Readings from Satori

Saint Teresa in Ecstasy
Gingerbread Boy
Painted Interior
In Memory of MC Escher

 

 

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Gabriela and The Widow–Montaigne Medal Finalist

I received this today from the Eric Hoffer Award panel:

Dear Author/Publisher:
Congratulations. As part of the Eric Hoffer Award, your book (Gabriela and The Widow, my emphasis)  was nominated for the Montaigne Medal. Your book is still on track for a category prize, including the Hoffer Grand Prize. The Montaigne Medal is an additional distinction, awarded to the most thought-provoking books. (See past winners on-line.) Approximately two to three books receive this award each year. A partial list of Montaigne finalists is below. Regardless of the judges’ determination, your book at the very least will carry the distinction of “Montaigne Medal Finalist.” The Montaigne Medal short list will be announced prior to the winners’ announcement. You will be notified via this e-mail of all events concerning the award.

Sincerely,
Dawn Shows,
EHA Coordinator for
Christopher Klim
Chair, Eric Hoffer Award

Partial list of Montaigne Medal finalists (in alphabetical order):

Gabriela and the Widow 
Gandy Dancing
I Am Another You
Lit from Inside
Loving Andrew
Making Advances
My Life With Wings 

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Writing the Way I See It

Writing the Way I See It

©2014 by Jack Remick

(Note: I wrote this essay for a German e-zine called Haute Culture. They wanted something about the origin of The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery and a little bit about my ideas on why we write. The essay was to be translated into German but it never made it. Haute Culture never got off the ground so I’m posting it here as a caveat.)

Writing, The Way I See It:

The most vexing question writers often get asked isn’t “Where do you get your ideas?” but “Why do you write?” It’s a pretty good question. There are probably as many answers as there are writers.

The way I see it, however, writing is a personal way to participate in the greatest socialist enterprise ever. Writing transcends culture, language, family, tribe, politics. We do it and we do it for any number of reasons with any number of results.

We’ve been writing for thousands of years—we’ve written in mud, on bone, in stone, on parchment, and on paper, and lately we’ve written on screens using binary or hexadecimal code. Before we wrote we told stories by drawing animals on the walls of caves. So far as we know, humans are the only critters that can write their history—tell about our past, capture our present and project our future. Writing, it seems, has grown out of us as we grew out of our primate past. So the answer to the big question why do you write is another question—how can you not?

To me, writing is what makes us human. I love to write. I started out, as did every reader, scrawling something like an alphabet on paper. I graduated to ink, to a typewriter, and then to this computerized, digital universe. (In my novel Blood, this archeology of writing plays an integral part in the story.) In a way, my writing mimics the history of our writing, but deep down, writing is more than keeping a ledger or tracking illuminated manuscripts in a monastery or counting cows in the pasture. Writing for me means telling stories. Writing means invention. I, for one, write to survive. I have a cartoon on the wall of my writing room that says “When not writing, I get weird”.

I started my writing life as a poet. In his rather controversial book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of  the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes drew a lot of flak for saying that the first poets were gods. He didn’t mean that poets were gods, but rather that poets believed they were taking dictation from the gods (of the right hemisphere). I wrote poetry long before I ever heard of Julian Jaynes, but something in his work rang a bell.

Fiction was my next stop on the writing road. I wrote short stories, I studied writing, fiction, art, linguistics, etymology, philology, and psychology. The deeper I got into art and the history of language, the more I understood the work of C.G. Jung, Roman Jakobsen, Saussure, Lévi –Strauss, and C.S. Peirce. From these writers, I learned something about the way the human mind works.

In that amalgam of genius that our culture inherits from those minds, I found the way into the archetypes and archetypal language and the deeper I got into that language and the more novels I wrote, the more I realized that I was telling stories that had already been told a hundred thousand times, but with this exception—my heroes wore Levis and drove custom built Ford cars instead of riding warhorses and wearing chain mail. My heroes lived in Kansas and California but they were still on the same Quest that drove Perceval to seek the Grail. Maybe, I thought, there was something to that Jaynesian notion of taking dictation from the gods of the right hemisphere and maybe there was something to that Jungian notion of archetypes and maybe I was a writer along with a million other writers telling the same stories over and over.

But then, I asked myself—did it make any difference?

Isn’t writing the great socialist enterprise? There are no limits to learning to write as long as you have someone to help you. Writing breaks class barriers. There are no privileged positions in the writing world.

As a writer of novels, stories, and poems was I keeping something alive that started with the cave paintings at Chauvet and the oracle bones of China? Isn’t that what writers do? Don’t we keep the traditions alive and carry on? In Darwinian evolutionary thought, it’s not enough to survive, we have to survive and procreate. Our books, our novels, our stories, our poems are our cultural and intellectual progeny. They are our future and our past, they are at the same time our present. They tell us what we were at that time and in that place—be it Japan or China, Egypt or France. Writing is what makes us human. Anyone and everyone can learn to write.

I’ve now written or co-written sixteen books ranging from an epic poem to a handbook on mystery writing. My novels have a variety of female and male protagonists. They track protagonists on their personal Grail Quest. They tell stories about King Replacement (think Tristan and Isolde or, in French Tristan et Iseut). They tell stories of the Coming of Age of young men through ritual combat and of young women through emerging from the Chrysalis (or, that greatest of all female coming of age stories—the Ugly Duckling). They tell stories of l’amour lointain, and they tell the story of Romeo and Juliet (think Piramus et Thisbe when you read Josie Delgado, A Poem of The Central Valley). As I write each new novel, I realize that I am not creating a thing, I am participating, through language, in a long standing cultural event and that makes me very happy to be a writer. As I write each novel, I tell the story of Eddie Itubi (The Deification) or Ricky Edwards (Valley Boy) or Mitch Monroe (The Book of Changes). I tell the story of Olive (Lemon  Custard), Gabriela (Gabriela and The Widow)  but I am also telling the story of every man and every woman struggling to find value and meaning in a chaotic world where it’s not enough just to survive, but to survive and propagate. My novels detail the struggles of each character  to survive and to find love. In that sense my novels are about having babies. Both physical and metaphoric.

As I progress through time, I become interested in passing on to other writers some of the techniques and insights I’ve picked up along the way. To that end, I have taught university courses, run workshops on writing, and mentored dozens of novelists and poets as they search for their own path through the forest (remember Perceval’s quest here—the forest is a metaphor for the descent into the unconscious mind where the truth lies hidden under a dozen impossible tasks.) To pursue my intent to help other writers, I’m the co-author of a book on mystery writing titled “The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery” with Robert J. Ray. We also maintain a website dedicated to writing—Bob and Jack’s Writing Blog. On that website, readers will find biographical information as well as a very thorough set of writing techniques the purpose of which is “to make good writing better.”

 Creating The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery:

A few years ago Robert Ray and I formed a writing partnership. We had discovered the power of Timed Writing (which we learned from Natalie Goldberg) and we added a few dimensions to the concept. We now call it Structured Timed Writing. As we developed that idea, we put together a short book on how to write a short story. Our publisher nixed that and said we should write a how-to for mystery writers instead. The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery is the fruit of that collaboration. The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery is a how-to for neophytes and experienced mystery writers looking for new techniques, inspiration or simply a disciplined approach to the chaos of putting a mystery together.

When you write a mystery, what’s the first thing you do? Most writers start with the sleuth or the detective. Get that Sleuth built and away you go. But when Bob and I were creating The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery, we had four insights that got us going in the right direction.

Create the Killer first:  We discovered that you’re far better off if you create the Killer first. Look at it this way—until the Killer kills, the Sleuth sits around drinking coffee. So, the technique we came up with was a set of writings for the Killer. Here’s the first one:

My name is The Killer. I was born in a city called Lethe. I got my first taste of blood when my brother cut…and I bagged my first kill one day in December…and…

In any mystery, there are three main characters: Killer, Victim, Sleuth. Work them in that order and you get this: The Killer kills because he or she has a problem. The Victim dies because he or she gets too close to the Killer. The Sleuth has to confront the Killer in order to make him pay for being the bad guy.

Modular Scenes: The second insight we had into the mystery process was the Modular Scene. Modular scenes are bread and butter for the mystery novelist. A modular scene is a self-contained unit. It stands alone. It helps the writer to control the bulk of information—physical detail, clues, facts, place names, character bios—that makes up mystery writing. Modular scenes take the mystery out of mystery writing.

These scenes are present in every mystery ever written. You’ve seen them—the Sleuth questions Suspects. The Forensic Scientist gives the sleuth a report. The Sleuth interviews a Witness. The Sleuth visits the Victim’s abode. All of these are Modular Scenes. Here are a few more:

Lab work
Pathology lab report –
Forensics lab report –
Crime scene –
Recreating the Crime–
Suspect list
Suspect interrogation
Witness interview
Sleuth reporting
Helper reports
Police reports
Expert testimony
Killer Confrontation.

In the appendix of The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery, you’ll find a complete list of Modular Scenes. For the beginner or the expert, knowing about these scenes lets you plot an entire novel before you write a line of dialogue.

Crime Scene and Backstory: After much study, Bob and I came to our Third insight: the Crime Scene is the result of a Caper or a Murder Plan. The Sleuth has to recreate the Arc of Death (if you’re writing a caper such as Rififi, Topkapi, or The Italian Job, your main focus is on the path to the payoff.). To create the Arc of Death, the sleuth recreates the crime in reverse—Here’s a body. How did it get here? Who wanted the Victim dead? Working back to the moment of death, the Sleuth lays out the story from Present to Past, from Ending to Beginning. This, of course, is Backstory at its finest. Here’s the kicker—and it links back to the idea of creating the Killer first—the writer must know what the reader finds out. That is critical to the success of a mystery. In The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery, we suggest that writers spend a lot of time creating the backstory on the main characters because, to repeat, the writer has to know what the reader finds out.

First There are Places: Insight number four came to us when we were in the Rewriting section of the book. All novelists know that the art is in the rewrite and in the rewrite, the question becomes—in a scene, what do you write first? In other words, if you write your mystery in scenes (which we recommend), what’s the first part of a scene? The answer we found isn’t  “start at the beginning” but start with place. Start with the setting. First there are places. Characters enter a place and they talk and do stuff. Characters talking and doing stuff creates conflict. In the mystery, conflict leads to murder. Now you’ve got something for your sleuth to do–find the killer.

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Gabriela and The Widow: Wins–”Best Women’s Fiction”

Dear Jack, 
 A warm welcome and congratulations to our 2nd Annual Hall of Fame finalists. 
 
Your book “Gabriela and the Widow” is a finalist for “Best Women’s Fiction”. ob hall of fame finalist 2
 To visit the book expo, please go to http://orangeberrybooktours.com/expo/
 To visit all Hall of Fame finalists, please go to http://orangeberrybooktours.com/expo/2013/07/27/hall-of-fame/ Voting officially starts on 2nd August 2012.
How did we get the list of finalists? These are books that have toured with Orangeberry Book Tours from 1 July 2012 to 31 July 2013 and were then shortlisted by members of the Quality Reads UK Book Club. Author resources and bloggers were nominated by readers.

How can you promote your nomination? You can share the attached button on your site and share the above links on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. 

 When does voting close? 2nd September 2013. 
 
All our best
- The Orangeberry Team
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Press Release for The Book of Changes

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT:
Catherine Treadgold
Publisher
Coffeetown Press
PO Box 70515
Seattle, WA 98127
206-414-7673
Catherine@CoffeetownPress.ComCoffeetownPress.com
Coffeetown Announces the October Release of Jack Remick’s Novel about Berkeley in the 70s, The Book of Changes
Seattle, WA.— On October 15, 2013, Coffeetown Press will release The Book of Changes ($15.95, 306 pp, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-186-6), by Jack Remick, a work of literary fiction that covers a tumultuous year in the life of an idealistic first-year male student enrolled at UC Berkeley in 1971.

The Book of Changes is Book Three of The California Quartet, a series of standalone novels about young men coming of age in California during the 60s and 70s. The final volume, Trio of Lost Souls, will be released by Coffeetown Press in 2014. The series began with The Deification and Valley Boy.

 “I’m tempted to say Valley Boy is Remick’s best work,” says Frank Araujo, author of The Secrets of Don Pedro Miguel. “The writing never lets up from the first line to the last. Ricky is the prototype Okie kid who haunted the Wasteland we know as the San Joaquin. The story is witty, tense and true.”

Of The Deification, mystery writer Robert J.  Ray writes: “The language, the timing, the humor, the strong verbs, the concrete nouns, the world beneath the world–all wrapped up in one novel …You gotta read this book!”

Of Remick’s novel, Blood (Camel Press, 2011), Wayne Gunn wrote on LambdaLiterary.org: “For an author to choose as his explicit models Camus, Genet, and de Sade … and to earn the right to be mentioned in their company is [a goal] that perhaps Jack Remick has indeed achieved.”

 The Book of Changes:“A great read. Jack Remick has the amazing ability to transport readers to another era and not allow them to return until the end of the final chapter.”
Marie Romero Cash, author of the Jemima Hodge Mysteries

“Beast” is a pure innocent with one simple goal–to become an expert on the Middle Ages. He comes to Berkeley, the Cathedral of Learning, in 1971, a time of political upheaval, hallucinogenic drugs, group sex, and electric, acid, psychedelic, mind-bending rock and roll. On his quest for meaning he hangs out with a Harley-riding dwarf, a raven-haired Gothic artists’ model, a sorority girl turned nymphomaniac, and the heir to a family of French aristocrats with a bloody history dating back to before Joan of Arc. Beast soon discovers that he can’t live in the past but has to embrace the present, with its traps and land mines and the horrors of contemporary society—death by motorcycle and bad acid trips. The world is exploding, but students still go to classes, fall in love, get laid, study in libraries, win awards, even graduate. The country is on fire, and Berkeley supplies the fuel.

Says Remick: “When I went to Cal, there was no tuition. Education was free. You paid a $76.50 student fee, and you paid for your books, your room and board. Anything that was left you spent on booze and motorcycles. Then Ronald Reagan was elected governor and the good times ended. The Free Speech Movement (FSM) came along and the rebellion that started in Sproul Hall grew into a firestorm of protests and death and destruction. Education took a hit, tuition blasted off, leaving only the rich and well-heeled in the classrooms. After Ronald Reagan, California was never at peace again. This novel, The Book of Changes doesn’t purport to be either a sociological thesis or a history of anything. It is a fictional record of a sort filtered through time and the consciousness of young women and men who were looking for a new definition of America, of California, of the world. We didn’t succeed.”

Jack Remick is a poet, short story writer, and novelist. Blood, A Novel was published by Camel Press in 2011. The Deification, Valley Boy, and Gabriela and the Widow are all available from Coffeetown Press. Coming in 2014: a collection of poems, Satori. You can find Jack online at www.jackremick.com.

The Book of Changes can currently be preordered on Amazon.com. After October 15th, it will be available in eBook and 6×9 trade paperback editions on BN.com, the European Amazons and Amazon Japan. Wholesale orders can be placed through info@coffeetownpress.com or Ingram. Libraries can also purchase books through Follett Library Resources or Midwest Library Service.

ABOUT Coffeetown Press—Based in Seattle, Washington, Coffeetown Press has been publishing the finest fiction and nonfiction since 2005.

 

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The Book of Changes coming from Coffeetown Press

The Book of Changes, the third volume of The California Quartet, is in the chute and should arrive sometime in October, 2013. Here’s what you’ll get:

The Book of Changes: (coming in October 2013 from Coffeetown Press.)

“Beast” is a pure innocent with one simple goal–to become an expert on the Middle Ages. He comes to Berkeley, the Cathedral of Learning, in 1971, a time of political upheaval, hallucinogenic drugs, group sex, and electric, acid, psychedelic, mind-bending rock and roll. On his quest for meaning he hangs out with a Harley-riding dwarf, a raven-haired Gothic artists’ model, a sorority girl turned nymphomaniac, and the heir to a family of French aristocrats with a bloody history dating back to before Joan of Arc.Beast soon discovers that he can’t live in the past but has to embrace the present, with its traps and land mines and the horrors of bad acid trips and death by napalm and motorcycle.In the Cathedral, students still go to class, fall in love, get laid, study in libraries, win awards, even graduate, but the world is burning and Berkeley supplies the fuel.

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Heritage Writers Conference, May 18, 2013

http://heritagewriters.tripod.com/spring-workshop.html

I’ll be the keynote speaker at this conference on May 18. I’ll be running these two work shops as well:

Story, Structure, Style

First and Lasts, Characters and Their Objects

 

 

 

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Who Do You Listen To?

Who Do You Listen To?

After I came across a very brave and unique novel titled: Taliban Escape by Aabra  which was reviewed in The Dark Phantom Review, I remembered an exchange I had with a fellow writer and former student. I want to post it here for anyone visiting this blog as a reminder of why we write:

Writer: I’m trying hard to maintain the last bit of writing advice you provided, “write what you want, the way you want.” That’s hard, especially with two friends criticizing it. Right now, if I take them seriously, I need to go back and almost start over with my work-in-progress.”

JR: Yes, that’s a tough one. One short answer is to listen but choose what to change if anything. The way I see it, we have this ideal story in our heads. It’s endless, but when you write, the readers plug in what you write and if it doesn’t connect somewhere to the universal story, they get this disjunction and their pencils move. What that gives us then is the issue of who’s doing the writing. But even deeper is the question of vision–-readers want you to tell them the story they want to hear. It’s your job to tell them a story they’ve never heard. If you can’t get past the universal, then you add nothing to the inventory of art and vision. It’s the ones who teach through their writing who are important.
A longer answer might be here: Readers are conservative and they want to be safe. Unsafe writing makes them uncomfortable. Your critics probably attack your work either at the Story or the Style, but never at the Structural level. They have that right when you put it on the table, but you cannot listen to everything they say no matter how much you like them. Realize this: the need to be loved is so strong, most writers will abandon their vision in order to bring their story into synch with the safe and limiting minds of their readers. If you do this, you fall as a writer because you are no longer scaling the heights of creation and in so doing you acknowledge the stasis of existence–getting and spending–and you will always feel guilty about knowing what you have betrayed. Each of us is unique while being an evolved animal who shares an immense pool of history and truth with your fellows, but you are not them and the vision you carry as a writer is the exact thing that changes, as Rushdie reminds us, cucumbers into pickles. Think of the journey…a long road into light. It is easy to stay where you are, but at some point you have to turn your back on those following you and go directly to the light and say follow me…what you have, my friends, is a faded vision. They want to visit a museum. You want to create the object they go to the museum to see. No one will ever suggest that DaVinci should have colored the Mona Lisa’s robe pink. So? Who do you listen to? Shakespeare said it, I say it, be true to yourself. If yourself wants to be loved too much, then you will make the amends you need to make to be loved. But if you tell them, this is my vision, this was not here before, then you expand what is. As a writer, You bring an object to the museum. You have to. It is your job, as a writer, to bring, not an imitation to the Museum of Writing, but the real and very first piece of its kind. That is your obligation. Unfortunately it’s an obligation, that, if you meet it, won’t let you be normal. Resist the need to be loved. Be a writer of new things. Jack

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Updated Virtual Tour Schedule for Gabriela and The Widow

Gabriela and The Widow just blew into blogcritics.org for a fun-filled Q and A loaded with writing insights and personal revelations about the author. Thanks to Virginia Grenier. Check Gabriela out here:

Article first published as Spotlight Interview with Author Jack Remick on Blogcritics.
Also–Now Gabriela is in the PI.

Gabriela and The Widow is now available in paperback and kindle. The url is to the amazon page.

Gabriela’s Blog Tour, like all expeditionary excursions, undergoes itinerary changes according to the terrain, weather, and geo-political upheavals. Here is the url with the latest additions, deletions, changes, hopes, fears etc.:http://storiesforchildren.tripod.com/worldofinknetwork/jack-remick-jan-feb-13.html

American Chronicle and Andi’s Realm came off without a hitch. Thanks to all for visiting those stops.

Jack

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Silvio Reviews Blood on Goodreads

Silvio‘s review on Goodreads, posted Dec 11, 2012. Reposting.
Dec 11, 12
Like other reviews said, this book is not a romance, not by a long shot. It’s brutal, violent, gory, disturbing with detailed descriptions of many monstrous murders, real or imaginary, and the dark sides of human nature. Needless to say it’s not for the faint of heart. At times I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable. It’s no exaggeration to say that this book wore me out, mentally. However, it also can’t be denied that it’s an amazing book, the kind of book makes me become depressed but think about lots of things. And isn’t that is essentially the meaning of books?

I started this brilliant book without expecting an HEA, or even HFN, and sure enough, there isn’t anything like that. Nonetheless I like the ending, maybe because I think that an sad ending will stay in my heart long long after the story ends, and in that way I’d remember the book always.

I am very moved by the love between Henry and Squeaky. It pains me to see that they are no longer together. I won’t say that René hasn’t an important role in Henry’s time in prison and since then his ways of thinking and measuring life. And in a way, Henry loves him. But Squeaky, he is truly the love of his life. He’s puppy-like, helpless, dependent, in desperate need of someone to love and protect him in the brutality of prison filled with thieves, rapists and murderers. But he’s also adorable, innocent, caring and most of all, loves Henry to death. I genuinely marvel at the tenderness and affection of a cold-blooded killer towards his lover, his little pet. It’s really touching. Henry kills for him. Henry often compares him to a beautiful flower, an innocent angel, something pure, precious, born to be treasured.

He is a little flower with his own perfume and so I will immortalize him.

He stands in a shaft of bright light that rains down over him and in the light he shimmers and I expect to see him levitate, rise up into the beam of light.

Or

He will be as pure and simple coming out of Death in Venice as he was going in. He is purity itself—cut, tattooed, raped, beaten but still pure and holy. In his purity he is a paragon of patience and emptiness, his mouth a paean to perfection, his buttocks as delicious as the mouth of the Nubian in the Song of Solomon. The purity of the rose.

And the cover, I never saw any cover as meaningful as this one. It’s like the symbols of Henry’s life, the knife for the killings he has done, the ears for the intense love he feels for his lover. I’d give this book 4 stars if for no other reason than that gorgeous cover.

I HIGHLY recommend this book!

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