I earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a J.D. from Western New England College (now Western New England University) School of Law.
I write fiction, mostly. My spouse insists that my fiction is only mostly fiction. Maybe not even mostly. But that can be said of a lot of writers’ fiction, and of any fiction that’s worth reading.
I play bass guitar and screw around with keyboards, but I do not consider myself a keyboard player. You can judge that for yourself by downloading my band’s music from iTunes.
I’ve been silent for several years, since my previous publisher and I parted ways. Like a penance that I didn’t have to do, I buried myself in the study of law, passed the bar, and set up practice as a criminal defense attorney. The law is a punitive choice for aesthetes. She demands even the way you think, and she leaves little time for creative endeavors, particularly for her students and only less particularly for her practitioners. And so I sacrificed my poet’s sensibility for the harsh light of legal reasoning, and the dry bones way of constraining facts and arguments to the restrictive form of IRAC. However, once the practice of law becomes part of you, well, you develop an odd affection for the thing. And for many of my fellow travelers in the criminal defense bar, who came to the law for their own reasons.
So what happened? Why am I writing again? Damned if I know, but there it is. Welcome, dream. Maybe it was the moon. I mean, I was out walking one night – and there, I swear I heard her speaking, or at least I started hearing my own thoughts like they weren’t entirely mine, which for me is a sure sign that somebody has a story they want me to write.
Maybe it was a younger, much smarter, definitely much cooler colleague who read my books and said something unexpectedly kind in an old European-style restaurant and something broke that night and here it is again. Parana! (Careful readers of Hecate’s Glory will recognize that word.) But maybe it’s also because living through half a century means I now feel wonderfully free of caring about how other people assess my enthusiasm. I mean, how dare I describe my relationship to my own imagination – do I have any idea how pretentious I sound? (I do. I don’t care. Once you hit fifty you don’t have to.)
But it could just as easily have been rediscovering my favorite early progressive rock albums. I mean, how can you listen to Genesis’s “Mad Man Moon” or “Afterglow” and not write? Write like you just remembered you once loved language. Write like you once wore the visions it brought like skulking joy disguised as an albatross. Write like you’re goddamned fifty years old and whatever time is left to reunite with the beloved is as perishable as your first heartbeat. Just open a vein, as Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith once said of writing, or just open ten goddamned veins, and write. Write like nobody’s reading. Write like it’s just you and the language and reality gets the sloppy seconds.
Just fucking write.
OK, I’ll calm down. To a degree it’s the technology, which means I can share my work without the publishing industry’s curse or blessing. It no longer matters that my books are literary fiction that happen to be fantasies and marketing won’t know what to put on the spine and so no bookstore will know where to shelve them. Or they’re too long to satisfy accounting’s sense of print costs, story be damned. Or they’re too idea-driven and sophisticated for the genre label somebody wants to stick on them. Or too dark. Or I’m simply not “connected enough” to a fan base coming out of the gate and god forbid a poor, overworked marketing department should have to work with a writer to sell product.
Bookstores are dead. Traditional publishing isn’t much healthier. The industry can’t deal with books that are both literature and fantasy and require sophisticated readers? (Or so I’ve been told. Over and over.) Kindle can. Nook can, too. Nook does more than agents can to justify good reads to man. (Apologies to A. E. Housman.)
As to the publishing “industry.” At some point I will write about my impressions of the publishing “industry,” its morally bankrupt destruction of literary culture, the abysmal way writers (well all artists) at every level treat each other in their insane grasping for the golden apple of Fame, and why self-publishing is a more attractive choice for most writers. But right now I’m not up for that. Now I’m up for putting words to paper again. To feeling them in the way I used to before I signed to a traditional publisher and got screwed. I’m simply not up for spoiling my writing experience. I’ll leave that job for everyone I’m likely to annoy.