What Does It All Add Up To?

I am an archeologist. You are, too. Let me explain what I mean by that. I’ve been working on a memoir for a man with an absolutely fascinating life. (I can’t say who he is just yet. Actually I could tell you, but then I’d have to … well, you know.) I need to have the manuscript completed by mid-September. Here’s where things are right now: I have dozens of pages of recollections, stories, and drafts my coauthor dictated into his phone before I was involved in the project; and a stack of detailed transcripts of about a dozen hours of phone conversation he and I have had over the last three weeks. A massive pile of sentences and paragraphs—more than 120,000 words of raw material. What does it all add up to? Ah. That’s the tricky part. Some of this mass is semi-finished, some raw as the grass. Some of it will get tossed out. A lot of it stays, though I’m not entirely sure which parts yet. All of it needs work—in some cases, a lot of work. Today I spent hours moving big pieces around, working to discover which ones fit where and how, and what the picture is supposed to look like when it’s all assembled. It’s like trying to assemble a 120,000-piece jigsaw puzzle—only none of the pieces are quite finished, and about 20,000 of them don’t fit at all. The task feels so overwhelming that I could see it tipping me over the edge into despair. Except that I’ve been here before. What keeps me sane and gets me through it is a...

Share a Little Light

The other day my agent told me she had a check for me, audio royalties for sales of The Red Circle audiobook. Not huge, but perfectly timed: I knew it would come in handy. I asked her if she would overnight it that very day, so it would arrive in my hand before the weekend. Which she obligingly said she would do. The next day, wondering if she’d made the FedEx cutoff in time, I texted her, asking if the overnight had gone. She texted back that it had and gave me the tracking number. I could have simply texted back, “Thanks.” Or, “Thx!” Or “TY.” And that would have been okay. But I wanted to do more than okay. She had gone out of her way for me, beyond the call of duty, and I wanted to make sure she knew I appreciated it. Better yet, I wanted her to feel good about the fact that she’d gone that extra mile. So I texted her: “Oh bless you, my child. May the poets write of your gloriousness. May the bards laud your exploits for generations. May your Netflix queue be ever o’erflowing with excellence and mirth.” Hardly high comedy. Not something for the ages. But it injected a little light into her day. She wrote back “Lol! Thank you!” A few days later I had an email back-and-forth with the bookkeeper at my lawyer’s office about a check I was expecting. (Must be Where’s the Check Week.) I can’t think of a more annoying message than, “Hey, is my check there yet?” So I wrote: “Not to be...

The Art of Upset

My friend Allen was upset about something a club member had done, and he called a good friend of his to vent. “You should write this all out in a letter,” the friend said after Allen had spewed his feelings for a few minutes. Allen agreed, and before they hung up his friend added, “Tell you what. Before you send that letter, call me up and read it to me.” Allen sat down and wrote the letter, then called his friend and said, “Okay, I’ve got the letter written.” He read it over the phone while his friend listened. “It’s not bad,” the friend said. “But there’re a few things in there you might want to change.” He made some suggestions. Over the next few days, Allen rewrote the letter several times. Finally satisfied, he called his friend and read it to him once more over the phone. “Does it say everything you wanted to say?” his friend asked. Yes, replied Allen, it did. “Good,” said his friend. “Now I want you to tear it up and throw it away.” Now that’s a good friend to have. “Turn the other cheek” isn’t a cover for denying your feelings or wimping out. It’s a smart tactical tool for effective living. Whether it’s with your spouse, or close family member, or a lifelong friend, or a colleague, there will likely come times when you are truly, deeply upset with another person who is important to you. How you deal with that upset can have an impact on that relationship that echoes for years. Most of my adult life it’s been a...

A Love Story

Our wedding anniversary (#6) is coming in three days. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you might know this date has been, well, sort of a hit-or-miss thing. Year 1, Ana and I were on opposite sides of the globe. (Oops.) Year 2, we were in the middle of travels but converged at home for that one day. (Whew.) Year 3, missed again. (Dang.) Year 4, together! (Hey, two outta four.) Year 5 … you won’t believe this, but: apart. (Oy!) Now it’s year 6. And on Friday the 8th we’ll be on a plane (together) flying out west to attend my nephew Jon’s wedding. Auspicious for all Jo(h)ns involved. So in honor of anniversaries and weddings and love, I thought I’d share a book review I just wrote for HugDug, Seth Godin’s cool new review/charity site. I plan to write one of these a month. So far I’ve reviewed Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Benjamin Black’s Philip Marlowe novel, The Black-Eyed Blonde. And yesterday, I wrote this one. Wait — Stephen King?! A love story? Yep. As you get to the end of the review, you’ll see why the title fits. Enjoy. # # #Time: a love story A review of 11/22/63, by Stephen King What if you could go back in time? And what if you could go back to Dealy Plaza in Dallas in the early sixties? Time travel stories typically have a sort of surgical, sterile feel to them, the characters dropping out of our time and showing up in another, like in Star Trek’s transporter....