Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mystery Man

He had been a golden boy--handsome, sophisticated, educated, acquainted with the powerful in business and politics, and successful in all his business endeavors. He was an impatient, demanding man in the workplace. Among family and friends, he was circumspect and taciturn. He played his cards close to the vest. No one really had the complete picture, only bits and pieces. That was my Uncle Cliff who died recently at the age of 96.

Cliff grew up in a comfortable middle-class family in the Midwest. At the age of eight, his mother died. His older brother was eleven; his younger brother, my father, was only three. The older, favorite son grew up to be outgoing and confident. My father was insecure and mischievous. Cliff was the middle son who strove to be perfect and succeed in all things.

He did succeed, but he was extremely humble about his accomplishments. Most of us cannot contain our excitement over achievements or good fortune. He had little to say. If you wanted to know about him, you had to stumble across it in a newspaper or TV news program.

Cliff kept everyone guessing. He lived in a simple apartment. The cupboards were empty. The furniture was basic. There was nothing expensive or distinctive in his home. He did, however, have a passion for fine cars and sailboats. He loved travel, sailing, and golf. He always bought front row tickets to  events. We speculated that he must he pretty well off, but no one knew for sure because it was a topic he never discussed and no one would ever consider breaching that wall of privacy that surrounded him.

He never married--well, maybe once for a week when he was a young man. Another family secret. But he lived as a bachelor for most of his life. Some speculated that he would eventually marry his longtime girlfriend. My father said it would never happen. He was right. Cliff avoided the complications of family life. He always lived alone.

I remember the Christmas checks he used to send every year--a signed card with a generous check and not a single word of news about himself or an inquiry about your news. Just his name.

I remember the occasional trips I made to visit him after I was married. It was always very enjoyable and sailing was an integral part of our visit. I began to notice that after he retired, he began to mellow a little bit. He smiled a little more. He seemed more relaxed and willing to engage in conversation.

Most of all, I remember one visit to his home in Houston. I had a dream about him, the first and only dream I ever had about him. The dream left me with an overpowering sense of his loneliness. I remember embracing him in the dream because I was so troubled by his pain. That morning I woke up to the scent of coffee percolating in the kitchen. He loved strong black coffee and his newspaper. So I threw on my robe and headed toward the kitchen for my caffeine fix. As I appeared in the doorway, he turned toward me with a shocked look of recognition on his face as if we both had just tumbled out of the same dream. It was a split second of reckoning, an acknowledgement of connection and understanding.

When I heard the news a couple of weeks ago that he had had a stroke and was being placed in hospice care, I was far away in California. There was no assessment of how long he might linger. Maybe weeks. I lit a candle for him and whispered into the flame: "It's time to go. There's a whole parade of family and friends waiting for you on the other side." He was gone the next day, faster than you could snuff out a candle.


  1. Sounds like someone you will miss. He seems to have had a full life.


  2. Very nice story. One thing I remember about Cliff was he always took such good care of himself. He was quite an athlete. Still have old super 8 movies of him water skiing and ice skating. Had them and other old movies converted to DVDs. Bought me my first car when I was stationed in AAustin Texas. Drove into a parking lot in Houstin one day when I was visiting him. He excused himself, said he'd be right back. Returned 15 min later and asked if I had my driver's license with me. I told him I did and he handed me the keys to a brand new 1970 Super Beatle VW. He'd we written a check for it. Said I'd need some transportation in order to drive to Houstin. He takes "the boat" out every weekend and could use some help. Incredible guy.

  3. A lovely tribute to your Uncle Cliff. Your respect and love for him is obvious. Hope all goes well with you Linda. Looking forward to what you come up with for the HAUNTING blogfest. :D

    1. Thank you. I'll have something up by Monday.

  4. Very much enjoyed reading about your Uncle Cliff. How generous he was! At least with money...we had a bachelor uncle who wrote checks and didn't communicate much. Turned out he had a secret family that we learned about after he died. Still waters run deep and all that.....I'm enjoying your garden art slide show today.

    1. Thanks, Helen. Are you getting ready for Cuba trip?