Monday, November 29, 2010

Radio Interview with D.E. Sievers

Here's a link to a radio interview I did in October 2010 about my novel "The Trees in Winter." Check it out when you have a spare half hour.

http://tinyurl.com/26nuzpb

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Tale for All Hallow's Eve

NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH

At nine every evening he walked the dog, an untrained black Lab that exploited the retractable leash like a teenager exploits an ambiguous curfew. He was forever having to unwind the leash from around his legs or lift the dog's paw and pass the handle under its belly. But the dog was nonetheless lovable so he would live with the aggravations of the evening walk for which he could blame only himself.

Midway down the block he passed the trailer trash home where a couple of beaters sat propped up on cinder blocks, their hoods perpetually raised like gaping mouths screaming fix me! But no matter how frequently he observed the dirty faced teens leaning over the cars poking around in their innards he had yet to hear an engine turn over or see one of the cars in motion. They were there now, squatting on the front steps in their backward ball caps, smoking and smirking and generally acting as though they had the world by the tail. Later there would undoubtedly be beer and girls with faces somewhat askew and a radio pumping out belligerent rap music that compelled passersby to give the house a wide berth, the odor of burning dope taunting them as they hurried past.

He reached the other end of the block where a man stood in the front yard of the corner house resting his crossed arms on the chain link. He might have been sixty or sixty-five. The Lab growled but kept his distance. The man nodded a greeting and turned to look back up the street. His face was the color of fresh ham but creased and gnarled as a crabapple. His expression was not kindly as he glared up toward where the teenagers lived so you knew that if he were a dog he too would be growling.

The Lab pulled his owner along and they soon reached the park where the dog sniffed around, peed excessively and finally dropped a load of soft feces that his owner winced to feel against his hand with only the thin layer of plastic bag in between. He dropped the bag in a trash barrel and headed back home, mission accomplished.

The old man was still in his yard when they came back along. Again the man nodded but this time imposed some commentary.

"Some neighbors, eh?" he said, tilting his head in a certain direction.

"Oh," the Lab's owner replied. "Yeah."

"You wonder what kind of people live like that," he added. "What kind of parents."

The Lab's owner nodded.

"They're an ugly stain on the block," he carped. "A damn shame."

The Lab's owner shrugged with sympathy as if to say what are you gonna do and continued on his way.

The older man lingered a few minutes and went inside. There were no witnesses to how disgusted he was except the Lab's owner and the teenagers themselves. The man lived alone, his wife dead now for just over six years. The teenagers openly mocked him whenever they passed because the man had repeatedly chided them for their loud music, unruly behavior and their yard's slovenly appearance. They had dubbed him Crabby and enjoyed much laughter at his expense. They’d even stomped on the flowers in the man's front yard, a garden he had diligently cultivated, though they’d done it in the man's absence and so he could of course prove nothing. He replanted the flowers and before long the garden had regained its former beauty while the man's hateful scowl grew only more red and puckered with enmity when the sound of raucous music came swaggering down the block.

The man with the Lab didn't know the teenagers or the man they called Crabby and they didn't know him. That, he felt, was as it should be. He had no interest in knowing any of them. He did know that there was a Neighborhood Watch program and that the so-called crabby man was one of its more active members. He had observed the man on more than one occasion delivering pamphlets on neighborhood safety to the houses on the block. But the man with the Lab preferred not to get involved. Live and let live was his philosophy. Let the teenagers rut like swine in their front yard and let the old man grow his flowers and if one should transgress against the other let the police come sort it out.

He walked his Lab through the coldest days of winter, through the warm spring and the hot summer and when the autumn leaves descended to enshroud the street in the dry dead stuff of obsolescence. He walked the Lab at six in the morning before leaving for work. He walked him when he arrived home at five and again at nine. As October began to peter out he began noticing the Halloween decorations going up on doors and windows, tiny white tissue ghosts hanging from a tree, the odd scarecrow or skeleton propped against a mailbox. There were not many small children on his block but there were teenagers who could be relied upon to commit the usual pranks: eggs splattered against a car windshield, toilet paper festooning a house or tree, the remnants of smashed pumpkins littering the street.

On Halloween night he walked the Lab as usual. He had seen not a single trick-or-treater but in front of the trailer trash house the teenagers were in fine form. Five or six of them sat in the middle of their lawn, encircled by no less than ten jack o'lanterns, each facing the street and each containing a candle flickering beneath its sinister grin. The kids themselves were seated in a circle and within that concentric ring of lotus-positioned bodies sat the largest pumpkin of all. Music was blaring, pot was burning and spirits were flowing. The owner of the Lab was careful not to stare but let his dog pull him along as always.

The man who lived in the corner house was out in his yard leaning on his fence, glowering. Lined up behind the chain link his flowers looked poorly but were still hanging onto life, the first frost not yet come. The man with the Lab nodded briefly as he strode past, not wishing to appear receptive to an airing of the man's thoughts. On his way back home he took an alternate route so as to avoid both the man and the teenagers. He just wanted to get home and to sleep before the local hobgoblins began howling at the moon.

When the man walked his Lab at six the next morning he had to sidestep pumpkin fragments just as he'd expected. There was no sign of life at the trashy house but the lawn was littered with beer cans and assorted garbage and the jack o'lanterns of the previous night were gone. The cars sat immobile on their cinder blocks as always, their opened maws gaping hopelessly as ever. Not a soul was to be seen at this time of the morning and the man himself was not quite awake as the Lab tugged him around the corner.

When the Lab did his business in the park the man tended to it and promptly set their course toward home. He was more alert on the walk back and thought to look toward the corner house, wondering if it had been the victim of pranks. He retracted his dog's leash, drawing him closer to his side, and walked quite near to the chain link. There were no eggs splattered against the house, no toilet paper trimming the trees or adhering in soggy clumps to the windows. In fact there seemed nothing amiss whatsoever until he noticed the row of flowers just behind the chain link. Or rather the absence of flowers. For the flowers had gone away and in their place sat a long row of smugly grinning jack o'lanterns.

He looked at the first one, nearest the corner, then regarded each one in turn counting as he went. In some the remnants of a candle was still flickering. He counted twelve but never made it to thirteen because the thirteenth which was the last in line was no jack o'lantern at all but rather the scowling head of the man the teenagers had called Crabby, the Neighborhood Watch man. It took a moment for the man with the Lab to react, for someone had crowned the severed head with the top section of a pumpkin, stem poking up like the lid of a kettle, and it blended in nicely with the other jack o'lanterns.

The facial expression on the head was not terribly different than it had always been but the owner of the Lab started just the same, lurching away from the fence. The Lab caught the scent and began barking fiercely. The man pulled and yanked on the leash as he strove to put distance between himself and the ghastly sight but the dog continued to prance and snarl and dance circles around him so that he had to turn pirouettes to unwind the leash from around his legs and then rein the dog in and lift his paws and pass the handle under his belly until the whole mess was untangled. It was terribly aggravating as usual but the dog was lovable so he patted him on the ribs and pulled him on up the block. After all, it was his own fault if he hadn't taken the time to train the dog properly.


by d.e. sievers

Happy Haunting, boys & ghouls!

From the heartland,

Your ever watchful neighbor

Monday, October 11, 2010

Excerpts from "The Climb"

My blogging has slumped lately, but only in favor of higher writing priorities. I've completed my novella, titled "The Climb," and have begun my first non-fiction book, about the artist Robert Craig. I don't have a great deal to blog about, beyond those things, so I'll post a couple of excerpts from "The Climb." Hope you enjoy them.

From "The Climb" ...

The increasingly milder climate worked its charm upon the landscape, bringing all of its disparate elements into a natural and exquisite harmony, the earth and all that grew and moved upon it becoming as one organic and indivisible whole. Likewise did the common experiences of those who navigated that world unite them in ways that transcended the purely physical. There were sympathies and sensibilities, felt but not spoken, that forged a bond of solidarity which engendered trust and understanding and tacit collaboration. Together, they formed a model of human ecology that eased the burdens of all and made it possible to thrive both as individuals and as a collective. They climbed across the landscape that rustled and hummed all around them, and of mutual accord, made that song of life their own.


Also from "The Climb" ...

She faced him now as they spoke, and he looked upon her without shrinking, and in so doing, both seemed to lose sight of any reason why they should not look upon one another in the naked light of day. His rich brown eyes told of the sorrows he'd known and the longings he'd felt and the delight he was taking in her presence. His long hair danced in the breeze over his muscled shoulders and beads of moisture ran down over his bare chest. He returned her gaze and was rewarded with two priceless gems of sparkling blue, suffusing the face in which they appeared with light and life and a beauty for which no distant glimpse could have prepared him. Her wet hair clung to her cheeks and trailed down her back while sunlight shimmered off her bare shoulders. Having gained the ability to look upon one another freely, without reserve, with boldness and complicity and ease, it seemed they would never stop.


OKAY ... Now that I've completed the novella, I need to begin writing another novel. What shall it be, I wonder. The non-fiction book will occupy some time, but I see no reason why I can't be working on a novel concurrently. They are two different sorts of animals, after all. There's a novel I began some years ago that may fill the bill. It will be a fun story to tell, and I already have a little bit of a head start into it. In case you're curious, I'll just say the book will be about everyone's favorite sailor man ... and the untold story behind the man.

But for now, bon voyage from the heartland,

D.E. Sievers

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Novels, Novellas, and Non-Fiction


Four days ago, on Sept. 25, I completed the novella I've been working on for the past four months. Not a bad time for completing a novella, I think. At that rate, I could write three novellas in a year. Or a pretty-good-sized novel. But you can never be sure. Largish novels can become bogged down, or grow in unexpected ways, and pretty soon three years have passed and it's still not done. My first novel was very-good-sized. I don't think I'll be doing another one of those for a while. There's something a bit more satisfying about a work that doesn't require years to complete. Pretty-good-sized will be just fine with me. Or merely good-sized. At any rate, I have leapt from the recently completed novella directly into something very different for me: non-fiction.

I am writing a book about the artist Robert Craig, who had been kind enough to paint the cover for my first novel. Someone is making a documentary film about him, and a book seemed like a nice thing to complement the film. I don't know how far along the film is, whether in progress, finished, or not yet begun. And I don't really care. The book is coming along nicely so far, and is fun to write. I doubt I'll make a habit of writing non-fiction, but this book I can do. Wonder if I can finish it by year-end. Probably too optimistic. Especially given that I will be dependent on the subject of the book to provide me with biographical data; and his turnaround time is not always as brisk as one might hope. But that's okay. The book will get done sometime over the course of a year. And while I'm waiting for the data I need, I'll just work on my next novel. Just as soon as I decide what it will be about and start writing it.

I may post excerpts from the recently finished novella in the near future, but it may be a bit longer before the entire work will be available; I am entering it into a contest soon that prohibits me from publishing it. But if it wins, they will publish it for me. And give me other good stuff. So I figure it's worth a shot.

And that's what is going on in my literary world.

From the heartland,

D.E. Sievers

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

D.E. Sievers Reads from "The Trees in Winter" - 3 New Lit-Vids

Pull a chair up to the fireside, pour a glass of wine, and let your Uncle Sievers regale you with passages from his novel, "The Trees in Winter." Three new Lit-Vids here for your viewing and listening pleasure. If you like what you hear, maybe you'll even want to buy and read the whole novel? And tell everyone you know to do likewise?

READING #1 (6:52)


READING #2 (5:06)


READING #3 (4:22)


Greetings from the heartland,

D.E. Sievers

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Do You Write or Type (or Keyboard)?

Pondering the mechanics of writing these days. Some find it odd that I write in longhand. To which I respond: doesn't a writer write? If I am typing, am I writing? Sure, many will say. To which I will trot out the old reactionary stance espousing the mystical process by which precious literary treasure travels from the writer's heart/mind/soul down the arm, through the hand, into the pen, and finally, by means of some ineffable brand of alchemy, onto the blank page. When I write on paper with a pen, I feel like a writer; on a keyboard, like a data entry clerk. No offense to those who embrace the clerkly mode.

Writing, it seems to me, is in reality 100% thinking. Dreaming. Pondering. The act of transporting those thoughts to paper (or digital memory), merely a mechanical task necessary to make your thoughts available to others; whether others find them comprehensible is another matter altogether. But the task of transforming your thoughts into a collection of characters on a page is like the task of plugging in an electric guitar. You can play that guitar to your heart's content unplugged, but no one will hear it but you. Like your thoughts. Plugging in the guitar makes your musical virtuosity available for others to experience, for better or worse.

And yet, on second thought, I must ask: is this really true? As I continue to ponder the process of writing, I must acknowledge that a great deal of the sculpting of the written word occurs only after it has been written, once you can sit back and see what you have said. Rarely does unimpeachable writing spring directly from the pen (or keyboard) on its maiden voyage onto paper (or onto a computer monitor). The act of revising is as much or more a part of writing than merely producing a first draft, which is generally found wanting. And so, while the process of writing continues to consist of thinking (it is required no less for revising than for the initial draft; well, actually, maybe somewhat less), it becomes harder for me now to dismiss the act of putting words on paper (or ...) as a mere mechanical task. That mechanical task, in revising, becomes more than merely a mechanical task but in fact becomes an element in that wondrous alchemy which is writing.

And so, which medium--the pen or the keyboard--represents the more effective or more legitimate method--and which method more legitimately entitles one to assume the august designation of Writer?

I must admit that a keyboard may serve just as effectively as a pen. Even more effectively, many would argue. It's so much easier to delete, insert, move words around, spellcheck, etc., they would argue. So much easier to evaluate what you have written when beholding it in crisp clear Times New Roman characters against a white background. And I must concede that the scribblings in my notebook are often not terribly attractive, if not frustratingly illegible. And yet, I can read what I have written; I am lucky enough, most of the time, to be a match for my own handwriting. And I can cross words out, add new ones, even tear out pages if need be. I can draw arrows from one place to another to indicate where a sentence or word or paragraph should be relocated during the transposing stage. Because yes, I do eventually type up what I have written. It is, to me, a necessary evil, but I do it. So why not do it at the very start? one may ask. To which I respond: I can take my notebook and pen with me everywhere I go. I do not require a battery or a power source. I can whip out my notebook inconspicuously in mixed company, whether on a bus or in a department store or even during a boring lecture, and I can instantly transport my thoughts onto the page. Who knows when that flash of inspiration may come? Should I risk losing a valuable line of inspired dialogue because I chose to depend upon a machine, which may prove unreliable or inconvenient, or because I have allowed myself to believe that I can write in no other way than by means of a machine?

No, I say! I will depend upon nothing and no one but myself as I strive to perform this magical and capricious process known as writing. Nothing except my little notebook and my pen. And the machine that is my brain, which I carry with me wherever I go. And when I can no longer depend on that machine ... well, friends, that will be all she wrote.

From the heartland,

D.E. Sievers

Monday, July 12, 2010

D.E. Sievers Reads from "The Trees in Winter"

Here is the first of my lit-vids for "The Trees in Winter." I intend to create several more, reading different passages and geared toward different audiences. I expect the quality of the vids will gradually improve as I become more adept at making them. If you enjoy literary readings, I hope you enjoy this one, and if you enjoy what you hear, I hope you'll buy and read the entire book.

D.E. Sievers Reading from "The Trees in Winter"

Regards from the heartland,
D.E. Sievers

Friday, July 9, 2010

D.E. Sievers Reads from "The Climb" - Upcoming Novella

That's right, folks, I can read. And by golly, that's just what I've done in this mini-vid sneak peek at the opening to my current work-in-progress, a novella entitled "The Climb." My intention is to create some similar "readings" of passages from my novel "The Trees in Winter," which is available right now. Wish me luck, it's not easy to create one of these things without looking as silly as you feel. But I enjoy reading, and don't wish to be left behind with regard to all that technology has to offer nowadays, so I'll do what I can do, at the risk of appearing silly.

I'm very excited about this novella and enjoying the writing of it immensely. And as always, cannot wait for it to be finished. I make progress every day and am confident it will be done by October.

Meanwhile, life goes on. The summer here in Minneapolis alternates between being very hot and very wet, and sometimes both simultaneously. The heating and A/C in my house died recently and I have been mourning its passing ever since. Funny how we take those little things for granted until they're gone, then you suddenly realize they were not so little after all. One of these days, when I can afford to replace those deceased appliances, I will be able to start taking them for granted again, and how I long for that day! I hope you enjoy my mini-vid and that you are enjoying your summer more than I am, meaning I hope all your appliances are in working order. Ciao for niao!

From the heartland, D.E. Sievers

video

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Excerpt from The Trees in Winter

Excerpt from "The Trees in Winter" by D.E. Sievers, Available Now on Amazon

       He drove to work under a sky bruised with ugly purplish clouds that spit on his windshield; the risen sun might have spared itself the effort. It was a dark and dismal beginning to a day that would only get worse. The autumn was in its death throes, decisively trounced by the heavy boots of winter’s merciless invasion. The last leaves clung for dear life to their moorings, expending their final measure of fortitude in vain; the day’s ruthless gusts swept them away and the trees stood bare and grim by the time Blake drove back home in the late afternoon. But he took little notice of the forces of nature at work outside his window or the changes they wrought. He was all too preoccupied with those come to jar the foundations of his own inner reality, previously so unshakable through his life’s successive seasons. He was finding that what he had always taken for granted could in fact, all along, never have been more vulnerable, and his desperate attempt to cling to his moorings as hopeless as that of the last leaves of autumn.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Excerpt from The Trees in Winter

Excerpt from "The Trees in Winter" by D.E. Sievers, Available Now on Amazon

The bass throbbed, the drums thundered, the keys trilled, the guitar snarled, and the brass howled and honked like rush hour traffic pleading for the mercy to bring it all home, which they did in a rip roaring finale that nearly brought the sweat-soaked crowd to its knees. At that moment, Blake knew with a certainty that such a performance issued not from any romantic notions of inspiration drawn from a lover or musical exemplar, despite any such claims, but from the native talent, formal training, dedication, passion and synergy that each musician brought to bear when they came together on a stage and bled their hearts into the beckoning silence. Leaving the stage, he and his peers had never felt more spent—nor more alive.
       It was nearly two when Blake arrived home, to a setting whose tranquility couldn’t have contrasted more sharply with the one he had just left. The dark rooms were as still and peaceful as a cloistered sanctuary, infused solely with the hushed breath of Providence. Setting down his gear, he went directly to Miles’ room only to find an empty bed. His stomach dropped a peg as he felt his way out of the room and switched on the hall light, crossing over into the other bedroom where he found his son nested snugly in his mother’s embrace, a heartwarming tableau bathed in the soft light stolen in from the hall.
       Blake bent over and kissed his son on the cheek, scooped him up with loving tenderness and carried him to his bed. Returning to his own bed, he eased into the pool of warmth Miles had left and fit his contours flush against those of his wife, savoring the hot touch of flesh against flesh.
       “How’d it go?” she murmured.
       “Awesome,” he said into the room’s heavy blanket of serenity, while inside him music surged from the thousand sparks of a sizzling fuse.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Birth of a Fiction

After 80 chapters, 436 pages, and 200,000 words of a novel that took on a life of its own and took over mine, I'm so ready to write something new. I've had a few different projects all lined up for me to dive into, but an entirely new idea caught my fancy over the past couple of weeks and so that is the one I've chosen to pursue. I see it as a small book, 100 pages, maybe more, maybe less, the story itself will decide. It's sort of a parable about the journey through life told using the metaphor of a climb. It will be called The Climb. I'm only a few pages in, but far enough to be well engaged and excited about it. Now I need only surrender myself to it and let it take me where it will for as long a time as it requires.

Completing the novel has given me my legs, as it were. After so epic an undertaking, anything of shorter scope seems a walk in the park. I learned a great deal about writing throughout that 3-year process, but perhaps the most important lesson was in coming to understand the absolute necessity of giving any writing enterprise its own daily sacred space. And by space, I mean time. Every single day I fed the novel its 3-hour ration of time. It hungrily gobbled up every precious minute and sometimes rewarded me with pages filled with words. Other times, only a single paragraph, or a single sentence. And occasionally, a single word. But at a certain point (and I'm not really certain when that point occurred), the story took on its own life and began rolling forward like a snowball, enlarging itself of its own accord. The words practically wrote themselves. The characters I'd created took on a quality like the machines in the Terminator movies--they became self-aware. Or maybe my own awareness of them had grown so complete, my own knowledge of who they were and what they thought and what they would be likely to do had so ripened as to require of me only that I sit with pen in hand for three hours and allow the strange magic of creation to occur. That, I now understand, is all I need do with any project I undertake. Feed it the time, and it will reward me with the words.

I met the author Michael Chabon at a reading one night and asked him if he had any advice for the aspiring novelist. "Stay in the chair," he said. I was sort of hoping for something a little more practical, a little more specific and detailed, and walked away disappointed. I now know that his advice was just as practical and specific and detailed as it needed to be. It's just that simple. Stay in the chair. Feed it the time. With nobody else around--no TV, no Internet, no people, no potential distractions whatsoever. Just you and your thoughts and your pen. Or your computer, if you must, but ideally without internet access. Some would disagree, and argue that the internet is essential for research related to the writing. I would argue no. During a first draft, while engaged in the act of pure creation--writing fiction, mind you--making things up--mining the imagination--no research tools are necessary. Do the research later. Leave blanks to be filled in. Feed your project the time, be rewarded with the words, then watch your story snowball into something bigger than yourself. Stay in the chair.

That is what I will do with The Climb. In so doing, I know I will produce a finished story. Don't know when, don't know exactly what it will look like in the end, don't know how long it will be, how many words, how many pages, how many chapters--but I know it will be a complete story. And that will be good enough for me.

Signing off from the heartland,

D.E. Sievers

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Who Might Like My Novel?

It's inevitable for a novelist, sooner or later, to ponder the identity--or rather, the psychological makeup--of his ideal reader. Or put another way, what sort of a person might like his novel. Here, then, is my stab at this question.

If you like literary fiction, or that which presumes itself to be literary fiction. If you are undaunted by longish novels and have a yen for words and language used in creative ways to tell a story. If you like stories which aim to be realistic and are about ordinary people living ordinary lives very much like your own but deep down (or not so deep down) resent the suggestion that your life is ordinary. If you like stories that explore love and death and family and work and sex and art and music and literature. If you like watching a character develop over time and seeing how all the external influences and other people the character cares about most act upon him and change him. If you like to witness from afar how characters deal with crises such as death and disease and domestic disturbances and turmoil. If you like stories that explore the nature of love, both familial and romantic and that between friends. If you are interested in a novel that explores the nature of male sexuality as embodied by an admittedly limited number of male specimens. If you like to see characters making weighty decisions and then like to watch the consequences of those decisions as they play out and the ways in which the characters cope with those consequences. If you like a novel that does not insult your intelligence by leading you along by the nose and spoon-feeding you explicit explanations of the obvious. If you are of a philosophical turn of mind and enjoy pondering the meaning of life and what it is to be human. If you like a novel that treats of universal themes and concerns in which you can discern your own life experience in a way that provokes personal insights and inspiration. If you are interested in the nature of passion, in a variety of forms, and in the inexplicable mystery of the creative impulse. If you appreciate a novel that is not afraid to be speculative, that dares to postulate events in the real world which have not happened but conceivably could, and by so postulating throw a brighter (and perhaps harsher) light upon the burdens and challenges the novel's main characters are made to confront, thereby also providing insight into why the characters respond as they do. If you are interested in any or all of the above, then you might like my novel. If you are not interested in any of the above, you will almost certainly dislike it.

And that's all I'm going to say about that.

Signing off from the heartland,

D.E. Sievers

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Novel & Blog Debut

Now that my debut novel has been written and is available for purchase, naturally I want the world to know. A blog seemed in order to help in getting the word out, and to provide a space for me to air my thoughts on fiction, and to share my fiction into the bargain with those who might appreciate it.

My novel is called The Trees in Winter and is available for purchase at:

http://www.createspace.com/3429809


The ordering process can be rather annoying, but if you persist in creating an account if asked to do so and re-entering information as necessary, you will triumph in the end and I think you will enjoy my novel. If ordering before June 1, get 25% off by entering discount code R77RYGC9.

This is an Amazon company and a trustworthy online vendor.

The book will be available on Amazon proper and other venues in the weeks ahead but of course I would prefer everyone purchase it on the site provided here, since otherwise my royalty is miniscule. I hope you'll take a chance on my novel. You can read a description of it at the site listed above. And of course, I will be blogging about it here as well.

But for now, I will conclude my maiden blog entry and look forward to continuing in the days and weeks ahead as opportunity allows.

Signing off from the heartland -- D.E. Sievers