The Summer of 2017
The Point of the Sword
The summer of 2017 started as a more-or-less typical summer, hot-beyond-belief and open to unscheduled fun. I always try to create the sense of the spontaneous during summertime. The summer weather here in the foothills of northern California can, oppressively, begin in early April and endure well into October. I nevertheless hold fast to my years of upbringing in the Northeast, rotating clothes and accessories throughout the 4 seasons -- even though there are only 2 seasons here: wet and dry. Or dry and wet, depending on how wonky the weather gets.
I am often accused by my children of jinxing the start of autumn by bringing out the jackets and coats too soon, but I really don’t care. Wearing a fleece sweatshirt, shorts, and felt woolen clog slippers is the California costume for October, one that I do don. The inside of me, however, resolutely remains quite New Jersey.
I also hold onto my years of home-schooling, routines that reinforced in me the strong sense that summer starts in June, after “school is out,” and ends with the Labor Day weekend.
This summer of 2017, I did not plan any writing projects, and I took a hiatus from the translation of THE DAWN. My personal life shifted into a slightly higher gear. I wanted relaxation and unstructured days and nights. I started a cross-stitch of "Père Noël" using some newly purchased, thick Gütermann embroidery thread. Fiction was the furthest thing from my mind. For some reason, I’ve yet to detect that such a mental state, or condition, means I am about to write a novel.
By the 4th of July, that novel had begun to work its way out of my creative consciousness. The cross-stitch got stored away, for who knows how long? Life developed a few turns and several definitive changes for this writer. The movement of change has always been a creative catalyst for me. I found enough of it during the summer of 2017!
THE POINT OF THE SWORD, I now understand, had been cogitating in my psyche for about four years. I’d been moving sail toward something, but what I did not exactly know. My interactions with people near and dear to me, and distant and dear to me, became filled with very ripe pickings for fiction. I jotted them down into my Writer’s Journal, thinking, “Oh, I’ll use them in the Westerns.”
Always the Westerns. Those beauties keep moving further out on the horizon!
It is difficult, if not impossible, for me to pinpoint precisely when the resurrection and simultaneous crystallization of memories, souvenirs, and inspiration take place within me. I do nonetheless know that this process of fictional fermentation had been ongoing since the summer of 2014.
At that time, I encountered, through fate, three
women, all of whom had known grand loves, last loves, lost loves. Knowing that I am a woman of independent
mind, and a writer, these younger women entrusted me with insights and confessions,
from their wounded hearts, from their valiant lives. Private passions had
become a muted anguish for each woman.
There was also for me the final unspoken adieu of a very long goodbye to a dear dear friend. She’d been my most ardent, steadfast, even vocal, advocate during the writing of THE DAWN. This colleague and confidante proved to me with certainty that art aspires to the heavens.
Our enduring friendship will long endure: she is among the brightest stars that now shine upon me, inspiring me to be all that I can be. Our shared sense of the reverent and the irreverent penned many a line for me and helped me to pull the trigger on millions of words.
More than a decade ago, I reached out to this former colleague who was in despair; I did not realize at the time that I was reaching toward my future. She perhaps knew this truth, in the way that she had of knowing things I did not know, could not know. The unique and magical, timeless quality of our friendship, the chemistry of my innocent knowing and her naïve cynicism, created a comical, dynamic synergy between us. I believe that our pragmatic yet poetic process continues, in a metaphysical way, because her soul carries me with her.
I undertook the unanticipated writing of this novel with a sense of conscience and duty, not unlike the almost agonizing awareness of a person bound by the seal of the confessional. It was therefore with neither enthusiasm nor desire that I began to compose this novel.
My feeling was akin to what the French call devoir, which means “duty,” but it also means so much more than duty, or moral obligation. There is also the sense of a devout commitment, an uncollectible debt, that I felt, and feel, toward those women with whom I’d shared a symbiosis of sentiment, of heart, of silent sorrow. We divined the sound of goodbye that would ne’er be spoken.
That symbiosis became a sacred vow this past summer. I knew the time had come for bold images and a lush sensibility to become rendered into writing, to journey from sensual conceptualization to artistic realization. My many childhood summers on Long Beach Island, specifically in Ship Bottom, New Jersey, were transmuted, through tenderness, time and tears, into a love story. Not a romance novel, but a love story.
I was, of course, largely unaware of the compelling impetus that was about to overtake my normal waking hours. In late June, a day trip to the historic Rainbow Tavern Lodge in Soda Springs, California (less than an hour’s drive from my residence) got, as Dear Daughter called it, my “creative juices flowing.” During her summer vacation, my lovely daughter witnessed, once again, that laser “focus” of her mother, writing intently on the 8-1/2 x 11 lined yellow pad of paper. And then the Laptop came out, which she’d predicted wouldn’t take too long!
I wrote the draft in about 10 days, and then I took a break from the writing. The weather was still incredibly hot: triple-digits for weeks on end had become the norm. I went online in search of a setting for a promo shot. And I found the romantic video of a House for Sale, one that was approached through an arched gateway over a murmuring creek, echoing the sounds of summer.
The house was near a piece of property that . . . within the next month . . . became . . . mine!!
So, you see, kismet and the creative force can turn toward earthy and practical decisions in no time. The history of that house-for-sale was in long supply, starting with the description of the Entertainer’s Kitchen. I asked Dear Husband, “Why do I think of Wayne Newton?”
Even though we passed on that piece of real estate, complete with Writer’s Cottage (!), the various buildings on that piece of land offered stories and tales and details that only a novelist can appreciate. Life will bring to any writer, and to any fiction writer, the material needed. There is no need to go in search of it.
The revisions and finalization of this novel required two weeks of re-shaping and polishing. That space of time flew by, even though the triple-digit temperatures did not subside. As for the promo pic for THE POINT OF THE SWORD, I decided that my outdoor equestrian setting, known as “The Horse Property,” will work better for it. That highly arched gateway to the softly flowing creek will have to wait for another opportunity.
But not for another novel! At least not right away! First, the Writer’s House must be built, not too far away from that soothing stream of water that trips and ripples so softly over rocks and stones, merrily on its way to a tranquil night and a happy day!