The Write Life

What I’ve Really Been Up To for the Past 9 Months

Welcome back! (I intended that as much for myself as you.) Yes, it has been a while. I haven’t posted anything to this blog in a while because I’ve been a bit preoccupied over the last nine months.

After nine months of finagling, haggling, sleepless nights, and almost backing out of the whole process (well, not really), I am happy to announce the birth of the completed first draft of my second book. Mind you, the thing may as well be written in Sanskrit for anyone else’s purposes, but it’s here!

I also felt compelled to let you know that as I sit here moving passages of text around into what will hopefully become coherent passages, tears well in my eyes—and not from vainglory, eye strain, or labor pains. I weep because the truth in the source material (notes from a dear friend and transcripts of interviews) is so simple, so profound that it still moves me. And I’ve been poring over this stuff for months.

So I guess I should say that I’m happy knowing that The Raindancer will help many of you see yourself and the world in a different way.

Christmas, The Raindancer, The Write Life

All I Want For Christmas Is My New … First Draft

Turkey-carcassNow that two major events of the fall have passed (Thanksgiving and the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree), I can say that the holidays are in full swing. Unfortunately, I’m unable to say the same about the total number of written blog posts for this time of year. Nothing’s swinging there, no movement at all. One reason for my sedentary post numbers is that I’m not in New York this fall. The other is that I’ve been toiling over a hot MacBook Pro working on my next book, The Raindancer.

rock-treeThe writing style for this book is a departure from my usual cheeky regaling of firsthand experiences. Just about everything you’ve read of mine so far has been non-fiction. The Raindancer, an inspired by real events tome, requires that I take the essence of real-life situations and populate them with fictitious characters in imagined settings and still have them read as plausible to the reader.

How am I doing that?

I’ve completed a basic outline and book proposal (a more in-depth outline) that covers, themes, characters and their development, conflicts, blah, blah, blah. Next comes—

christmas-typewriterThe First Draft

As Ernest Hemingway so eloquently put it, “the first draft of anything is shit.” That’s because the first draft is a the phase when the writer put his thoughts on paper, real or virtual. Writers are encouraged to write with wild abandon since writing is rewriting and rewriting and rewriting again.

I sat at my keyboard ready to let the thoughts in my head flow freely from my fingertips to my keyboard and. . .nada. Nix. Ne rien. This wasn’t like telling about the time I stood waiting on a subway platform at 2:00 a.m. with one of New York’s seedier denizens lurking around. I had to put my main character in a specific place and time and have him realistically experience things in a fictional setting.

That’s my challenge. I have to create as opposed to recall events.

This isn’t so bad, as sometimes I can swap out an interest in marching band with an interest in theater (since I know about that and it won’t change the direction of the story). The real fun comes in when I have to write about I have no experience with, like motorcycles. I can’t fake my way through that because anyone familiar with motorcycles will see right through my writing. I can’t swap out that hobby with something about which I have a working knowledge, like knitting. It won’t fly. Everything I know about motorcycles can fit on the head of a pin.

So in instances like that, I have to interview people, people who have a working knowledge and appreciation of motorcycles. Pity I don’t like talking one on one to people, right?

The Interview

Typically, I prepare my questions in advance, thinking of the entire book and what specific information will I need to glean from the interviewee(s). We get together, I tell them exactly what the book is about so that there’s no misinterpretation as to what’s going on, and we start in. It’s like being Arsenio Hall with a celebrity guest, but without the set, the audience, the lights, the band, and the big check. It is however way more fun than Mr. Hall’s job, I’m sure.

I have a personal relationship with 90% of the people I’ve interviewed thus far, so that gives us both a certain level of trust which puts us both at ease. Each and everyone of my subjects has answered every question asked of them, but they’ve also given me a lot of background on what else was going on in their lives at that time. And more often than not it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. It’s the nitty-gritty parts of life. It’s been the writers dream of getting for character development.

In the beginning, I thought I could conduct these interviews and rely on taking notes during the session to catch all the relevant information.


Because these people are friends of mine, they’re sharing things with me that are personal. Things I’ve never known, so of course, I’m going to be engrossed in what they’re telling me. Can you imagine taking notes while catching up with someone you haven’t seen in a few years? Yeah, it doesn’t make for total recall.

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for putting a voice recorder into every iPhone. Now I whip out my iPhone and record the interviews.


After a couple of days I listen the recording and cherry-pick all the stuff I need for the book. Then I mull over where all this raw information is going to go and how I’ll disguise it as fiction, and finally start weaving it loosely into the first draft.

Easy, huh? (That was abject sarcasm at its finest.)

I never thought it’d be easy, but it’s more challenging than I thought. Ergo, the delayed timeline. The cool thing is that every step of the way, the people I’ve needed to to interview have popped up at exactly the right time I’ve needed them. And they’ve all been more than eager to help out.

I hoped to have the first draft done by the end of the year, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. And that’s okay. I’m dedicated to this project and believe that this book has the potential to change a lot of people’s lives for the better. I’m sure of it.

So while my butt is in Orlando and a part of my heart is still in New York; I’m pouring the rest of myself into this book and spending long-awaited quality time with my family and friends.

The Write Life

Membership Has Its Privileges

Getting Walking Tall: A Memoir About the Upside of Small and Other Stuff birthed proved to be a very fulfilling experience thanks to a core group of old and new friends who encouraged me to not only write the memoir, but who also helped me pull off a successful launch. Hearing from readers how my story resonated with them made all the hours spent writing and rewriting and rewriting some more worth every minute.

The Bigger Picture, The Write Life

In Memoriam

David T. Samuels
August 4, 1952–May 27, 2013

Dave at work in the art gallery located in NYC's Limelight Shops ( with a familiar guest.
Dave at work in the art gallery located in NYC’s Limelight Shops ( with a familiar guest.

The majority of you probably have never heard of Dave, but if you’ve read my posts over the past year, as well as Walking Tall, you’ve felt his impact on my writing.

Dave and I met a little over two and a half years ago via a mutual friend. At the time I took the meeting as a little more than a casual introduction, but when the relationship with that friend hit a momentary rough patch, Dave parceled out insights that helped me work through the transition with our mutual friend. Within a few months my relationship with the friend was back on the right track and my own friendship with Dave developed from there.

Dave shared with me that his life was in transition. We talked about his imminent return to Canada to tend to his mother in Toronto. I likened the angst Dave felt over the direction his life was taking to the way I felt over leaving L.A. years before. We both saw our exoduses from New York and L.A. as unexpected and accepted them as having some greater purpose in our lives.

Dave’s assimilation into life in Toronto went smoothly. He picked up the mantle of caring for his mother and brother (who had special needs) with aplomb. The move to Toronto proved to be a boon to Dave in another way, it helped lessen the severity of Dave’s respiratory issues.

Once I decided to self-publish Walking Tall, Dave’s excitement knew no bounds. He celebrated all the milestones with me along the way—the development of cover concepts, cover photo selection, arriving at a final title page design, venue choice, and the like. When I picked up the first bound and printed proof of my book for the launch party, I rushed a copy off to him.

You can imagine my shock and dismay when he gingerly informed me of copious errors that jumped out at him in the text. I was devastated. Friends and I had graciously combed through at least half a million times, but still mistakes slipped by. With the launch party a few days away, Dave talked me off the ledge and ever so casually revealed that he was an English major in college and offered to pore through the proof one last time.

I accepted his offer, and over the following week Dave scrutinized all 272 pages to within an inch of their lives. I couldn’t help but notice how respectful he was with of the text and took care not to add his distinctive cheeky sense of humor to the work. Lord knows if he hadn’t, every other paragraph would’ve been hysterically funny. Dave and I walked me through the edits for hours at a time, and when all was said and done Walking Tall made its debut online and at the launch party with relatively few blemishes and my reputation still intact.

Dave saw his gesture as no big deal, but in no uncertain terms he saved my ass. And in doing so, he taught me a very important lesson about to become a better proofreader of my own work. And I made it a priority to let him know how much I appreciated his efforts.

2013 began as a year of challenges for Dave with the passing of his brother Stephen and intensified respiratory issues. It’s weird how life works out, just a couple weeks ago a few of Dave’s good friends visited him in Toronto. He was elated to have them visit, despite the limitations of needing Oxygen. That was the last time he saw them.

Just last week, after several days of testing, Dave phoned me in tears to tell me of his approval for a lung transplant. He felt an overwhelming sense of relief and renewed optimism about his condition. And when I spoke with him yesterday, I had no inkling that it would be the last time I’d do so. I woke to an email from his account sent by cousin announcing his death.

Although, the total amount of time I spent in face-to-face interaction with Dave probably totals less than twenty-four hours, the impact he’s had on me will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Thanks to Dave’s unbridled love of life and wicked sense of humor, I know that he wouldn’t want to be sad over his passing. And with that in mind, one quote comes to mind—

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
—Dr. Seuss


Any typos or grammatical errors present in this post exist solely to ruffle Dave’s angel wings. Anything less would be disappointing.