You will succumb. Who would not be intrigued by a small, taut, razor slashing Russian woman pilot with great loyalty and faith in those she loved traveling by any means around war torn Europe? Who would not wonder about the history of the lovely German stepmother, who appears out of nowhere to wheedle her way into the hearts and lives of a respected Boston antiques dealer and his loving daughter? And why would a pair of young, handsome, dedicated Nazi-hunters with little money and reckless plans not peak your interest?
Slowly, with smoothly wrought prose, vivid descriptions, gripping action, the stories weave together, winding tighter and tighter around you, the willing reader. You feel them begin to constrict, but you do nothing to escape. You eventually refuse to shower, and eat (though a glass of chilled late harvest Riesling boosts your resolve to finish) until you’ve read through to the satisfying ending.
READ THIS! You will fight the urge to scream warnings! You’ll shake your head in disbelief, cover you mouth in disgust…and in the end, you’ll be glad you took the time for this adventure!
Here’s the thing:
I have always been a writer. Poems about my family, stories about my friends. Commentary on every nit-picking thing. I have studied writing, read a ton of books about writing, met authors, worked prompts, wadded up reams and reams of paper.
Yes, I have always written. However, writing has always been my personal retreat, my head clearing, soul searching, psychoanalytical practice. I have even been published a couple-three times – letters to the Denver Post editor, church and business newsletters, an article in the local HUB about services for elderly veterans, a charitable anthology about fear, an article in an e-magazine about peonies. I have copies of all these things. I even won a poetry contest in the ninth grade at Drake Junior High – Drake Dragons Rule! My poem was about laughter. “…what is remembered long before and long after? Why, my friends, it is always the laughter.” I do not have a copy of that, but I do remember the excitement of winning.
I have written diaries, thrown the angriest and most frightful away. For a period, when I was a young mother, extremely stressed about getting a divorce from a mean, slapping drunk, and wondering how the hell I would survive, and how to ensure my daughter was safe, warm, and fed, when I had no idea how to work, or feed myself, I wrote furiously, filling every white space I could find – envelopes, match books, napkins, book margins. Obsessed. I read once about a woman who had a similar frenetic writing syndrome. She went through therapy, was given medication, and lost her inclination and ability to write. I did not want to do that, so when I went to therapy, I spoke only about the things I was willing to give up. Writing was not one of them.
So, I write. So do many. The thing is, I have never, until now, made the choice and decision to depend on my writing for income. I decided in February, after retiring from making mortgage loans after forty-two years, I would write stories for fun and profit. I collected all the books, and notes from classes, and lists of procedures about organizing, and simplifying, and becoming a published, no, not just published, a PAID writer. I was aided and inspired in this decision by reading an interview with a well known author who said with the money she made on her first novel, she purchased a ranch, with several hundred acres, where she has lived and worked for two decades. She did that in her twenties, smart girl. I want to do that. I never want to live in a corporate environment ever again. Ever.
So this morning, when I awoke on this first Monday of March, 2019, knowing full well that I must initiate my writing “career,” with no more excuses, I felt that clutch in my gut I used to get when I was a commissioned loan officer, wondering whether or not enough loans would close this month to pay me next month. That clutch in my gut when I had to not only focus on the loans submitted and waiting to close, but I had to get out and generate new business, new loans, make new contacts, fill my pipeline for the future. The loans always closed; new loans were found; the pipeline was always full as long as I worked at it.
I know I am on the right track – or should I say the write track. If this were not a serious decision, if I were just playing with the idea, I would not have felt that clutch. I would not consider it serious enough to panic about how, what, when, and where the ideas will arrive along with the income they will produce. But this is it. I am all in. Panic is good motivation, as is hunger, and keeping a roof over your head- coin in your pocket.
God, save my soul, and guide my mind and hands to write what people want to pay to read. May my writing bring joy and satisfaction to my readers, my family, and me, and may it make a positive difference in the lives of those who choose to read me. Let only good come from this endeavor. And please let the clutch be minimal. Amen.
I have no idea why, but I remember when Dag Hammarskjold died in plane crash. It was big news, I recall, though I was only nine years old, and had no reason to know who he was or what he did. I am still not quite sure. Something to do with the U.N., I think.
I probably remember it because his name was so unusual to my western ear. Very dignified sounding, yes? Especially when newscasters repeated it and repeated it for days on the evening news (no twenty four coverage back then). Newscasters were our eyes on the world then.
Yesterday, at Goodwill, when everything but pink tagged items was half off, I picked up a copy of Dag Hammarskjold’s book, Markings, published after his death, this edition being the 25th printing completed in 1970. It is a diary, or rather a collection of poems, 1925 – 1961. He was, it says on the jacket, the second Secretary General of the United Nations, from 1953 until he was killed in a plane crash on September 18, 1961, on a flight to Rhodesia to negotiate a cease-fire between U.N. and Katanga troops. No wonder it made the news, then. Most anything about the U.N. made the news, more often than today, where the drumbeat is constantly pounding on one or two individuals.
The jacket also indicates this is not a book about his accomplishments in the world, but rather reflections on his personal relationship with God, and His universe, and the need for peace. The last entry, dated August 24, 1961*, “…I awoke to an ordinary morning/with gray light…” in a country he seems to remember, but how? when? has he really been there before…but he seems to recall standing on two summits “of the same mountain country,” and he begins to get his bearings.
It must be quite something to be such a traveler, that you at first wonder just where you awoke. Godspeed, Mr. Hammarskjold! I have never forgotten you, though I am still uncertain why.
* (Note: this translation varies slightly from the translation by Leif Sjoberg & W.H.Auden, shown to be the translators of the copy of the book I just purchased. I prefer the translation in my book. I have no rights to either translation, and include this only to give you a feel for his reflections.)
August 24, 1961
Translated from the Swedish by Lennart and Gillian Nilsson
Is this a new land,
in a different reality
Or have I lived there.
before this day?
an ordinary day with grey light
reflected from the street,
woke up –
from a sombre blue night
above the tree line
moonlight on the moor
the mountain ridge in shadow.
the same mountain landscape:
twice did I climb the ridges,
I lived by the inmost lake
and followed the river
towards its source.
The seasons have passed
and the light
and the weather
and the hour.
But it is the same land.
And I am beginning to know the map
and the points of the compass.