During the tedium of 2020 I had the great fortune of befriending a man via the internet who I consider to be akin to the Dale Carnegie of our day. He’s a voice actor for numerous Fortune 100 companies & even The Obama Administration, and a communication skills coach who is equipped to improve seasoned executives and the communication-crippled alike. His name is Richard Di Britannia.
As I got to know Richard better, I came to think of him in Carnegian terms because his commitment to excellent communication seems absolute, for himself and his clients. While many in the communication coaching business of today are akin to Bandaid salesmen in an ICU ward—teaching people shortcuts in order to gloss over foundational issues that have and will continue to hinder their thought, speech, and thus life entire—he takes a holistic approach. He addresses head-on the difficult reality that if one struggles to speak effectively, it is probably because they do not understand their own thoughts and thus themselves well enough to articulate their innermost contents to others. Thus he considers communication coaching equal parts physical (the voice), practical (how and when to speak), and psychological (what and why to speak).
This is a radically contrarian choice in an age with an ever-shrinking attention span. Indeed, there is no question that he has foregone much quick-and-easy profit in the idealistic attempt to provide clients with what they ultimately need in addition to what they immediately want. He is the sort who could not live with the thought of telling a lie, even a partial one, while teaching others to speak well and true.
It is this integrity which made me thrilled at the chance to edit Richard’s second book, an opus upon how intentional self-talk, self-knowledge, and private preparation are the X-factor which renders once-regular humans capable of dazzling others with nothing but their voice. It is a rare look under the hood of some carefully-guarded tricks-of-the-trade across a plethora of industries–including those of friendship, partnership, and love that we all must occasionally ply.
I wanted to take a moment to bring you up to speed on my current scribbling endeavors and tentative plans for the future. I’m always pleasantly surprised and grateful when I look at this site’s analytics and see people are still visiting its pages and downloading its literature PDFs despite my frequent absences. As you may know, I prefer only to post when I have something of substance to say, or a project to release. This will be a rare exception.
Reception of my initial release for 2021, Dinosaur: A Dystopian Story, has been encouraging to say the least. If you haven’t already read it you can find it for free right here. A few close friends have told me it’s the best thing I’ve ever done; acquaintances have occasionally responded with mystification; and one long-distance friend may never speak to me again over it. I do like an eclectic reaction.
My most recent editing client’s new book will release next month. I will absolutely be posting about that here.
Musicto has kindly allowed me to create several custom playlists for them, which can be heard here.
As for writing, I am into a novel that is very different from anything I’ve done before, in that it might actually have some commercial (as opposed to purely literary) appeal. A comparison with Gregory Maguire’s Wicked would not be too far off–irreverent reimagining is the name of the game. I can’t wait to tell you the full story of this book, but I won’t, partly because the book itself and the story of its creation are not even close to being over. Suffice it to say I feel I am currently doing my absolute best to make all of you proud and to make the best of this opportunity.
Are you worried, dear, about Doctor Seuss, When there’s a Hunter Biden on the loose? He’s a bagman all across the land From swampy D.C. to old Iran And he belongs in a pillory Right next to Hillary For the unencrypted emails he did type While puffing upon his crack pipe
Are you worried, dear, about Doctor Seuss, When there’s a Joe Biden on the loose? When not sniffing little girls’ hair He can be found, oh, where? Excusing Chinese genocide cuz Things are just different over there
Are you worried, dear, about Doctor Seuss, When those who don’t read or write rule the roost? You’d never trust them to babysit But for sending teens to war they’re fit? Their money-laundering puts the mob to shame But for their trite speeches we give acclaim
Are you burning, dear, the Doctor’s books Because you crave approval, and adoring looks? Then you are the history we repeat For we read it only by flame in the street.
C.S. Lewis once said “I was with book, as woman is with child,” and writing this story has helped me understand his sentiment. While I have certainly experienced an urgency to churn out a final draft before, this project was accompanied by what I can only describe as mortal dread. There was no logical reason to ask such a morbid question, but ask it I did: will I live to finish it–and what if I don’t?! This was also the first time that I was truly able to confess to a confidant, “My characters are saying things I didn’t expect them to say.” I have heard other, better authors describe a similar mid-draft realization that they are no longer in control…Let us hope it portends the same for me.
I hope–and frankly expect–never to experience such literary dread again, because, while I undoubtedly have much room to grow in terms of writing purely entertaining stories, this is likely the most meaningful story that I can muster. On the surface, it is about a near-future, wherein a One-World Leader visits the last person alive who dares to oppose her. But, much like an iceberg, its heaviest mass lies below, in the barbs these mortal enemies trade and the ramifications of their divergent beliefs. I have often thought that fiction writers are merely philosophers who are afraid to be boring, and this piece at least proves it in my case.
I am also pleased to offer two forwards, one by the ambitious sci-fi project VivaEllipsis.com, and the other by my dear friend Professor Hoheisel. I should also add that this work–like most valuable things on Earth–was forged somewhat in tragedy. The person to whom it is dedicated, an esteemed Doctor both of medicine and of philosophy, passed away shortly after reading it. It was he who told me I was capable of, and ought to tackle these subjects, and so I did. Indeed, the last communication I ever had with him was to the effect that he was pleased by the dedication, and looked forward to discussing it in depth. I hope to hold him to that, one day.
I can’t be the only weirdo that plans out their reading ahead of time–can I?
I thought I might share my reading list for the new year, either to inadvertently suggest a few titles for you, or to prompt you to share your own.
P.S. I may only be able to begin, rather than completely finish, the longest of these sets (Library of Presidents), unless I’m willing to bump something else to ’22, which I don’t think I am.
WW1 & WW2: The History of the First World War Commemorative Edition History of the World War by Frank H Simonds The Second World War by Churchill
Pre-World War Combat: Folio Society’s Middle Ages set The Campaigns of Napoleon by David Chandler Bourrienne’s Memoirs of Napoleon The Complete Josephus
USA: Easton’s Library of Presidents set Sandburg’s Lincoln set
Science: The World of Mathematics by James R Newman The Book of Popular Science set Guns, Germs, and Steel by Diamond The Selfish Gene & The Blind Watchmaker by Dawkins Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman by Richard Feynman
Novels: Thousand Cranes by Katabawa The Ark Sakura by Abe The Key by Tanizaki Rashomon and Other Stories by Akutagawa One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez Hunger by Hamsun The Mists of Avalon by Bradley Library of America #79, compilation of Raymond Chandler Story of the Eye by Bataille House of Leaves by Danielewski Kafka on the Shore by Murakami Snow Crash by Stephenson
I just received my first manuscript rejection from a New York literary agent.
I’m relieved to have this mandatory hazing ritual out of the way. Strangely, I feel more like “a real writer” now than any minor successes have ever caused. Perhaps I am consoled by a small sense of pride that this didn’t emotionally phase me. The juvenile phase of self-righteous indignation whenever someone calls “my baby” ugly has come and gone, thank God. (If fact, for a rejection it was quite civil).
I know that I’m happy with what I wrote; I know it can make some money for myself and some press; and I know there isn’t an agent or press on Earth who’s going to tell me “it’s perfect as it is; we’ll print it at once!”
There is an eerie peace to be had in knowing that it is now beyond my strength to alter without the aid of a professional editor. In some metaphysical sense, the process is already over. I just have to keep submitting.
A dear friend recently asked me to put together a “curricula” of essential books to read–preferably ones that would kick-start the imagination of a creative writer and inform their craft. To his and my surprise, the list that resulted only contains 60 titles, and could reasonably be read in a couple of years. Nonetheless, I believe this list could replace most Bachelor of Arts programs today (in information imparted, if not credentials).
So, if you would like to glean the equivalent of a liberal education for free from your local library, I hope this list helps narrow down your search.