Category Archives: Fiction

Birthday wishes: August 1, 1939

The late Robert James Waller would have been 78 today.  He was born on August 1, 1939, in Charles City, Iowa.  In my post below on the day of his passing (March 10, 2017), I commented on him and his contributions to the world; we would be poorer without the literary, musical, and academic gifts he shared.  If the novel “The Bridges of Madison County” were all that he gave us, it would have been more than enough.

In March, Robert, you set forth on the ultimate journey.  If you could, I know you would write an essay to describe the wonders now surrounding you, and you’d share it with us, perhaps in the pages of the Des Moines Register newspaper.  I’d be pleased to see just one more byline with your name on it.  But we must be content with the words and music you left us.  And we are.

Perhaps I will see a peregrine today, or I can let my face be caressed by the warm southern winds as I hear a distant train.  There will be a waltz running through my mind.

You were my friend, and my hero.  Happy Birthday, Robert.  I would have sent a card, but I don’t know the address.

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“Things which men cannot see”

“The cat is cryptic, and close to strange things which men cannot see. He is the soul of antique Aegyptus, and bearer of tales from forgotten cities in Meroë and Ophir. He is the kin of the jungle’s lords, and heir to the secrets of hoary and sinister Africa. The Sphinx is his cousin, and he speaks her language; but he is more ancient than the Sphinx, and remembers that which she hath forgotten.”

H.P. Lovecraft, “The Cats of Ulthar” 1920.

Getting down with downloads

In my recent interview with author/artist Uvi Poznansky (see below), we talked about my writing habits.  I mentioned how, when writing fiction, I receive what I call “downloads” from the universe.  These moments of inspiration often arrive whole, and I’m given an entire scene in my mind, complete with plot, setting and dialogue, all at once as I’m working at the keyboard.  I received several of them as I wrote my latest novel, The 26th Game.

The compelling facet of these downloads, other than their arriving in totality, is that they are most often scenes of which I had no prior thoughts.  Not even an inkling.  As I work my way through a piece of fiction, many of the scenes have been planned ahead of time.  I’ve made notes on setting, scribbled snippets of dialogue, developed plot points, usually in longhand in a small notebook or on a legal pad.  But as I stir these into a readable stew, invariably, ideas that had never crossed my mind appear in the work.  This occurs in real time, as if I am merely recording them from wherever they’d already been written, out there in the ether.  I have composed numerous sentences, paragraphs and scenes, word for word, out of thin air, without ever having previously contemplated the particular idea.

How is this possible?  Some metaphysicians have said that all books are already written, and the author becomes connected to the place where these works are “stored,” at some kind of “celestial archive.”  The author merely transcribes the text, acting as a conduit from the archive to the paper or Word document.  Since I know this process happens, having experienced it countless times, for me this explanation is as good as any.  Because I truly don’t know how it works.  I only know that it is real.

The late Robert James Waller told me he wrote The Bridges of Madison County in ten days.  He was quoted as saying, “The universe just gave it to me.”  While Bob might have used different words to explain the source of his fiction, I am certain he was describing the same download process as I have.  No doubt, many other authors can attest to having experienced this spontaneous creativity.  It is part of the beautiful mystery of creation, and every author owes a debt of gratitude to the Muse, Celestial Archive, Source, Universe, or whatever name he or she chooses to call it.

Q and A with Paul James Zack

I had the distinct pleasure of recently being interviewed by author/artist/Renaissance woman Uvi Poznansky.  We talk about my writing, and in particular, about my novel “An Eternal Melody.”  You can read the interview at Uvi’s blog: Uvi at Blogspot   Be sure to check out Uvi’s Facebook site too.

Great authors, new links

Please take a quick look at my Library of Links (click above or right).  Some new links have been added featuring people whose creative efforts are worth viewing. 

Novels with Five-Star Reviews


 

 

 

 

 

 

It is gratifying when readers like my writing and respond with Five-Star Reviews.  Few things are more satisfying than sincere feedback from a reader, and knowing that one of my books or stories touched them in some way.  Both of my novels, An Eternal Melody and The 26th Game, have Five-Star Reviews at Amazon.  You can read about the books, as well as the first chapters of each title by clicking on the links above and at right.  Both books are available in paperback and Kindle ebook versions.  

Now Available in Paperback: The 26th Game

My novel “The 26th Game” is ready for reading in paperback.  Click on the links above and right to see what the book is about and to read the first chapter.  “The 26th Game” has received Five-Star Reviews at Amazon:

“An extraordinary story: a tapestry woven with mystery, intrigue, adventure and fascinating characters against a spellbinding metaphysical background with spicy undercurrents–something for everyone.”

“The 26th Game creates a journey that not only allows the reader to enjoy this suspenseful thriller, but also explores the possibilities of humanity’s future. A highly recommended book!”

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE THE 26TH GAME

 

From Music to Words

As a writer of fiction, I am inspired by numerous things.  One of my foremost sources is music, and specifically, movie soundtracks.  Countless times I have donned headphones and immersed myself in movie music from my extensive collection of soundtracks.  YouTube works too.  The scores never fail to create pictures in my mind: settings for stories, images of scenes, even dialogue between characters, whether for short stories or novels.  This makes sense, as movie scores are written to accompany moving visual images.  And of course, the scores do more.  They instill nuance and emotion, mood and depth, energy and passion, to the movies/stories they support.  A movie without music becomes little more than a slide show.

Among the titles in my collection of soundtracks are numerous scores to movies I’ve never seen.  This might seem strange, but if a soundtrack comes from one of my favorite composers of movie music, then there is a high likelihood that it will appeal to me (inspire me) even without having seen the flick.  As well, since I use the scores as inspiration for writing fiction, my subconscious forces of creativity are free to assign any images to a piece of music as I listen, images which can be, and are often, unrelated to those which the score was originally written.  Such is the beauty and versatility of movie music.

I have a long list of movie music maestros that I enjoy, but my favorites are John Barry (Out of Africa, Dances With Wolves), Jerry Goldsmith (Star Trek, The Blue Max), Hans Zimmer (The DaVinci Code, Inception), James Horner (Field of Dreams, Titanic), and John Williams (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars).  Each of these composers has a long list of film credits on their resume, more than I could include within a reasonably short blog post.  As well, there are other likes: Ennio Morricone, Tangerine Dream, Elmer Bernstein, Alan Silvestri, Basil Poledouris . . . well, this list could go on for some time.  I like to acquire albums of collected movie theme songs too, as these tracks will have a distilled and powerful emotional impact providing a great musical listening experience as well as inspiration for fiction. 

I began my collection of soundtracks with vinyl LPs (making a comeback these days), and it has grown through cassettes, and into CDs.  It’s an eclectic mix, but I lean toward sweeping emotional scores with powerful and dramatic themes.  For me, this kind of music offers a quick translation into images for the page.  Instrumental music from artists such as Yanni also does this, as long as there are no words.  No words!  My inspirational music for fiction can’t contain vocals because the words direct the listener to a specific image, and only in rare cases does this apply to what I’m writing.  I listen to music with vocals for all the usual reasons and I have my preferences there too.  

It’s an inherent paradox: music without words, to create words on the page.

RIP Robert James Waller

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My friend and fellow author Robert James Waller has died at 77. Most will recall him as the author of the best-selling novel “The Bridges of Madison County.” Recognition for this was well-deserved. But Bob was more than that. A true Renaissance man, he was also a talented musician and photographer, as well as a master of economic theory and management. He was a romanticist, even as few people truly understand the meaning of the word. Go well, my friend, along the rivers and the long dusty roads, through the Iowa rains and past the old westbound trains.

You are invited to read my newly-posted magic realism short story “The Desk.” Click on the Short Stories tab above right.