Category: Fiction

Writer’s Cramp


I look for a novel

Idea to find

Deep in my heart

And deep in my mind


A character appears

A new story-line

I spew forth his tale

I know it’s not mine


I’m a medium of sorts

A conjurer of words

That tells you his story

This novel of mine


Where do we go

I’ll take you he said

A journey to nowhere

With this man in my head


I’m losing my grip

My plot is not sound

How will I end this

What twist can be found


Just follow the voice

The man in my head

Then trip him and flip him

Don’t let him be fed


He’ll find a way out

Or else he’ll be dead

It’s his job to find it

It’s my job it’s said


So bleed on the keyboard

Put it all down

I’ll fix it later

This first draft of mine


His story’s complete

The story I wrote

So I relax and enjoy

This moment of note


Because now I must read

That first draft I wrote

And I will not like it

It’s full of word bloat


So I must turn

From killing my man

To killing my prose

Of the weak and the canned


I’m a slayer of adverbs

And the passive voice

To make it read lively

But not like James Joyce


It’s a helluva task

To remove what I wrote

Like throwing away

A favorite old coat


But I read it again

And I certainly note

It reads much better

Without the old bloat


But something is wrong

This new draft of mine

It lacks something special

It lacks flow and rhyme


So I re-write again

It’s a bloody damn crime

To read it once more

For the sixty-sixth time

I’m ready almost

To let it be read

From cover to cover

By eyes that aren’t mine


My God! What they say

Is it really that bad

No one will read this

I feel really sad


I pull it together

And get kind of mad

It’s time to re-write it

This novel of mine


But where is the voice

The man in my head

I need him to tell me

What else to be said


I drink and I smoke

And sink in my head

Looking to find

This novel of mine


The dog needs a walk

And garbage trucks grind

The gears in my head

Have rusted I find


The muse has escaped me

And the man in my head

Refuses to help me

I wish I were dead


What possessed me to write this

I may never know

But polish I must

To make the thing glow


He visits again

A night when it’s late

And no one’s around

So I finish his fate


And finished at last

No typo is left

It has  ISBN

And its cover’s a blast


Let luck take it somewhere

I hope it is read

By people who like it

My novel ain’t bad


Copyright 2015 by Andrew Hall

What the hell…now I’m writing poetry?

Where is this coming from?

Ginger’s Choice – Selected Reading From ‘Lapse Of Reason’

The Editor has selected the following section from ‘Lapse of Reason’ for you to sample. She thinks this is clean enough not to offend anyone. This is from Chapter 9 – Vulcan Breakfast. You may also sample the first three chapters at my Smashwords book page: Smashwords.


A fresh breeze carried the smell of rain, and caught Sidney’s hair as she climbed out of the Cadillac CTS in front of Ian’s house. She held a straw fedora on her head and saw flashes in the clouds, accompanied by distant rumbles. “Great traveling weather, Leah, at least it will be in your car.”

He locked the front door and carried his duffel bag to the street, as wind whipped leaves and billowed dust across the yard. “Nice car!”

“Will you drive?” Leah asked.

“I’d love to.” He took the keys and she went to the front passenger side. Sidney got in the back seat.

“This weather will make the trip interesting,” he said. “I hope there’s a big rain.”

“Ian,” said Sidney. “Look to the south.”

Bank upon bank of storm cells lined the southern horizon, leaving a blue-black hollow beneath. “That’s where we’re heading,” he said. “It’s not too late to take the bikes.”

“Yeah right,” Sidney said. “This Caddy will do just fine.” She snuggled into the soft leather backseat.

They traveled west a long distance before turning south to the border. It seemed they might get in front of the storm, but the thunderheads kept pace with their westward movement, and when they reached the turn south, the road led into the heart of the dark chasm beneath. Sidney watched hanging shreds of cloud clot together in a rotating mass ahead of them. Rain pelted the roof so hard they had to yell to be heard. As they lost daylight in the storm, the headlights bounced off a sheet of rain that fell like a screen. Ian slowed but kept going. For the first time, he noticed someone was behind – lights in his mirror. He sped up to stay ahead.

Lightning burst, illuminating the heavy underside of clouds hanging low over the flat, desert plain. Sidney saw crazy twisted shapes silhouetted in the flash – organ pipe cactus looked like alien soldiers – upside-down squids on a battlefield. Thunderous cracks came the moment after a flash, booming right on top of them. She huddled into her seat; while Ian leaned forward, better to see through the rain. Wind whipped the car from side-to-side.

The maelstrom continued for twenty minutes before the sky opened-up. Back-lit by the moon, everything below was cast in black and white, strobing to the pulse of lightning from the storm behind. “No worries,” Ian said, “we made it through safe. Now the air is cool and moist and smells fresh. I’m rolling down my window.”

Sidney saw they were approaching a bridge over a sandy wash. At first she didn’t recognize what she saw. There shouldn’t be anything moving in the wash, but there was. She saw a brown wall of mud rolling at them.

She screamed as Ian drove casually onto the bridge, unaware it was about to be slammed by a raging wave of water. They were halfway across when it hit. A standing wave rose like a wall inches from the car, slapping the elbow Ian hung out the window – it was that close. The impact rattled the bridge, almost bouncing them into the torrent. “Oh, my God!” Leah cried.

Sidney watched a tree surge forward, its broken trunk aimed at her. Ian took the only course of action available: he gunned the car across the remainder of bridge. Water washed in a rising tide over the road, but the Cadillac’s momentum carried it forward. Sidney felt the car float, and then the tires grabbed enough traction when they hit the curb to stop its sideways travel – she felt the car jerk with the impact. They reached the other side just as the tree smashed the bridge, sending a thud through the earth that shook the car.

“I think the bridge just broke,” Sidney said.

They drove in silence for a moment, hearts pounding, stunned by the freakish flood and how close it came to sweeping them away. Ian finally spoke up; “Holy shit! We are so fucking lucky!” he said. He pounded the steering wheel for emphasis. “If we crossed that bridge a split second later we’d be dead. I saw a car behind us. I’m going back to warn them.”

“I didn’t see any car,” said Sidney. “I was looking around the whole time, nobody is behind us.”

He spun tires on the shoulder making a U-turn. At the bridge, they got out of the car and stood at the threshold, watching foam and brown water cascade through a chasm where the road used to be. He couldn’t see anything approaching the far side – he was sure he’d seen them – maybe they turned around. “There wasn’t anybody there,” said Sidney.

Over the roar of the flood, he heard laughter. At least he thought he did, it was impossible to tell with the torrent pounding only feet away, but it sounded like a deep booming laugh from somewhere in the dark. He never saw the lights again.

A half an hour later, driving under clear skies and a brilliant moon, their adrenaline had ebbed and the incident was a thing of the past. He asked, “Leah, why do you want to do this Ayahuasca thing? I mean, if it’s for clinical studies, why do you need to take it?

“So I know its effects. How can I relate to the effects in patients if I haven’t experienced them myself? Of course, I can’t tell anyone. Beside the two of you, no one else knows. I can try it in Mexico, and it stays in Mexico. Besides that, we can have a great time.”

“Well, I’m just wondering,” Ian kept probing. “I mean doctors don’t give themselves chemo-therapy to test those drugs, do they? Did you try electroshock before giving it to patients? I don’t see why you need to take Ayahuasca.”

“This is a psychoactive drug, and I’m studying its effect on the brain – on consciousness,” she said. “It’s different than the physical treatments you’re talking about – these drugs have an effect on perceptions and that can’t be measured with an instrument – I have to experience it to understand it.”

Sidney stuck her head between the front seats, “Ian, are you afraid to take Ayahuasca again? I thought you had a mellow trip, talked to a snake, got really horny afterward. What’s wrong?”

 “I don’t know. For one thing, you’re risking your career, Leah,” he said.

“If we all keep our mouths shut it won’t be a problem,” she said. Her voice had an edge they’d never heard before.

“We won’t say a word, will we,” Sidney nudged Ian’s shoulder.


The moon was halfway across the sky by the time they pulled onto the dirt road leading to the Ranch. Ricky never referred to it any other way – just the ‘Ranch’. They stopped at the fence and Sidney hopped out to open the gate. The drive wound through a hundred yards of overgrown cactus before the headlights lit a bare tin-sheeted house. Ricky appeared in the headlights and waved them to stop in front.

“Hello, my friends!” Ricky called. He stood in the lights wearing a red jumpsuit. “Nice car.”

“Nice jump suit,” Ian said, and introduced Leah and Sidney. “Ladies, meet Ricky.”

Ricky herded them into the house. Ian could see it was a hodgepodge of buildings molded together in an amiable sort of structural chaos. Adobe walls surrounded a courtyard with apartments in back. The front house was tin and wood frame, with a large kitchen and veranda connecting the buildings. They were led to a spacious den paneled in knotty pine, where cool air blew from an evaporative cooler humming on the roof. It had a homey, cabin-like comfort that put Ian at ease.

“You can crash in here,” Ricky said. “There are couches and blankets and pillows all around. Make yourselves comfortable. You can meet the old lady and everyone at breakfast. Tomorrow night, I’ll have a better place. She told me there was a big storm and you guys weren’t coming, so I didn’t expect you tonight. Usually, she’s right about such things.”

“Who’s ‘the old lady’ you’re talking about, Ricky?” Ian asked.

“Kay – she owns the Ranch. She’s gone to bed. You’ll meet her in the morning.”

“Okay, well we’ll just crash then. By the way, we did have a big storm hit us on the way. A flash flood almost killed us.” Ian said, as he walked Ricky to the door.

Ricky shook his head, “She’s usually right about things like that. Maybe, it was supposed to stop you from getting here.”


A New Project

Ginger and I are writing a new book. We mentioned in the first blog that we’d keep you abreast of new works, so we want to talk about that now. In the weeks to come, Ginger said she would clean up a chapter or two of draft, and share it with you.


Before we do that, let’s just talk about another thing. Truth, because that’s the point for this book. I think it’s only fair I tell you what I’m up to. And that’s truth, because every great writer says you have to write the truth – or write truly (and drunk) if you’re Hemingway. So I wrote a novel, just like all the greats, and you know what? I made the whole thing up. Entirely fiction. That’s what novels are, duh – not a shred of truth in it.

Then I realized there must be deeper truths. Properly done, the novel is an artful expression of the human condition in some way – however odd that might seem. Well, I didn’t do that – that’s some heavy lifting for a writer, let me tell you. By the time you have a story, bleed it out, and figure an ending to the damn thing, you have to re-write so it’s readable. When you’ve edited it to a readable manuscript, it reads like molten lead – fluid, but devoid of color and boring as hell. So you have to re-write all the juice into it. By this time your so sick of it, the thought of proof-reading causes panic attacks, because you know you’ll keep finding things to fix, and this cannot be avoided, so it’s procrastinated instead.

IMG_1431This is before anyone else has laid eyes on it, mind you. Later, an editor snarls and makes you feed her cheese and re-write everything again. So it’s hard enough just making an entertaining read without having to weave in some artful, meaningful message redeeming you from the heap of crap you just wrote. Besides, I don’t want redeeming, I want redeemable, preferably in cash. I became a writer so I wouldn’t have to crawl out of my bathrobe before noon to scratch a living at the brickyard.

So all this heavy lifting as a writer seems a stretch too far. I’m opting for a simpler method of truth in this next book. I’m going to tell true stories to practice truth in writing, rather than attempt the brain twisting to come up with a truthful metaphor.

I’ve always wanted to write a travel book. I’ve read many, it’s a favorite type of book; true stories of adventure, drama and mishap in exotic places. My dear friend, Jim, is a travel writer, and I’m jealous. So naturally that is something I’ve thought about since I made the leap to writing. But therein lies the problem. I’m a writer, so I’m broke and have no money to travel. Catch 22 for anyone would-be travel writer who isn’t already well heeled.

IMG_1239Then a solution occurred to me. By the very fact I became a writer at a mature age, I haven’t spent an entire life chained to a keyboard. I actually have a great deal of travel experience already packed away that I can dust off and string together.

Ginger is looking at me like I’m crazy. She’s never seen me gone more than an hour and thinks that’s way too long. Her time between snacks is shorter than that. But she’s only three years old, and doesn’t realize I had a life before her.

I first titled it “The Art of Travel.” I thought that sounded presumptuous and not very literary, especially for a collection of stories that won’t describe anything like an artistic experience. Most stories are about events that were abject misery at the time. It came to me because the art in travel isn’t in the action itself. The art is in the telling. The story is what matters. The event is history.

I changed the title after that, but the sentiment still stands. Which brings me back to truth. And dare I say it…I‘ve been avoiding the other thing…embellishment. There, truth versus embellishment. You will find both in this book. That’s the real point I have to make now, before I can even write it.

It works like this. I write the true story and add a bunch of embellishment that makes the story read nice and have the right drama, or humor, or whatever. But I stay true to the story. You, dear reader won’t ever know the truth from the embellishment. But that doesn’t matter. You’re still getting the true story in the most entertaining way I can deliver. If this obscures facts a bit, so be it. Guilty parties should appreciate that, and the reader should appreciate the fact, without such obscurity, many of these stories wouldn’t be told. It’s still the truth.

This book will be a collage, a collection…an assembly of stories. They are not all my stories, but some are. Dear, anonymous friends and family have related some to me. However, I will write them in the first person, as if they are my stories for the sake of literary expression. Why bother the reader with shifting voice and points of view, when is it of no consequence to the story who it really happened to. It is the fact they are true and interesting stories, hopefully funny, that the reader cares about. If I’m wrong, you’ll tell me.

I’ll change names, of course, and stay vague on dates, precise locations, and I’ll attribute some of my more embarrassing actions to others – to help me objectively tell the tale. By the same reasoning, I’ll take credit for the more admirable actions of others. This artifice of literature will not be brought up again. I just want to preempt litigation.

Travel, in this book means whatever I choose to write about that I can somehow link to a travel situation. It may include IMG_1247stories of travel by car, motorcycle, plane, train, or by foot. I don’t know since I haven’t written anything yet, although I have decided to stay away from the wilderness trekking and backpacking stories. They certainly belong in a travel book of mine, but are of a character and setting that is quite special and I think should be set apart. Therefore, I’ll stick to urban hikes that only occurred subset within a larger travel dimension. I set these parameters out now, lest you to be fooled into thinking we’re actually going somewhere. We may amble, in the fashion of travel at it’s best, not knowing the scene around the bend.