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I have only one thing to say … and that is STOP!!! Stop writing. If you are as bad as what is pictured above, please, please stop. Shut off your computer and get a book or two or three. Start reading. Get a little Steinbeck or a little London into your soul. If you don’t know the difference between righting and writing, take a break and read a goddamn book!!! Because ain’t no cockamamie program is gonna help ya.

 

 

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Chapter Two of Mahoney

You guys are sensational. You looked over my first chapter and made astute observations and suggestions. Some, I have already incorporated into the manuscript—others, I’m giving serious consideration to. I had not intended to post any more of the novel, but then I woke up this morning, I thought, Why the hell not?  Getting input from as many people as possible before publication can only make my humble offering better.  And don’t worry. At the rate I’m writing, after the first five chapters, you’ll be let off the hook indefinitely. I’m not working that hard. I’m too busy out smelling the roses, so to speak. And if I smell many more roses, my liver is going to explode.

By the way, the horrors you are about to encounter are real. Maybe the reason the book is going so slow is not my drinking. Maybe it’s my research. For every ten minutes of writing I do, I spend twenty minutes in research. I’m not saying that is a good thing. Perhaps it’s my way of avoiding that dreaded blank page.

If you remember, chapter one ended with my protagonist stepping out onto the road for his journey to Cork.

Chapter Two

An ancient road it was. The Roman Christians had used it in the fifth century to spread the Word and baptize an entire nation. Then it was the Danes, or Vikings as they were known, who had come to conquer the isle late in the eighth century, deepening the wheel ruts laid down by the monks. By the time the Normans arrived in the twelfth century, it was a well-worn track that led from Cork to the Western shore. Along its length, the Danes built their castles. In the sixteenth century, Henry the Eighth’s soldiers used the road in their subjugation of an unruly people. Three hundred years later, Devin Mahoney, in solitary desolation, followed the wheel-rutted lane to an uncertain future.

With a pale dawn approaching, Devin made his way east into the face of the rising sun. It was an exceptionally clear day—not a cloud in the sky. He saw no children playing on the side of the road as in years past. Occasionally he would pass a work gang, but for the most part he had the road to himself.

As he approached the town of Coom, he came across the body of a dead man right there on the side of the road. There was little doubt that he had died from starvation. The body was barely more than a skeleton. It was not the first dead person Devin had seen. Over that last fifteen months, he had seen many. Devin wore no hat to doff as he passed by, but he did nod in that direction as a sign of respect.

He made it as far as the outskirts of Glenflesk before deciding to stop for the night. He went into the woods off to his right while the last rays of the setting sun reflected off the somber grey clouds in the west, turning them a soft pink around the edges. He found a small clearing after a few steps. This will do, he thought.

The road followed the River Lee, so water was easily accessible. He had not stopped during the day to eat, for his strategy was to make what he carried in the sack last as long as possible. Besides, he was used to going without food. Nevertheless, he now eagerly anticipated a bowl of bland cornmeal or perhaps a little oatmeal.

He put the sack down and collected what dead branches he could find in the vicinity. After clearing a space for his fire, he snapped the thin wood into foot-long lengths and laid them on a small pile of dead leaves. Next, he reached into the sack for the matches. While rummaging around, he also brought out the small kettle and the larger of the two bags of food, figuring it to be the cornmeal.

Once the fire was going, Devin went to the river and drew a kettle half-full with water. On the way back to his camp, the thought suddenly struck him that Missus Meehan had made no mention of a spoon. How was he to eat his stirabout?

He need not have worried. Missus Meehan was a good woman, indeed she was. There was a large, wooden-handled spoon at the bottom of the sack.

With the meal mixed with water, he held the pot over the fire using a three-foot-long branch and waited for the concoction to start its contented bubbling. Then he would stir it, and before long, he would have warm food resting comfortably in his empty stomach.

Devin’s eyes were fixated on the dancing flames of the fire. They were mesmerizing. His body was warm, wrapped in the fine overcoat; his thoughts wandered. Little doubts silently crept into his contemplations. It was a long way to America. Did he really want to leave The Auld Sod? But if he stayed, what hope would there be for him? Half the country was slowly starving to death.

His thinking was abruptly interrupted by a thrashing noise behind him. Quickly he turned his head, but he could see nothing. He was blinded—he had been looking into the fire. In fear, he cried out, “Who goes there?”

A voice sang out, “’Tis only I, Tom McNevin from Kinsale, County Cork. I saw your fire and thought you might be wanting company on this grand night.”

When his eyes had adjusted to the darkness, he saw a man standing a few feet away, wearing a smile, his hat in hand. Devin relaxed. “Come in, Tom McNevin. Come and sit by the fire.”

McNevin squatted opposite his host and held his hands over the fire to warm them. The firelight reflected off his gaunt face, showing him to be about forty. His hair and beard were dark, but starting to turn a little grey. His eyes were laughing eyes—merry eyes. His clothes were little more than rags and he sported no overcoat—he wore no shoes. He looked across the fire at Devin and saw a young man with a sparse brown beard and stormy blue eyes. He was a good-looking lad and his welcoming smile made Tom McNevin feel right at home.

“’Tis a grand night to be sitting by a warm fire, such as yours, and in such in such fine company,” said McNevin.

“So ’tis. I’m Devin Mahoney.”

Devin noticed McNevin eyeing the pot he held over the flames. “Have you eaten recently?” he asked in a soft voice.

“I cannot say that I have. But I have not come to eat your food. ’Tis a cold night and your fire looked inviting.”

“You are welcome to anything I have. I too know what it is like to go without.”

Devin handed the stick holding the kettle to McNevin. “Here, take this. Keep it over the top of the flames. I’ll do the stirring and soon we’ll be eating like kings, we’ll be.”

As Devin gingerly stirred the cornmeal, he asked of McNevin, “When did you last eat?”

“Like many of our countrymen, it’s been a little while since a bit of food has passed these lips. A day or two days, ’tis all the same. Since the blight came upon us, one day seems like all the others. I don’t count time by days anymore or even hours. Time is the distance from one meal till the next.”

When the stirabout was ready, McNevin placed the pot on the ground next to the fire and eagerly looked in Devin’s direction. He was trying to be polite and wait, but the pain in his stomach willed him to inquire, “Do you have two spoons?”

“Only the one; you are my guest, you eat first. When you have had your fill, then I will eat.”

They took turns eating and when the pot was empty, McNevin insisted that it would be he that took it to the river and cleaned it. While he was at his task, Devin searched out more firewood. It was a cold night and they would have to keep the fire going. Devin would be warm enough in his heavy coat, but McNevin would need the warmth of a fire so as not to shiver throughout the night.

With things taken care of, the two men sat down next to the fire, one on each side, and looked into its flames. They were grateful to have eaten this evening. Their stomachs were full. Tomorrow would bring what tomorrow would bring. But for the moment, they were two contented Irishmen.

Without taking his eyes off the fire, Devin asked, “Are you going or coming from Kinsale?”

“I’ve been to Dublin. I’m going back to Kinsale, but there’s little of any worth there for me, no more. These days there is very little for me—and people like me—anywhere in all of Blessed Ireland.”

“You’re slightly out of your way.”

“When I left Dublin, I thought I’d roam a ways to the west and see if there was any work for an able-bodied man. I’ve been all the way over to Glenbeigh. There is no work—and very little food that I’ve come across in my travels.”

“I’ll tell you true, Tom McNevin, there is very little for us poor folks here in Ireland. The land of St. Patrick, fairies, and the little people. The land of ruins. Of standing stones that have stood since the beginning of time. The land where my ancestors vanquished the Danes and ruled all this land hereabouts. I tell you true, Tom McNevin.”

McNevin moved a little closer to the fire.

Devin threw on a few sticks to build it up. “Tell me, Tom. What is it like in a big city like Dublin? Are there hungry people there too?”

“If you are not ready for sleep, I’ll tell you what I’ve seen from Kinsale to Cork to Dublin and back. Me thinks that somehow we Irish have angered the gods. What misery I’ve seen. But I have also seen acts of boundless Christian kindness.

“Before I tell my story, you must tell me what it is that you are doing out here on a cold night, mixing stirabout and wearing a fine gentleman’s coat. I would think that you could afford to stay at an inn.”

Devin laughed. “The coat was given to me by a kind woman. Underneath, I am dressed much as you are.” He then told his story and ended it with, “I’ll be going to America now. When I return, I’ll live in as fine a manor house as you have ever seen and have a coach-and-four to draw me to and fro as befits a man of my standing. No longer will I be walking from town to town.”

McNevin warmed his hands over the fire. “I’m sorry about your family. Me, I never had much of a family. My mother died giving bringing me into the world and, for one reason or another, I never married. Perhaps it was for the best. I don’t know how I’d survive having my whole family wiped out in a trace.”

Devin shrugged and said, “My sister is safe up in the North.”

“’Tis good to hear,” affirmed McNevin.

Devin threw a few more dried branches onto the fire. “Now, you tell me what is happening outside of County Kerry, in the rest of Ireland.”

McNevin leaned back as the fire flared up. “I’ll get to telling you, to be sure. I am a seanchaí of renown. An Irish teller of tales am I. You make yourself comfortable and I’ll pay for my supper this night with a tale that you will remember and pass down to your grandchildren as they sit upon your knee in that fine manor house that you will one day be building.”

Devin pulled his knees up, wrapped his arms about his legs, and waited for the seanchaí to begin his story.

“I had six acres that I planted every year for twenty years. The crop fed me with enough left over to sell at market and keep me steeped in whiskey for a few weeks after harvest. My rent was always paid. But then the blight struck. The leaves withered, the stems rotted, and my beautiful praties were covered with dark and black patches. It all happened very quickly.

“Without a crop, my rent I could not pay. The owner’s middleman badgered me daily and told me I’d be thrown out onto the road unless I came through. This after twenty years on the same plot of land. I had always paid my rent, but would the landlord give an understanding to the blight and what it has done to this country? No, he would not. He wanted only his money and his tenant of twenty years be damned! I told the middleman that you cannot get blood from a turnip.

“As a result of the agent’s badgering, I took myself off and joined one of those work gangs that the government had set up. We went out at dawn each day to dig holes. There was no reason to dig those holes, but if we wanted to be paid, we’d have to dig them damn holes. The next day we would go out and fill in those very same holes. Sometimes we would build stone walls that enclosed nothing or made an existing wall higher by two feet or more. All for no rhyme or reason, only to keep us busy.

“At least we were fed twice a day. Once at ten and then again at four. But it was very poor gruel they gave us, it was. And you had to work the full ten hours to be given even that.

“At the end of the week, I would turn my pay over to the middleman to keep a hold on my farm. But he always told me I still owed. Finally, I had had enough. I was working ten hours a day, six days a week for two miserly meals a day. And after all that work, I still went hungry on Sundays!

“The summer of last year I gave up my farm and left Kinsale. I thought I could find work in Cork, loading boats. It was on my first day out that I saw my first horror. I came across a woman walking my way, holding a bundle in her arms. Like me, she was dressed in rags, and like me, she was thin, her face drawn. I could tell by her looks that she had not eaten in many a day. But unlike me, she had a look about her that I cannot describe.

“When we came abreast of one another, I stopped and asked, ‘Are y’ alright?’ She looked at me with a blank stare and says she, ‘I do be alright, but my baby is hungry. Can you spare a morsel of food for the wee little one?’

“I had a biscuit in me pocket that I was holding for dinner. How I could I say no to her plea even if I had wanted to? I withdrew the biscuit and held it out to her. She says, ‘You give it to him.’ She unwound the swaddling to reveal her child. It was horrible, it was. The infant was dead, and from the look of it, had been so for some time. I looked at the woman smiling down at the lifeless baby boy as though he was alive. She had lost her mind either from hunger or grief—or both.”

Devin exclaimed, “That is horrible. What did you do?”

“I did the only thing I could do. I pressed the biscuit into her hand, saying, ‘You feed him and have some for yourself.’ She did not try to feed her baby and she did not raise the biscuit to her mouth. So, the only other thing I could say was, ‘Mind yourself, mother.’ She thanked me and resumed her slow wanderings. I stood in the middle of the road watching until she was out of sight.”

“Yesterday, I came across a dead man lying in the road just outside of Coom,” volunteered Devin.

“Aye. Corpses lay thick upon the roadside these days. I’ve seen a few myself. A month back, I stepped into a burying ground to avail myself of a little shade from the beech trees lining its walks. There was a funeral taking place and I decided to linger until the service was over. After the mourners had left, the burying men held the coffin over the dug grave. One of them pulled a string and a spring mechanism popped open the bottom and the body wrapped in old potato sacks fell six feet to its final resting place. I asked about it. ‘We have run out of wood for making coffins—there are just too many dead,’ informed one of the men. ‘Undertakers all over Ireland are doing the same,’ said another.”

“Now tell me, Tom McNevin, what is life like in the cities of Cork and Dublin?” questioned Devin.

McNevin leaned toward the fire—his face a ghostly yellow from the reflecting flames—and said, “’Tis a little better than the country, but not by much. There is no work to be had in either place. People from the country have crowded the streets looking for work and the police do not like it. But they arrest no one because then they’d have to feed them. What they do is give beatings in an effort to drive them back to the country. I’ve been on the receiving end of a few beatings myself.”

“Do they beat the women also?”

“To be sure, I have seen it done, so I have.”

“Then glad I am to be going to America,” sighed Devin. “What else have you seen? I want to know so that I can tell the people of America the true story of what is happening here. They are a rich people, and a kind people. They would send relief if they only knew.”

McNevin threw a few more sticks onto the fire. When they had caught, and the flames danced about in the slight wind that was coming down from the north, he said, “’Tis to be a cold night this night. I am grateful for the warmth of your fire, and I will tell you of more things that I have seen. I cannot understand how we have fallen so low.”

Devin braced himself for what he about to hear.

“From Dublin, I walked west to Galway. ’Tis on the coast that I saw what cruelty really is. There were two women collecting seaweed and putting it into baskets. Having nothing better to occupy my time, I approached them with an Irish greeting, ‘Dia dhuit.’

“‘Hello to you,’ answered one of the women.

“They were both older than I, grey-headed, and dressed in rags. One of ’em had a ratty old red shawl about her shoulders. The other one’s dress was in such tatters that it was cut off above the knees. Both their dresses were heavily patched and neither of the women wore shoes.

“They continued with their work, picking up the seaweed below the high water mark, as we walked along the beach. ‘There be plenty of what you’re after just a few feet away, above the high water line,’ says I. ‘Why do you scavenge for the scraps when the bounty is within reach?’ ‘We dare not,’ said the one with the red shawl. ‘’Tis the landlord’s property above that line.’

“The wind was blowing in off the ocean and it felt good, being the warm August day it was. We walked in that manner for a short while, when, from the north, three policemen came running towards us, making heavy footprints in the sand.

“When they caught up to us, two of them pulled the baskets out of the women’s hands. There was a sergeant and two privates. The sergeant said, ‘I arrest you for thievery. You three are to come along with us. And come peaceably if you know what is good for you.’

“I was shocked at the turn of events. Not so much that I was being arrested, but by the fact that it was against the law to collect seaweed. Since when?”

Devin shrugged his shoulders.

McNevin answered the shrug. “I’ll tell you since when. Since those damn English came here with Henry II hundreds of years ago. Those damn English think they own the whole damn island and all of us too! But enough of that. Back to my story.”

Devin broke a dead branch in two and threw the pieces onto the fire. “Please continue,” he urged.

“The women told the police that they took seaweed only from below the high tide mark. ‘That is surely not against the law,’ pleaded one of the women.

“Apparently it was. The constable’s rejoinder was short and to the point. ‘One of the landlord’s drivers saw you and reported you. There is nothing that we can do here. You must face a judge in a court of law. But why were you collecting seaweed? You do not look like you have a crop that needs fertilizing.’

“‘We was gathering it to eat,’ said the woman with the torn dress. At that point, I spoke up. ‘I was not stealing seaweed. I was merely walking along with these two grand ladies, enjoying the smell of the ocean air and their good company. You do not see a basket in my hands.’

“The women corroborated my words. And the sergeant, being a fair man, said, “Seeing as how the report was about two women and there was no mention of a man, you be on your way now.”

“I wished the women well and continued down the beach until I came to a path that led back to the road. I’ll tell you true. There have been times since then that I wished I had allowed myself to be arrested. At least I would have been fed twice a day while in jail.”

Devin shook his head and said, “’Tis a sorry thing to hear.”

“Aye, it ’tis,” concurred McNevin. Then added, “But not as bad as seeing it.”

Devin fed the fire and said, “We should sleep. We have a good walk ahead of us tomorrow.”

“Are you saying you want me to travel the road with y’?” asked McNevin.

“Sure. You are my seanchaí. As we walk, you’ll be telling me tales of things you’ve seen in this last year and I’ll be sharing my food with y’.”

“It will give my head peace to travel with you. May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow.”

“Thank you, Tom. There’s enough wood to sustain the fire throughout the night, but I’ll have to depend on you to keep it going. According to my brothers, I’m not very good at that sort of thing.”

“I’ll see you on the morrow, Devin Mahoney.”

“God willing.”

 

 

A P.S. To a Letter to My Dispirited Writer Friend

You can read the original letter here.

I forgot to mention that publishers, for the most part, do not take on books that have already been published. And agents think the same way. If your book is selling maybe 1,000 copies a day (or even 500), and all by word of mouth, then they’ll knock down your door to sign you up.
I don’t know if you are in the process of writing another book, but if you are, you might want to save all that energy and work sending out your query letters for the new book.
You probably already know this, but there are sites that will teach you how to write a dynamite query and their members will critique it for you and add advice. That’s what I did. I think the site’s name is Agent Query. They also have up-to-date lists of agents to work from when sending out your letters.
Finally, have you ever thought of doing paid promotions with the likes of eReader News Today, Choosy Bookworm, or Free Kindle Books and Tips? For $30.00 or $40.00 they’ll send out an email to their thousands of subscribers and you’ll get some sales. You’ll have to drop your price to $0.99 for the day of the promotion. Remember, the more books you sell the more reviews you’ll get, and the more reviews you get the more books you’ll sell. I never give my books away for free. When people get books for free, many of them stick it on their Kindle and forget about it. But if they pay for a book, they’ll read it. Even if the book was only $0.99.

 

 

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A Letter to a Dispirited Writer Friend of Mine

You were one of first bloggers to let me promote my first book on your blog and I have never forgotten that. I’m sorry to hear that you think self publishing sucks. But if you have the time, I’m gonna tell you a few things. So here goes.

You say you queried twenty-five agents. Well, I queried 3,000! Ten hours a day, seven days a week it was go through the lists, get their emails, cut and paste my letter, and then send it out. One full year!!!

I was pushing my first book, a 164,000 word mess. It was a good story, but I had no concept of proper editing. Anyway, I was told time and time again that anything over 80,000 words for a first time author was heresy. Finally, I got pissed off and sat down and wrote an 80,000 novel just as a big FU. Then I sent out queries. Lo and behold, within a month I had a contract with one of the biggest agencies in the country. And it was off to the races .. or so I thought. They got me published, but I had to do all the marketing, so what did I need a publisher for?

Long story short .. we went our separate ways after my first book. They still send me my royalties four times a year and I love those guys … but …

Anyway, in today’s world, traditional publishing is overrated unless you’re Stephen King. And I read that he puts aside $200,000 of his own money to promote each of his books.

Okay. The morale of the story is you can get an agent if you really, really work at it. By the way, that first book won the Editors’ Choice Award for best Western of 2013. The book that you were kind enough to allow me to promote on your blog.

Now on to the next thing.

If you want reviews or space on blogs to promote your books, ya gotta send out “begging letters.” Again … ten hour days, seven days a week. I must have sent out 5,000 over the years. At first I asked for reviews and I got some, but then I came to the realization that the poor bloggers (like you) get inundated with review request. So to be a little different, I wrote the bloggers and offered them a guest post (an interesting guest post) or I’d do an interview in return for a chance to promote my book. To date, I’ve done over 600 and I’ve sold a few books in the process. And the more books you sell the more reviews you get.

That first book of 164,000 words I edited down to 139,000 and self published it. Last year it was awarded Book of the Year by one outfit and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 by another. My point is that takes alotta work. I hate marketing. I’ve gotten to the place that when my next novel is published I’m not doing any marketing. No begging letters … no nothing. I’m writing this one for myself. In the end, the joy is in the process.

Of my four published novels, three of them have become best-sellers. One of them hit #1 (twice) one, #2, and one #5 on Amazon. Of course, I’m bragging, but I’m also saying that you can do it too if you have the fire in your belly. Me, I lost it.

I wish you the best of luck. And I’ll always remember that you gave me my first break.

Your friend,

Andrew

 

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I Once Had a Girl

karina iv

I once had a girl, her name was Karina. She was from Norway, but we met in New Your City at a jazz club on the West Side. My friend Lane had dragged me there; he told me that the sax player would really send me. I know, that is 60’s lingo, but Lane was a good friend, so I went with him that warm August night. It was a night that changed my life.

Lane and I were from upstate New York, we were friends in high school. We were both going to be writers and write the Great American Novel. And here we were, Lane wrote copy for an ad agency and I wrote short stories that no one would buy.

I was twenty-years-old, I had just dropped out of college. I wanted to be a writer and I did not think college was the way to go about it. I thought that the only way to be a writer was to write. So I headed for the big city, found myself a roach infested apartment and opened my laptop. I got lucky and sold my first short story to a weekly newspaper. It was a free paper, but they did print fiction. They paid me all of $25.00 for it.

After that, I figured it would be only a matter of time before I had The New Yorker knocking at my door wanting me to write my genius fiction for them, and if not the New Yorker, then at least the Village Voice. Well, things did not work out that way. Six months later, I had not sold another story. The newspaper that had bought my first was long out of business as I contemplated my future. I was nearing the end of my savings and something would have to break soon or I would have to get a job. Something did break and her name was Karina.

Unbeknownst to me, Lane and his girlfriend (her name was Sally) set me up with a blind date. When we got to the club, I saw Sally sitting at a table with a blond girl. I immediately grabbed Lane’s arm and halted his progress toward the table. “What’s the deal?” I asked in a low voice. Then I added, “If Sally is trying to set me up again, I’m leaving. You know I don’t have any money to date.”

With a phony and shocked look on his face Lane said, “No, no, it’s nothing like that. It’s just that the poor girl is in town and doesn’t know anyone. Sally’s mother and her mother are friends. Sally’s looking out after her, that’s all. Don’t worry; she’s not your date. And she’s got plenty of money; she can pay her own way.” Lane was one of the worst liars that I ever knew.

With a sigh and a shake of my head I said, “Lay on Macduff.”

We seated ourselves at the table and I was introduced to the blond. Sally started right off yakking away, but I heard nothing she said. I was looking into the eyes of the blond. They were green, the color of emeralds, and they were sad eyes. She was good looking in a not glamorous sort of way. There was something about her, something that made me want to put my arms around her and tell her everything would all right. That night I fell in love, head over heels. To me she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. But it wasn’t her looks that got me, it was her soul. She looked vulnerable and she had those sad eyes. I know that’s a cliché, but that is what it was, plain and simple. I was hooked, and as you might have guessed by now, her name was Karina

We talked, and ignored both the music, and Lane and Sally. When Sally saw where things were going she nudged Lane and said, they had to go, but that we should stay. As they left, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lane hand some money to our waitress and point our way. He had made sure that I wouldn’t be embarrassed for lack of funds.

The music was really too loud to carry on a conversation, so I suggested that we go somewhere more conducive to getting to know one another. I had no hopes that she felt toward me as I felt toward her, but I just couldn’t let her go out of my life until I knew everything about her.

We settled in at a Starbucks and talked until the early morning. Her parents were both dead and left her relatively well off. She was in the States because she owned a cabin in North Carolina, up in the mountains, and she had come here to sell it. At twenty-two, she was two years older than I was. But that was okay with me, I liked older women. I prattled on about my writing and she said that she would like to read some of my stuff someday. Someday? I wanted her to read it right then and there. But I held my tongue.

As I walked her to her hotel, she slipped her arm through mine and we walked on in silence. My feet never once touched the ground.

We said goodnight in the lobby of her hotel. She looked at me with those big sad eyes. “Please, may I see you tomorrow and read some of your stories?” Now normally, I would let anyone read my stuff at the drop of a hat even if I had to drop the hat myself. But in this instance, I was reluctant to say yes. I didn’t want her to see how I lived. I mean she was staying at the Plaza for God’s sake! After a momentary hesitation, I told her I could bring my laptop over the next day and that I would be proud to have her read a few of my stories. We set a time and I left. We shook hands, we did not kiss goodnight.

Well, the short of it is she was as smitten with me as I was with her, why I don’t know. She postponed her trip south and stayed in the city. We saw each other every day and Sally must have told her about my financial situation because Karina always insisted we go someplace that cost no money. We hit the art galleries and the museums, among other venues, and our favorite, the park. As we walked through the park, I always saw a little bit of the sun in her hair and I fell more in love with her every time I saw that. By the end of two weeks, we both knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.

Karina liked my writing and she told me I should be writing a full-length novel. Then when that sold, I could put out a book of my short stories. No wonder that I loved her, she believed in me, more so than I believed in myself.

One day, a Sunday, as we lay on a blanket in the park holding hands (we still had not made love, I was so much in love, I wanted to take it slow), Karina asserted herself. She told me in no uncertain terms that she was taking me to North Carolina, to her cabin, and she would cook and clean for me while I wrote my novel, and then when it sold, I could take care of her.

I told her that I would have to think on it. She then stood and took my hand. I raised myself from the ground, and forgetting the blanket, we went back to the Plaza. We made long, slow love all that afternoon. And then we did it again that night.

We hit the mountains of North Carolina as the leaves were changing. It was the perfect metaphor. Our lives were changing; we were melding into one entity. We were so in love.

As the snows came, I wrote and Karina loved me. I didn’t want to write, I wanted to make love to my girl, but she made sure I stayed at the computer at least six hours a day. The rest of the time was devoted to loving her.

As the snows melted and the leaves slowly returned to the trees, my book took form. Karina would read what I had written each day. She would correct my mistakes and give me input as to the characters and the plot. As I sat there in the evenings, seeing the firelight reflected in her eyes while she read my daily output, I fell in love with her all over again.

When spring was in full bloom, the book also bloomed. I had completed my version of the Great American Novel. I emailed my query letters to agents. Within a month, I had a signed contract. When summer came around, the book had been sold and I had money in the bank. Now I could take care of my Karina. But it was not to be.

It was August once again, almost to the day that Karina and I first met. We were leaving the next day for New York. My agent needed to meet with me and she wanted me to meet with my editor. There was still work to be done. Writing the story is one thing, getting it out there is another. However, before leaving I wanted to buy something for my love. I went into town and bought Karina a ring. Nothing fancy, it was a simple band of gold. I was going to ask her to be my wife. I couldn’t wait to get back to the cabin, get down on one knee and tell her of my love for her.

I saw the smoke long before I turned into the drive to our cabin. Then I saw the flames. I pulled the car to a stop,
rushed to the cabin, and heard her screams. Those screams will never leave me.

“KARINA!” I shouted as I rushed the door.

When I pushed open the door, a blast of flames knocked me on my ass. I got up; nothing short of hell was going to keep me out of that cabin. And that is exactly what kept me out . . . hell. I could not penetrate the flames. On my third attempt, the burns and resultant pain caused me to pass out. When I awoke, I was in a hospital’s burn ward.

Karina was gone and I was alone.

I sold the rights to my book to my agent. I couldn’t edit and work on it with anyone else now that Karina was not with me. I took the money and bought a sailboat down in Miami. I had painted on the sides “Karina” in large letters the color of her eyes. I now sail Caribbean, going from island to island, looking for nothing. Because I once had a girl and her name was Karina, she is all I ever wanted.