definitive records tying one generation to the preceding one between 1728 and 1779. My ancestor, James Lupo, made out his will in 1789, and a will recorded in 1779 established who his mother was, but no record identifies his father, or when he was born. Equally, there is no information on the ages of James’ sons and daughters, so developing timelines on them proved helpful in sorting this out. Below is an partial example of the timeline I worked up on my ancestor, William Lupo, which contained every known date he appeared in official records, and one or two instances where he wasn’t found in the records.

William Lupo of Johnston County, NC

1782: William Lupo is not listed on the Virginia state census of 1782, though James, James, Jr., Phillip and Laban Lupo are listed in Isle of Wight County.

1784: William Lupo purchased 100 acres of land from Joshua Hayls or Hails and his wife Amy, who are listed as living in Edgecombe County, NC.

1784: William appears on a tax list, recorded as owning 420 acres in Johnston County, NC, though no corresponding deeds have been found to account for all of this property.

1787: William appears on a state census enumeration with 1 male 21 or over, 2 males under 21, and 5 females in his household.

1787: William appears as a witness in a court case involving William Ward and John Rhodes, for which David Bell acted as security; William acted as security for the appearance of John Fields and John Dimont.

1789: William Lupo is listed as a son in the will of James Lupo of Isle of Wight County, VA (recorded September, 1790) but does not appear in court when the will is presented, or when land from the estate is sold.

1790: US Census of Johnston County, shows William’s household now has 2 males 16 or older, 2 males under 16, and 7 females.

In the absence of other information, I made the assumption that the individuals listed in his household in 1787 are William, his wife and their children. In general, births in Colonial America occurred every one and a half to two years. If these represented individual births, occurring 18-24 months apart, their earliest child was most likely born between 1775 and 1778, meaning William and his wife probably married between 1774 and 1777. Assuming William was at least 21 when he married, he would have been born 1753-56. This time period coincides with when James Lupo first showed up in deed records in Isle of Wight County, VA.

For my novel, The Long-Timers, the timeline I developed on the main character, Victoria Wells, began with her birth on the day of Queen Victoria’s coronation in June of 1838. This event is referenced several times throughout the novel, notably when Victoria learns her life span is different than that of an average person, and when she meets a kindred spirit on the occasion of her one hundredth birthday. I first included any historical events that would impact the characters, such as when her sister Amanda was transported to Australia in 1861, and since Victoria’s story was told in parallel to that of her sister Allison, I included notable events in both their lives.

Timeline for A Tale of Two Sisters (formerly The Long-Timers)

1834: Margaret Smythe marries Thomas Seely

1835: William “Billy” Seely born

1837: Thomas Seely killed in an accident at the docks

1837: Margaret meets Niles Gunnerson and has an affair with him

1838: Victoria born

1840: Amanda born

1846: Gunnerson returns

1848: Gunnerson dies

1848: Sarah born

1848: Margaret disposes of Sarah, and places Victoria and Amanda in an orphanage

1848: The Stepneys find and adopt Sarah, rename her Allison

1848: Margaret dies; Billy sent to a workhouse

The primary difference between the timeline for the novel and the family timeline is that the family timeline is more reliant on available documents, but many of the events described follow the typical events that occur in families, births, marriages and deaths, and most likely could be found in existing records, if they’d actually happened. England at the time of Victoria was already a heavily bureaucratic nation, where events such as births and deaths were noted, if not by the state, then certainly by the parish, whereas many of the official records from Colonial and post-Revolutionary America tended to be land and estate records, but these, too, can provide a rich source of documentation on a family, provided they can be found and include enough details.

Establishing timelines can also help sort out the logical sequence of events as they occur in a fictional piece, just as placing historical events connected to an ancestor in their proper sequence in history can help to separate fact from fiction in oft-told family legends. At separate times, my grandmother and one of my cousins related to me a story told to them by my great-grandmother, that when she came to the United States from Germany, she sailed into New York harbor and saw the Statue of Liberty. However, records relating to her immigration show she and her family arrived at the port of Baltimore, not New York, and, more importantly, my great-grandmother was born in 1863 and came to the United States when she was eight or nine, around 1872. The Statue of Liberty wasn’t completed until 1886, and construction on its pedestal did not begin until 1883, meaning there’s no way she could have seen it when she immigrated, even if had she entered the U.S. via New York.

By the time the Statue of Liberty was dedicated, my great-grandmother would have been an adult and married to my great-grandfather, so I’ve often wondered if, in fact, my great-grandparents traveled to New York to see the dedication of the Statue, and that somehow the story got mixed up with the story of her arrival. Otherwise, the best I can conclude is that she saw something upon her arrival that she equated with being in America — there is a prominent statue called Lady Baltimore at the courthouse downtown, where immigrants may have been processed — and over time, repeated retelling within the family caused it to morph into the Statue of Liberty, that being the most iconic image for immigrants in America. That the story doesn’t match the actual facts of her immigration doesn’t diminish the sense of what it must have been like for a young German girl to arrive in a new land full of anticipation, promise, and probably not a little dread. It’s a universal story, and knowing it can only enhance both the actual history of a family, as well as a fictional representation.

When Josie Comes Home

We don’t know who she is. We don’t know where she is, or why. We don’t know when, or if she’s coming back, and we don’t really know how the narrator truly feels about her. Thus, the enduring mystery of Josie, the title character of the final track of Steely Dan’s iconic album Aja. The album, which I’ve recently learned was composed as they returned to their native New York from the West Coast, is all about coming home, and returning to the familiar. How appropriate, then, that it ends with a song foretelling of the return of a mysterious heroine. Initially, it seems, her return will be a joyous occasion, but as is often the case with Steely Dan songs, a nagging sense of disquiet lurks beneath the surface.

The first verse speaks of her acclaim. “She’s the pride of the neighborhood,” we’re told, and the song, at this point, has definite messianic overtones. “She prays like a Roman with her eyes on fire.” The lyrics speak of celebrations, hats and hooters, rallying in the street, completely overturning the established order. “We’re going to park in the streets. Sleep on the beach and make it. Roll down the jam ’til the girls say when. Lay down the law and break it.” The lyrics imply she may have returned before for brief interludes, but the good times will really commence when she comes home to stay.

Other than this, we’re given few details about Josie, other than the implication that she’s the spark that will lift her companions from whatever sordid state they’ve been in. “The raw flame, the live wire.” One cannot tell if she’s been away of her own free will or not, but it is strongly suggested that the neighborhood hasn’t been the same without her. Then, in a telling divergence from the published lyrics, the Dans give us yet another clue to ponder. While the lyric sheet states, “When Josie comes home, so bad. She’s the best friend we ever had,” on the album, Fagen clearly sings, “She’s the best friend we never had.” This implies the person telling the story may not even know Josie, that she’s now the stuff of legend, and it gives her return an ironic sense of foreboding.

The song contains one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in music. At their show in Alpharetta in 2009, Becker segued into it from an improvised jam, and as soon as he hit the first cord, everyone knew what was coming. Here, again, Donald Fagen replaced “ever” with “never” though on live recordings, which may or may have featured Fagen on lead, I’ve heard it done as written. The music moves with a driving quality, which enhances the imagery of motor scooters, vandalism, and sexual impropriety. Once Josie returns, complacency will be a thing of the past. We’re going to take to the streets. Hosanna in the highest! She’ll lead us into a whole new era.

Without a doubt, Aja is my favorite album, quite possibly the greatest album ever recorded. Containing only seven songs, it proves that less is definitely more, and Josie is a fitting end, leaving the listener wondering what could possibly follow it. As it turned out, the follow-up would be the eclectic Gaucho, leading to a maddeningly long hiatus, broken only by the occasional solo album by Fagen or Becker. Still, Aja was the culmination of everything that had come before, pushing the boundaries of what could be accomplished when all the pieces fall into place. I can think of only a few other bands which could reach such heights. Steely Dan created what I consider to be the perfect musical experience. To this day, I rarely listen to individual songs from it, preferring instead to hear the album in its entirety from Black Cow all the way to Josie.

When Josie comes home, so good.

Lower Manhattan, circa 1988

World Trade Center, circa 1988

Of all the photos I took of the Twin Towers while I lived in New York this is the only one I’ve digitized, and consequently, the only one I can find at the moment. This was taken around 1988, while I was visiting, attempting to get into the Graduate Creative Writing program at NYU. I’d been accepted, but didn’t plan very well on my first visit to New York, and ended up having to defer my admission for several months. While there, I took a walk down to the docks with my camera.

This was most likely taken with my Minolta X370 camera, which was later stolen in a break-in at my apartment around 1990. It was, for a time, my favorite camera, and I spent a fortune getting photos processed at hour photo shops in the late-80s. Of all the items I lost in the break-in, the camera was what I regretted losing the most.

On 11 September 2001, I watched the attacks on the Towers on CNBC’s Squawkbox, then hopped in my car and drove to my job as a contractor onsite at the CDC. There, the security guard at the parking lot scanned under my car with a mirror. If I’d gotten there half an hour later, I wouldn’t have been allowed in, because the facility was locked down. My immediate supervisor had been in meetings all morning and wasn’t aware of the attacks, when I asked if we were going to be sent home. It was impossible to get to CNN or any other news site, but we were finally able to connect to a local television station’s website, I think it was WXIA, to get news of what was happening in New York and Washington. Eventually they let us go for the day, but the following day President Bush declared that all Federal offices would be open for business, so we all had to report.

I left New York summer of 1994, and, except for two trips to retrieve some things I had in storage there in 1994 and 1995, have not been back since. No reason, I’ve just never had the time or resources for a trip.

NYC, Danielle

This is a snippet from a work in progress about David Cairo (pronounced “kay-ro” like the town in Georgia), the protagonist in a trilogy I’m working on, set mostly in Atlanta.

Danielle Perkins could not understand the discontent that often gripped her. She had, to the best of her knowledge, the life she always thought she wanted. She lived in a loft-style apartment in Greenwich Village. She was working on an advanced degree in her chosen field of study, Economics. She played the cello. She had a comfortable relationship with Carol, a slightly older woman with whom she had lived for nearly two years. For all intents and purposes, Danielle should have been exceedingly happy but she wasn’t. She derived no pleasure from anything she did, from anyone she knew, or from anywhere she went. Her life was mundane, unexciting, and she longed continuously for some glimmer of the dreams which had brought her to NYC.

Danielle was from Los Angeles, but always felt more connected to the East Coast, New York in particular. Her parents had come from there and had filled her early life with stories of the lives they’d left behind. New York, for Danielle, became more than a destination, it was an obsession, the focal point of all her efforts. She watched every Woody Allen and Martin Scorcese movie on video and had taken to wearing turtlenecks and sweaters, even though the temperature rarely warranted doing so, and drinking espressos long before they were fashionable. When she received word she’d been accepted for graduate school at NYU, she could not contain her joy, and ran, screaming through her house, waving the letter.

Danielle’s life was further complicated by the existence of David Cairo, the administrative assistant for her department in the college. She found him to be insufferable, anti-social, and generally annoying, in ways she could barely comprehend. It seemed to her his favorite word was “no” and he was filled with numerous excuses why things could not be done, usually with little or no consideration of them beforehand. She generally tried to avoid interacting with him at all and often developed a peculiar, nagging ache in the pit of her stomach whenever forced to visit his office.

David had also been a student a few semesters before Danielle started, and had worked in the department as an administrative aide. He assumed his current position several months after Danielle was admitted into the graduate program. Being close in age to the other students, David was frequently invited to functions outside of work and it was here Danielle had her biggest issues with him. She recalled, one year at a Halloween party, she’d spent several days working on a costume to wear, finally going as a fairy princess with transparent wings, and a wand that sparkled when waved. As soon as she arrived, David made a beeline for her and started calling her “Tinkerbell” when it should have been obvious to anyone paying attention that this wasn’t the look she was going for at all. Her spirits plummeted and she just couldn’t enjoy the party afterward. Even the compliments she received on her costume from the more refined guests, and repeated requests to demonstrate her sparkly wand, could re-ignite her enthusiasm. She was severely depressed for days afterward.

At length, Danielle knew that if she was ever to be truly happy again at school, and perhaps even in NYC, she would have to destroy David. She did not know how, but she knew it would happen, sooner rather than later. To accomplish this, she’d begun to feign interest in him, inquiring about his health, or making small talk about the weather, or some item of interest in the department. At first, he seemed unsure how to react — Danielle had rarely shown much interest in him at all, and only in an official capacity — but, as she seemed to gain his trust, he opened up more. She knew she was on to something, and decided to move up her timetable. Danielle asked David out for coffee after work, and he even seemed willing, before abruptly cancelling, saying he had an emergency to tend to. Later, Danielle saw him at a cafe near campus, seated with a slim, attractive, exotic-looking woman with whom he seemed embroiled in a heated conversation.

The following day, Danielle entered David’s office to find the same woman seated on the couch.

“Danielle Perkins, Sahara Montague,” David said as he passed Danielle, on his way out with a stack of pages in his hand.

Sahara rose and extended her hand, staring deeply into Danielle’s eyes as she said in a husky voice, “So nice to meet you.”

Whatever plans Danielle had for David were completely forgotten as she found herself lost in Sahara’s eyes, the intensity of her gaze. Self-consciously, she took Sahara’s hand and mumbled something like, “Pleased to meet you.”

“Are you a co-worker?” Sahara asked.

“Me? Oh, no, I’m a student here.” Danielle suddenly felt as though someone had stripped away all her clothing, and she forced herself to look away from Sahara. “Will David be long?”

“Who knows?” Sahara said, resuming her seat. “He’s copying something, I think.”

“How do you know one another?” Danielle said.

“That’s a rather loaded question,” Sahara said with a laugh.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry. It’s none of my business.”

“No, no, it’s not that. It’s just complicated.”

Just then, David returned and inquired what had brought Danielle into his office. Danielle’s sense of purpose returned and she said, “Oh, well, I was going to see if you’d like to grab some lunch.”

David glanced at Sahara, and shook his head. “I sort of have plans.”

“Nonsense!” Sahara said. “Davy’s just being a bore. We were just talking about getting something to eat. Why don’t you join us?”

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” David said. “I’m sure Danielle has much better things to do than listen to us argue.”

Danielle looked between them. “Well, I wouldn’t want—”

Sahara rose and placed her hand on Danielle’s shoulder. “Oh, please. Say you’ll join us. I’d love the chance to get to know you better.”

Danielle stole a glance at David, who rolled his eyes and let out an exasperated sigh.

“I’d love to,” Danielle said.

“Perfect!” Sahara said, taking Danielle’s arm, and leading her toward the door. “Danielle is such a lovely name. May I call you Dani?”

“I guess,” Danielle said.

“I’m sure we’re going to be fast friends,” Sahara said. She paused to look at David, who had not moved. “Aren’t you joining us, Davy?”

David shook his head, and reluctantly followed them out.