I was willing to listen…

1/27/2011
I listened the other day to a very accomplished, but down to earth author. While he slathered bits of literary wisdom atop generous amounts of olive oil paste onto chunks of artisan bread … I sat patiently eager to absorb whatever he had to say. In professorial style, he pontificated for several minutes on the history of theatre, his short stint as a theatre critic and then launched into a bio on his writing career. When finished, he turned the tables so to speak and invited similar heritage from myself. We discussed parts of my background in both theatre and writing and then sallied forth into a debate about this blog. His stance was that I should not continue to engage in this way; for blogging is perceived by many like minded veterans as too casual a format and little more than incubator for inferior writing. And truth be told…he is right. In this age of moniker and anagram- the art of literary crafting is sacrificed for expediency and rampant consumption. Still, this blog was in truth a response to my frustrations with the current landscape of the publishing industry. Thank God for such recent forays in Historical Fiction by Dan Brown and Steve Berry- or this genre would be all but extinct. It was also a manner in which to process that frustration- discipline my focus of research and engage daily with my higher intellect. He is worried I shall loose sight of the story while writing the blog- but I tried to tell him. I do not wag  this tale- it wags me. This blog holds a mere fraction of what the book will entail and is but elongated outline until Charley becomes silent… till then I cannot write outisde of this. I write here what I can afford to publicly speculate — the rest remains private till validated.

We discussed other technicalities of the literary life as well. I know that I will need an agent and in part that was what the blog was originally intended for. Remember the Christmas before last- the one of ’09? That was the year this began- when I watched the movie Julie and Julia and became discouraged that  flan and stuffing chickens out meritted my cause. But I am patient. An agent will take note when it is time. Some NY/TV folk have seen fit to ponder its value and so I will get to marketing such in due time. All is copyrighted and safe till then.  Right now… it is still about the case and the investigation. The story will come full circle and when it does- it will be those who understand the impact of this experience who I pray will be hoping for audience. For now the private tuteledge of those crossed over is enough. As you can see, this is not going to be just another “hokey-pokey” book …but the chronicle of a writer who was chosen not only to be this man’s voice, but his pathway to seeking justice as well.
Often I have stated that I prefer Historical Fiction, and I do. But this story now represents a perverse, reverse genre I like to call Fictional History– in that all the parts that they have tried to convince me as true history- will be proven to be the fictional portion. I have pondered this phenomenon for months and realize that in order to divine the proper POV for this story; I must first follow it to its end and second I must decide how much of my own voice needs to be either removed and/or imbedded within. It is a heady question.
After a lengthy drive in the rain the other day I realized, though Charley and I do not speak as one… the undeniable imprint of his death upon my life is so great, it leaves no visible seam one can unravel. So, how do I market such a story? Once you get beyond the NY–TV and/or Hollywood marketability of the CSI pop-culture allure and deal with what this really is… the humanistic side bleeds through and touches the heart in a most profound way. This is the story of a man whose honor was besmirched and his legacy left in limbo along with his soul and his cry for justice and recognition so desperate, that it pierced the veil to be heard. How do you describe this experience/narrative to someone and not have them think you are a crack pot?
Some days you don’t… and I’m good with that. If they think you are crazy- they are less likely to pester you for advice. I am a writer who talks to an 8×10 photo of a man who died 44 years ago. On good days- I intuitively understand the shorthand of his responses. On other days, I beg R  for bigger bread crumbs so as not to lose the thread. My responses to this relationship are as real as the ones I share with my husband and children. I get angry when Charley ignores me. I get sad when I spend time with his daughter and grandchildren, knowing he cannot do so in the same way. I get chills when he calls me on the carpet about silly things I do that seemingly make no sense from afar. I get frustrated when he thinks I can read his mind. I cry when he acknowledges my private moments of compassion for his loss, but most of all… I thank him every day because he has given me back something no organized religion never could.
The gift of faith.
So what does this say about me… the fact that I talk everyday to a man that died 44 years earlier? Even more importantly… what does it say about Charley, that he has taken time out of his eternal journey to talk to a writer he has never met- so to speak?
It says this:
He needed someone to listen and I was willing to hear. It is just that simple and just that complicated- all at the same time. Do not let the whole of your human experience define the margins of your universe. Be open…Our understanding of this plane is so small and its mysteries so great. When God said he created us in His image and His likeness… He meant what he said. Ponder that for a minute or two.

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