Friday, March 20, 2015

Guest Blog: Summertime by Chuck Gould

Sometimes, It Takes a Village
To Defeat Writer’s Block
By Chuck Gould

During the last couple of decades, I have been lucky enough to earn a living as a writer. Over 1,000 magazine articles and feature under my own name, and a few humorous pen names, appeared in recreational boating magazines in the Pacific Northwest. Five, six, seven and more per month. Month after month, year after year, articles and features sprang almost effortlessly from the keyboard.

I discovered, as do a lot of writers, that I was far less productive when focused on the recreational writing of a novel. Long lists of things that seemed to be more urgent were constantly diverting time and energy from writing. I was fairly comfortable and confident with non-fiction, but self-doubt regarding the relative “quality” of my fiction proved to be an additional disincentive. I was always planning to work on my novel “when I got around to it,” and often secretly relieved when presented with a good excuse for putting off facing my insecurities and anxieties.

Things turned around, almost instantly, when I joined a writer’s group in Seattle. We met in person, once a week to read aloud up to about 5 pages produced since the previous meeting. As each member completed their work for the next session, we circulated the manuscripts by email to allow other members time to carefully evaluate and critique the work.

There are any number of virtual critique groups that purport to fulfill the same function on-line. I’ve tried a few of them, and continue to participate sometimes. Meeting in person has a number of advantages. As a writer, you quickly develop a sense of being accountable to the other individuals in the group. Old time magazine writers, as well as news reporters, will appreciate the effective influence of a weekly deadline.

Joining an in-person writing group eliminates one of the more serious disadvantages of on-line critique groups. Many people seem to feel it is far more blessed to receive than to give: perhaps especially on line. When a group meets in person, the price for receiving four or five weekly crits on a chapter is offering four or five crits in return. There’s no chance, when meeting in person, that hours spent reading and evaluating the work of other novelists won’t be reciprocated in kind.

I discovered there are both advantages and disadvantages to working with a small, fixed group. An author, and the critique group, learn to communicate more effectively as weeks go by. There is very little chance that a member of the group will castigate a chapter out of spite or a perverse desire to be smart aleck. On the other hand, I suspect there were instances where something I wrote was more disappointing than one or two of my group members chose to communicate. While it is never useful to be deliberately cruel, sparing an author’s feelings may encourage tepid or ineffective technique.

Yes, sometimes it takes a village to overcome writer’s block. Two novels published since last September (“Summertime, Book One” and  “Summertime, Book Two”) demonstrate that at least for me, and no doubt for others as well, a weekly deadline and accountability to other writers spurs productivity.

Book One
Chuck Gould       

Genre: metaphysical fantasy

Publisher: Starry Night Publishing

Date of Publication: September 28, 2014

ISBN: 9781502523174

Number of pages: 298
Word Count:

Cover Artist: Larry Dubia

Book Description:

Wesley Perkins, successful and privileged advertising executive, makes an apparently impromptu purchase in a pawn shop. Almost immediately, he becomes immersed in a new reality. Old values evaporate. The line between good and evil seems inconsistent. Wesley is challenged to accept profound change, all the while juggling choices of enormous consequence.

Summertime, Book One, is the first portion of a story that delves into a surreal realm of metaphysical fantasy. Situational moralities are juxtaposed with omnipresent supernatural forces. Where the boundaries of our mundane lives intersect cosmic intents, events, and conspiracies, we can become overwhelmed by involuntary transformation. We look for surrogate sacrifices, and a home in Summertime.

Available on  Amazon    BN

Excerpt Book 1

Vanessa hated the basement. Even during the daylight hours, she ventured only reluctantly down the stair to do her laundry or occasionally retrieve something from storage. She knew there were rats in the basement. She often swept up their droppings, and it wasn’t unusual to hear something scraping against cardboard boxes as it ran along the base of the wall. Oddly enough, Vanessa seldom saw a rat. Infrequently, a sacrificial rat would appear- neck broken by the savage spring of Vanessa’s 17th Century style trap. Vanessa used to pretend she had caught “the” rat, and wouldn’t need to spend hundreds of dollars for an exterminator. Over the years, she had accepted an unhappy truce with her resident rodents. These days, she didn’t call an exterminator because there was always something that seemed a more important use of the money.

Vanessa found her flip flops and bathrobe, and headed for the stairway. Her open white bathrobe hung from her shoulders, contrasting with her dark skin but failing to provide any degree of modesty. She was reluctant to venture underground at night, but the weird idea that there might be some unexplained connection between Wesley Perkins and her probable grandfather, Judah Jones, couldn’t molder until daylight. She flipped the light switch at the top of the stairs. The loud snap of the switch initiated a series of electrical flashes, followed by the muffled explosion of a failing light globe. “Shit. One lightbulb in the whole damn basement, and it just burned out. Hell with it. I’m going down there anyway. I’ve got to, got to, got to figure this out.”

Vanessa tied her bathrobe across the front of her body, grabbed a fresh globe from a kitchen cabinet next to the stairway door, and stepped slowly into the blackness. A 90-degree bend at the top of the stairs prevented any usable amount of light from filtering in from the kitchen. Vanessa moved her feet slowly and deliberately between wooden treads, feeling her way in the darkness with heel and toe. A few steps from the bottom, she gasped at the sensation of something with tiny paws ran across her bare foot tops, dragging what felt like a coarse tail behind. She was sure she saw a pair of glowing eyes near the laundry sink. There was definitely a rustle among the storage boxes. Vanessa considered turning around and climbing back up the stairs. She wanted to act as though her visit to the basement could wait until morning, but she was compelled to conclude it could not.

About the Author:

Seattle native Chuck Gould is a writer and musician.

Formerly editor of Nor’westing Magazine and editor emeritus of Pacific Nor’West Boating, he has written over 1,000 articles for recreational boating magazines.

Chuck plays a variety of keyboard instruments, and enjoys the “exercise in humility” attempting to master the great highland bagpipe.

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