Thursday, December 3, 2009

Let's welcome Kenneth Weene today!

1.Did you always know that you wanted to be an author or did you have another dream?
As I kid I loved to read books, and I wanted to write; but I gave that dream up to pursue the “reasonable and responsible” goals of becoming a professional, in my case a psychologist.

I returned to writing about twenty-five years ago. At first I wrote a lot of poetry and some essays for local newspapers. Then the novels started to demand their way into my psyche.

2.How long did you write until you were finally published?
My poetry and a few professional papers were published right off, but the first novel took about twenty years during which time I’ve actually written three. In addition to “Widow’s Walk,” which came out in September, I have a contract for a second book, “Memoirs From the Asylum,” which should come out sometime next year. The third, a conspiracy novel, is still looking for its home.

3.When you sit down to write, is there a ritual you have to do before you start?
No ritual, in fact, I don’t even have a set place. Some of my writing is done at the computer, but I also go to the coffee shop or bookstore with my pencil and notebook. The one thing I do require is a handy cup of coffee or tea and the inspiration – that powerful yet elusive voice that suddenly puts word in motion.

4.Do you plan the story out or just let it flow?
I start with a plan, but then the characters take over. They tell their story through me. For example, the main love affair in “Widow’s Walk” wasn’t suppose to be about love; Arnie and Mary were supposed to have a mentor-student relationship, and Mary was supposed to meet another man. However, they fell in love; and there wasn’t much I could do about it. Another example from “Widow’s Walk” is the love relationship between Kathleen and Danny; that was supposed to end happily, but it didn’t work out that way.

I guess writing is like life: You can start with all kinds of plans, but you can never really know what fate will bring.

5.Do you have any WIP that you might want to share with us?
My next novel is “Memoirs From the Asylum.” It’s finished, and I have one contract offered. Let me share an excerpt from this new tragic-comedic novel.

Those dingy green-yellow hospital walls are really off-putting. It’s like living inside a puddle of puke. The people are the chunks of undigested food – no longer human just unidentified floating objects. Some of them are really revolting. The others, “the patients,” aren’t so bad.
Mostly, the diagnosed only want to be left alone – alone – caught between the grief of being and the terror of not. Once in a while there’ll be somebody who wants to fight the world, but mostly the world they want to fight is that revolting staff so you silently root them on. At least, that is how I see it.

Charlie wants to rape the nurse’s aide – good for Charlie. The nurse’s aide is twice Charlie’s size and has a right like Muhammad Ali – too bad for Charlie. Charlie ends up with an ass full of Valium – good for him. They lock Charlie on the violent ward – who the hell was Charlie?
Charlie comes back to the ward – good for Charlie. He’s had enough shock to fry his brain – too bad for Charlie. He shuffles along and drools; when he’s excited he shouts “Oh boy!” in a repetitive Tourette bark – now Charlie fits in. Good for Charlie? Nope, good for the system. Modern medicine has won another round. The world of the asylum grinds the people; it makes pabulum of their brains and mush of their wills. The system works; the person doesn’t. We all celebrate Charlie’s return by standing around and rocking from side to side.

Some of us stare at the television. There’s a soap opera on. The picture rolls. Nobody seems to notice. Certainly, nobody cares. Most of our minds are rolling, too. Half the staring patients are watching their own programs, the ones in their heads. Vertical hold is not a strong point among the crazy.

Jack wants to take over the world. He plans on leading a revolution; he plans to start in Australia. He stares at the television and sees troop movements. In his program, he is leading an army. He is riding on a large black horse and is dressed in fatigues. He carries a magic sword. A bit anachronistic, but what the hell, it’s his program. It doesn’t matter; he’s too doped on phenothiazines to walk across the room without being told. Instead he pill-rolls his fingers and shakes. They’re supposed to give out Cogentin for the Parkinsons, but the nurses don’t bother. Instead one of them sells the bottles in town. It doesn’t bring much, but they save up for their Fourth of July party. They could get more for other drugs. Valium is good on the streets, but they don’t get much extra; they’re too busy shoving it into us. Mostly they just unload Cogentin and some antibiotics. It buys them a case of beer to commemorate their freedom – to celebrate the all-important fact that they have the keys.

6.What character is more like your personality or is it a combination of more than one?
I draw on my own personality and on people in my life to develop characters, but in the end they all take on their own characteristics and ideas. Many people know me and have who have read “Widow’s Walk” think that I’m very like Arnie Berger; but I think I’m more like Jem, the very wise woman who is more in the background yet seems to know so much about life.

I love Jem’s comment toward the end of the book:

Jem shakes her head when she hears the coroner's findings. "I guess he don’t know much about souls," she observes. "There's pains of the body, and there's pains of the soul. This poor lady died of the pains in her soul. They say that God don’t give no one more than they can carry, but He sure done give her too much … way, way too much."

7.When you have a moment to sit down and breathe, what kinds of books do you read?
I enjoy almost all kinds of books. I’m a major history buff and biography. I will on occasion try to read in philosophy, science, and, of course, religion. Then there’s the fiction. I try to read at least one novel a month. I just finished Kawabata’s “The Sound of the Mountain.” I loved the way he related to nature. I can’t say that the story worked for me.

The next book on my pile – the pile of books I’ve put aside to read - is Gottlieb’s “The Dream of Reason.” However, I do have a couple of review books from friends that need a good look.

Last, I should mention that I read (and write) a good deal of poetry. Just for fun, I’ll share this short poem I wrote recently.

On viewing a picture of a dervish

The slow dignity of the dervish dance; the eternal mystery of the poet's chant: Allah be merciful to me, a lowly ant; cast down on me one sacred glance.

8.What author or authors inspire you to write the way you do?
I can list some of my favorite authors, but I don’t know that they really inspire the way I write. Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorites. I love Conrad. Isaac Singer is another. Perhaps Steinbeck had the greatest impact on me when I was younger. And, no list, not even this partial one, is complete without mention of Chekhof and Kafka.

I think that there is a wonderful melding of external and internal worlds within the novels I like. What is attended to in the environment of the book is related to what the characters are experiencing. I don’t like extraneous description that is unrelated to the story and that is added for the sake of sounding literary. A direct, sparse and yet complete quality is what I strive for in my own writing.

9.Do you have any tips for those aspiring authors out there?
Write! Then write more!
Find friends with whom you can share, and don’t be afraid of the process of discussing your work.

Think about words. Choose with care. The best place to start that is with your speech; speak slowly and think about your word choices.

Write down ideas and overheard bits of dialog that intrigue you. Even jot a bit of description if there is a sight that captures you imagination.

Try to write poetry – real poetry, not just your own emotions but studies on metaphoric meanings. Writing is about symbols as much as it is about narration.

Now, write some more.

And, let me end with another excerpt from “Widow’s Walk.”

The paths along the banks of the reservoir are uneven. It takes all a jogger's concentration to keep from tripping and tumbling into Boston's water supply. That is probably why so many joggers have passed her prone body without noticing. It is only when one, glancing up at the sound of a scurrying animal, starts back in shock and lands on his seat that she is seen. "Oh, my God!" he exclaims as he scrambles back to his feet. “Oh, my God,” he repeats so taken aback that he doesn’t even notice the pain from his fall, “somebody get help. Somebody, anybody, for Christ’s sake, get help!”
Gingerly, as if he is approaching a dangerous animal, he inches his way towards her. "Miss, Miss. Are you OK?" His voice is at first a whisper, which grows louder and more tremulous.
Kathleen doesn’t stir.
"Miss!" He is shouting now. His wide eyes take in the scene. Her panty hose have been ripped off. They and her shoes are in a small tangled pile a few feet away. Next to them are her well-worn green parka, scarf, and dark green gloves with leather palms. The sheepskin hat with ear flaps that Karen had given her is tossed farther from her body. Kathleen’s plaid skirt has been ripped. It still clings to her waist but has been pulled up and now covers her torso rather than her legs and buttocks. Her head is turned sideways, and the jogger can see that there is a thin stream of blood still coming from her mouth and soaking into the ground next to her broken glasses.
He bends over her, afraid to touch. "Get help," he shouts into the frosty air – still to no one. They are alone. "For God's sake, get help," he repeats once more. He isn’t sure, but he thinks he sees her body moving ever so slightly. "Is she still alive, or is she dead?" he asks aloud in the frigid empty air. "Help!" he screams.
There is a handbag nearby. Instinctively he reaches for it. He can not bring himself to touch her body, but the inanimate handbag is less threatening. Its contents seem untouched. "Mrs. Dougan," he whispers to her. If yelling hasn’t worked, something in his brain tells him that softness might. "Mrs. Dougan," he tries again.
He is looking at an identification card that Kathleen carries in her wallet. Ironically, it is the one piece of identification on which she still uses her married name. It is her library card, something that she had stopped using once she had decided that her life would never move forward. At one time Kathleen had been an avid reader, but that had been when she thought it would still matter if she were to learn – that had been before it had seemed that her life had stopped.
Knowing Kathleen’s name makes her seem more alive. The jogger focuses himself enough to pull off the top of his jogging suit and use it to cover her upper body. Still he can’t bring himself to actually touch her, not even to adjust her clothing.
Kathleen makes no response. "Oh, my God," he exclaims again.
He hears the sound of another runner. Even though the trees are bare, the jumble of bushes makes it difficult to see. Jumping up from his crouched position near Kathleen’s head, the jogger waves his arms and yells, "Over here. I need help. Over here." He can hear the pace of the other runner quicken.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kenneth Weene will be here tomorrow 12-3-2009

Kenneth Weene will be here tomorrow so in the mean time I thought I would give you a teaser.

Title: Widows Walk
Author: Kenneth Weene
Publsher: All Things That Matter Press

Mary Flanagan, caught between her sense of religion and obligation on one hand and her very human desire for love and life on the other, is in emotional limbo. When she meets Arnie Berger, who becomes both her lover and philosophic guide, Mary’s world seems to be transformed.
Changes also come for Mary’s children, who have been trapped in their own dilemmas. Sean, a quadriplegic, is looking for a fulfilled life. Mary’s daughter, Kathleen must cope with infertility and anger in her search for happiness.

The lives of all three Flanagans are turned upside down by happiness and tragedy.

Facebook Page:
Buy Link:

They continue their northern progress. Their objective is the outlet stores in Freeport, Maine. Arnie has always wanted to visit L. L. Bean. He has been buying clothes from their catalog for years. Even though, except for his army experience – as a clerk in a reserve unit – he has never spent any time in the woods, he has always fancied himself the outdoors type – whatever that might be. So he has bought flannel shirts and hiking boots, chino pants and parkas – and he has made his own fashion statement as he has wandered the bookstores and coffeehouses of Boston.

Occasionally a student will ask him about his love of the outdoors and his favorite activities. Arnie is always honest and self-deprecating in his responses. He talks about his PrestoFlame log fires and the books that he likes to read while sitting beside them.

The couple hasn’t thought to make reservations so early in spring so they have to continue on to Old Orchard Beach before they find an empty motel room. "If you're here for the shopping," the clerk offers, "the best time is around two or three."

“So, we’re too late?” May asks.

“Nope, too early. Two or three in the morning.”

"Why's that?" Arnie asks.

"Cause that’s when most of folks are in bed. You can get into the stores. Most times you can’t even get a parking spot. AAy-yup, Try the middle of the night. That’ll be best. Aay-yup!" His broad a accent makes this all seem normal and reasonable.

It hasn’t occurred to them that they will be among the thousands of people from along the east coast who will have flocked to Freeport on this lovely early spring weekend.

They follow the clerk's suggestion for a place to eat an early supper. It’s busy but friendly, and the fried clams and potatoes are excellent. Better, it seems to have more locals than tourists which pleases Arnie. After supper they take a walk along the boardwalk. It is still too cold for the attractions to be opened, but they’re able to buy a box of saltwater taffy. Each of them tries a piece and almost simultaneously take the pieces of candy out of their mouths.

“God, that’s awful,” Arnie observes.

“I’ll bet dentists love it,” Mary adds. “It could pull every filling out of my head.”

They go back to the motel. Having set the alarm clock for two and finding nothing of interest on the television, they turn out the lights and try to sleep. The last of the day’s sunlight is poking its way though the gaps in the curtains and around their edges. Bands of light fall across the head of the queen-size bed and others reflect from the full-length mirror to play on the fading floral print of the wallpaper. "We're not going to go to sleep," Mary observes.

"I guess not." Arnie kisses her ear and fondles her breasts. She reaches down and caresses his genitals.

"You're so beautiful," he whispers.

She never tires of hearing his compliments. Still she feels compelled, as she always has, to demur. "Oh, you just say those things."

Arnie rolls away from her and stares at the ceiling. He turns back and looks directly into Mary’s eyes. She is startled by the seriousness in his eyes. "Mary, I swear to you that in my eyes you are more beautiful than any woman in the world." He waits for her to say something, but she doesn’t – she has no idea what to say. Arnie continues, “There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”

“What?” Mary isn’t sure what’s happening but knows that it’s important. There is a thin gasp of nervousness in her mind.

Arnie gets up from the bed and fumbles in his jacket pockets until he finds a small box. He kneels on the bed and thrusts it at her and gasps, “Will you marry me?”

“Yes, oh yes," she responds. Taken by surprise, Mary feels as if she is spinning – spinning and simultaneously soaring in joy.

Arnie takes the ring from its box. Mary holds out her left hand, and he slips the ring on to her finger. “It’s beautiful,” she croons. “It’s so beautiful.” She kisses him, gently with the sense that he is precious and fragile.

“Oh, Arnie, I’m so happy.” Her voice is full of joy and excitement. She feels her heart beating with happiness. She hugs him and showers his face with kisses.

“Believe me, I am, too!” Arnie manages to say in between her embraces. He wants to dance around the room, to shout with joy, to fly to the moon. Not knowing what to do with his excitement, he pulls Mary from the bed and hugs her tightly. Gently, he lays her back on the mattress. “I love you so much,” he says.

“Oh, I love you. I love you. I truly love you,” Mary responds with all her heart.

Arnie kneels next to her on the mattress and kisses her body in a hundred places. She giggles at the intensity of his kissing. “I want to kiss you forever, make love to you forever, be with you forever.”

Mary wraps her arms around his neck and pulls him on top of her. “Make love to me now,” she moans. “Make love to me now – now and forever.” Their hands, their mouths, their souls touch and caress. Mary can feel the rough softness of his penis as it gently pushes inside her. She can feel the thrusting of his pelvis as one with her own. She can feel the sudden excitation of their shared fulfillment. She can feel the total togetherness that makes them as the first couple in the Garden of All Love.

When they have finished, Arnie and Mary lay, in mutual exhaustion – two spoons nestled on the bed – Mary behind Arnie, Arnie closer to the window.

The only sound in the room is the buzz of the heating unit. Through the window and the cracks around the door, they can feel the cold air coming off the ocean. The last shreds of sunlight make their way through the curtained window. Mary watches Arnie's back slowly rising and falling with his breathing. She runs her index finger along his spine. Arnie shivers slightly at the sensation – it is the shiver of delight. "I love you Mary Flanagan."

"And I love you, Arnie Berger."

That is the last thing either of them hear until the buzzer wakes them in the middle of the night.