The Story: So Far

The Story, as I have begun to call it, has taken over my life a little too much. I can’t stop writing it, but I have to take a break for two reasons.

The Break

The first reason is money. I have both the desire and the need to go back to work full-time. I have neglected my finances until I am at a point where, to be blunt, it is work again or welfare. I’m not a fan of either, but I can work and I was raised to treat welfare as being ‘for someone else’. There are those who need it now and the day may come when I actually need it. But, not me, not now.

The other reason for the break is even more emotionally laden. We had a death in the family this morning–my former mother-in-law. I am divorced for several years now. But she and the rest are still family and deserve to be treated as such. Family is more than a set of obligations. Friends just aren’t enough when it comes to death.

The Story

This fictional story, modeled as closely as I can on historical research, has become my daily reason to write. At this time, it has grown to just under 20K words. I have grown my character from ten years old to twenty in the space of those few words and few months. He is slowly going to the dark side, one logical step at a time. It’s uncanny how his story had led me into an investigation of “death” as a subject for the story. I seems to have been also in preparation for this death in my flesh-and-blood family. If the outline holds true, he will die before he reaches his 35th birthday, which in writing time, will probably be before Thanksgiving this year.

Between the intensity and narrowness of my writing focus, and the death in the family, I have nothing much else to write about. Rather than fuss about that, however, I decided to include a larger snippet from the manuscript for the rest of this blog.

So, here it is. A longer excerpt of The Story:

229. I was told I was a genius at keeping the accounts paying without the need for violence. Nobody had a velvet grip like mine, they said. It seemed simple to me. We all wanted to make money. Sometimes the other Bagman forgot that the goal was money, not obedience.

The Hard Way
230. I wasn’t always successful with my persuasion. The time came when talk was not enough and there was no way to avoid the violence that alcohol and greed create. My velvet grip sometimes had to pull the trigger. I didn’t work alone. At least one man went into any bar or restaurant or store with me when I went to collect. I found out that three was a better number to walk in with. If the place was behind a month I didn’t walk in without at least two good-sized men for back up, and if I could get one, one little guy, who could keep lookout and move faster than us. If he could accurately throw a knife that was even better.
231. One bar in particular, right on the edge of my old neighborhood got behind in their payments and didn’t seem to be feeling guilty about it. They were new customers, and were having money troubles. He was Sicilian and close enough to the Genna Brothers in Little Hell that he figured he could play us against each other. The Genna Brothers were a rival to us, no friends of ours for sure, but they didn’t like being played. We gave them a courtesy call: they had no agreement with the barman. It was clear the barman was wasting everybody’s time in hopes of saving some money. They said do what you need to do. We don’t need no customers like that.
232. I made my call the next day with two of my men. It was a Saturday afternoon, just before the bar was about to open. The building itself was one story, brick with a single door in the front. The windows that faced the street were the glass block kind. The sign over the door claimed it was a commercial laundry.
233. A “Closed” sign hung on string on the inside of the front door. It was unlocked so we went in. Inside, a little man sat on a high stool behind a worn wooden counter, fidgeting with a ledger and a pencil. Opposite the counter, three straight-backed wooden chairs were lined up against a smudged wall. Behind the counter was a door with a frosted glass window that said “Office” in block letters. The door was open just a crack. Another door, opposite the one we came in, was shut tight, no window and no knob on this side. The black-and-white linoleum floor was cracked and needed sweeping. There was a track in the dirt that led from the front door to the closed door.
234. I asked the man behind the counter if the Boss was in. He almost fell off the stool in his hurry to slam shut the door behind him. We heard swearing inside the office, asking what the hell was going on. I told the little man to ask his boss if we could talk to him in private. The little guy was just over half my size, wiry and fierce. He told us to get the hell out of his place, that the Boss was not available and that they didn’t do business with us anymore. The longer he talked the tighter wound he got. I held my hands up in front of my chest and said I just wanted to talk to the Boss.
235. The little guy blew a gasket at that. He reached under the counter and I hear a click. Before I could move one of my guys but a bullet in the little guy’s right shoulder. A gun went off under the counter, splintering the wood. At the same time, the office door got yanked open. The Boss stood there with a tommy gun pointed at us. Before he could pull the trigger, my other backup man hit the tommy gun with a bullet and the Boss dropped it. A second shot hit him in the forehead and he fell over backward without a word.
236. The little guy came at me screaming, holding his shoulder with one hand, a knife in the other hand. I side-stepped and clotheslined him, lifting him off his feet. My first backup grabbed the knife and slugged him, knocking him silly for a minute. I laid him down on the chairs and we waited for him to come around. In less than a minute, he was half out of the chair, ready to come at me barehanded, but both my men clicked another round into the chamber, and he stood still.
237. I told him he should probably sit down for a minute and think about what just happened before he decided what to do next. He sat. Then he began to shake his head side to side, slow at first, then faster. Then he began to shake all over and sob. That was my son, he said. He was my son! I loaned him the money to start this place. I told him I’d man the front desk for him til he got going. I didn’t try to answer him.
238. As we stood there, a man pushed the door open and asked if we were open yet. I told him no. He saw the blood on the little man’s shoulder and asked what was going on. I looked at him hard and told him to scram. One of my men flashed his gun and the guy went pale and apologized. He shut the door real careful and then ran like hell. Sometimes there was nothing else you could do.
239. That night we had supper at the Marine Room of the Edgewater. It was our three year anniversary. I didn’t tell Helen what happened. I was still thinking about it myself. In the end there was nothing different I could have done. The account was closed. The problem was settled.


I know. Not fair to stop. And yes, I have more. But as one of my favorite performers says, “…til next time!” I will continue to write, more slowly. And I will keep you posted. Until then, keep writing.

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When Did July Disappear?

I was just about to write a blog entry when I realized I missed a month. Again. Summer seems to do that to me, even at this age. I haven’t dealt with ‘summer vacation’ for a very long time, but I seem to still take the middle months of the year ‘off’. Not from writing, but from other routines. For instance:

I went back to work
I had a special need for extra cash, so I took a job, worked a month and now, with the money in the bank, I’m again retired. I learned as well as earned. First, I learned that I can still work, at ‘this age’. It’s been several years since I gave forty hours in exchange for a paycheck, but the spending/saving is nice. The lack of time is not. Nothing really new there, but a good reminder. Second, I can save while I work. I didn’t save every penny of my extra income, but I did save most of it. I will spend it all in one week, but that was the purpose for earning/saving it. So, mission accomplished.

I began a new Work
What was supposed to be a flashback in the middle of the UpStairs novel, has become a serious historical novel itself. My mafia character was supposed to give rise to the golden still in the wall, and a grand shootout at the end of the book. Instead, he has become the protagonist in a well-researched, completely serious work of his own. I’m not sure I can town down this guy to fit into a much lighter work like Upstairs. Time will tell.

I’m traveling to New York State
This August my oldest is marrying the love of his life. I am traveling there to be part of the experience as well as participate in a small way. (hence the need for extra money!) It will be chance to reconnect with family from all over, as well as make a stop to see my co-author Abby Cortez. (@missabby4653 on instagram) Sadly, my time will be limited, but I will be planning to make the most of it.

That’s all for now. I will update before the end of the month with more news and pictures.

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June and Near-Disasters

No, I’m safe and healthy. but it was almost not a good month.

It has been a busy month, for sure! Co-author Abby Cortez and I went through the whole Romance book looking for mispellings, missing words and generally looking to improve the writing. That part is finished. Unfortunaltely, the very night I finished transcribing the changes, my laptop battery died, and with it, my laptop. Apparently the backup file for Windows got deleted and there is no way to restore without it. But all is not lost!

With my trusty, somewhat rusty skills , and absolute unwillingness to give up, I found a way to get the files I needed into a thumb drive. Yes I had backups of most of our work, but you know how that too-often works–the stuff you want is not there! But, disaster averted. There is money in the bank to get things rolling again, and soon the book will be ready for print. WooHoo!

In light of that, I will keep this short today. Writing a blog post using my phone is… challenging! There is more news, of course: work on Down Cellar, work on the sequel (Up Stairs) and news about a sequel for Small Town Romance, as well. But for today, I’m just happy to have a fully revised (for the last time?) Small Town Romance, on a memory stick where I can access it!
Until next time,


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The News

BroadlawnsHappy to say I have someone looking at Down Cellar, an editor of sorts. The other day I sat with a friend at Columbia & Sheridan, the Starbucks I frequent the most often. Over coffee we got talking about his painting and my writing and the portfolios we both have. I paint word-pictures, I told him. He, I think, paints emotions on canvas. I suggested he try writing complete sentences. He kindly ignored me and suggested I send “Down Cellar” to a friend of his in Austin, TX, to someone who did editing in the past but now does copywriting. I am happy to report I did not stand, shout or spill my coffee when right there he texted her and got her to agree to look at it.  At this point,  I am content to see what happens. Somewhat content. Actually I’m also looking for an agent.

That same day, near the end of that same conversation, my phone/text rang. In my excitement I ignored it. When I looked at the text, I called back:  it was my co-author Abby Cortez. The owner of a Bed and Breakfast in the Central New York hamlet where Abby and I met had just offered to host us while we revise the first Romance and hash out the sequel. Now that’s pretty damn close to a romance scenario in itself—which we both noted. We could possibly monetize that to pay for the marketing of said sequel.

And a third thing, on that day: my bank account was strangely FATTER. I seldom see the numbers in there go up, so I checked to see what the mistake (probably) was. But No! I had money deposited there from Amazon! Yes, you actually CAN make money selling books you write! At least enough for coffee and maybe even a redesigned book cover for the Romance!

So take heart readers, writers, authors and romance/thriller lovers! Life is good, others really do care about us (and YOU in particular!) and sometimes, it even pays to work at what you love!

I’ll save the rest of the news for another post.

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Wait! What Happened to March?

gordonauthor-headshotYes, did some spring cleaning here on the website.’Bout time.

Now to get to the news.

I must have been having too much fun. I’ve missed two months of posts now and it’s time for a third one. Well, fun maybe wasn’t the exact reason. I began a small business, had two friends die and begin writing the sequel to Down Cellar. There was more but those are the highlights.

The Small Business

The small business will, eventually, give me some financial freedom without a lot of worry. If you honestly want to know more, click here. The majority of startup work is done, and the rest is about forming manageable habits to keep it going. Key word: manageable. If you are like me, ‘obsessive’ is the key word most of the time, that ‘all-or-nothing’ devotion to doing what’s in front of you? I’m working on that. Seems like a ‘schedule of habits’ is the immediate solution. It works, so far. I forgot to put ‘write blog post’ on the schedule, however, and now here I am. Catching up.

The Novel

The sequel  to Down Cellar is well underway. I am behind a very steep schedule I set for “UpStairs”, but I’m grateful for the progress. I didn’t outline the whole thing ahead of time. I’ve done that in the past, but this one I tried something else. You probably saw the ‘one sentence story’. I went from there to a 100 Word Story, then to a 500 Word Story, a 1000, a 1500, and finally a 2000 Word Story.

From there, I was stuck. I needed actual dialogue and scenes. So I began to write. The 2000 word story has become the outline in this way: copy a few lines of text, paste them on a clean page and expand them with scenes and dialogue. it works out the same for me, and I don’t have to do the outlining that (most of the time) I dislike doing.  Eventually I will outline what I have, during first revision, and see what else needs putting in. I already have stuff to leave out!

The Deaths– and Life

The deaths of friends, I’ll spare you the details. I’ve come to an age where my older friends are beginning to die. Yes, at this age it becomes somewhat routine. The sadness becomes part of wisdom: 1) Stay in touch while you actually can. 2) Value your friends while they are around. 3) Remind yourself that YOU are someone’s friend and they need you.

One last bit of wisdom: don’t let your so-called life get so busy that you forget the ones who love you. They might be digital contacts or in-your-face family. Both are valuable, both require you to honor and respect their needs as well as your own. It’s what relationships—and life—are all about.

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It’s February and …

I’ve finished the final revision of Down Cellar. And the moment, I feel at loose ends. Not because there’s nothing to do, but because that one thread that tied life together has completed its job and is no longer needed. Now what?

There are a plethora of projects calling for revision or finishing from the distant past and a few from the future.

From the past, the first revision that comes to mind is Change at Belmont, the novel about Chicago and a fake cure for AIDS. It needs a few scenes added to finish it and boom! Into revision-land I go again.

There are a few romance novellas I have outlined and ready to flesh out. One story in particular is about an inherited house and a sinister gardener who knows too much about poison plants. Revise that and it can go on sale! Speaking of romances, Small Town Romance still needs formatting for paper publishing (yeah, haven’t done that and it will probably pop to the top of the list soon.) Digital only is not enough, I know.

There is the Railroad Book that needs final revision. And that should be expanded into a real book about the New York Oswego and Midland Railroad.

And there is my ‘masterpiece’ of “The Faery Story” that I seldom mention. It is truly a great story and I hesitate to revise it until I get better at writing. But that ONE project would do me good. Maybe I should go there part-time?

And then there is the NEW stuff I would like to write. Kelsey Stone keeps tempting me with writing prompts and Abigail Shepherd (by example) keeps pushing me to do more marketing. August Birch is an inspiration for how much he writes AND his Instagram feed! And just having read “Walking Patagonia”, I am challenged by Caspian Ray to just DO something!

Perspective seems to be what I am missing, as I read over this. Rather than comparing me and my work to ____, whoever that blank might represent, and what ‘they’ are doing, it’s time for me to focus closer to home here, to begin creating or re-forming something of my own. Make a to do list? Focus?

Time for a fresh cup of coffee. Be right back. Promise.




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So, Is This Progress?

I’ve been digging through my old files in an attempt at early spring cleaning. It’s amazing what appears. The following is something I wrote for a long-gone attempt at an on-line portfolio/website. I think it was the ‘intro blurb’ to it actually.

I think I’ve progressed in writing quality. Or… maybe not. Do me a favor? Compare this to the short “The Writer” on this site, and honestly tell me if one or the other is ‘better’ and why? Don’t be mean for the sake of being mean, but do be honest!
P.S.  As I re-read the piece below… I realize I haven’t changed my mind about this in the last ten years

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The Story of My Site

[Dated March 28, 2005]

My decision to put up a portfolio website was easy. It was based on pure vanity. I was fairly sure I would be almost immediately discovered by an agent, who would call me long-distance and offer me a contract, possibly right over the phone and, Viola! I’d be on my way to the Writer’s Life!

As fast as I could, I threw up the main page and started uploading everything I’d ever written. It wasn’t long before I realized this wasn’t going to work. My “spare-time” writing had produced far more than I thought. If it was true that “Writers write” I was already qualified on volume alone. With this much material to work with I was irritated at how little a portfolio required. So much good stuff, so little space!

Irritation soon gave way to anxiety: what if I put up the wrong stories or an un-representative excerpt from a novel? What if I had too many poems? Or worst! What if the material seemed too religious? Being a Seminary student, the possibility was not far-fetched. And everyone knows religion won’t sell to the mainstream.

Reluctantly, I began the weeding process. Novel excerpts, poems, bits of memoirs praised by people whose opinion I respected went in one pile to be uploaded. My favorites–mine alone– went in another pile to be ‘archived’. I got the distinct feeling as I laid some of them down that this was “Good-bye” or at very least a long ‘so long.’ Although I cared what others thought, I— like any good parent— was quite attached to my progeny.

The sorting process forced me to take a hard look what I understood to be the path to The Writer’s Life and Glory. I knew that “Writer” was a title achieved with quantity, (‘Writers write”, remember? Right?). Therefore, “Author” was a title achieved by quality writing, a title bestowed from the outside by qualified critics. “True Authorship” was based on book sales and arrival at an Exalted Plateau situated somewhere very near Fame and Fortune.


Then came the bombshell. Looking over several years of writing, I couldn’t see where I had arrived at any specific level of quality, “Authorial” or otherwise. Some pieces showed fairly good composition and flow (my spelling and grammar had always been good). Others done at the same time or later did not. There seemed to be no consistent pattern of improvement, just good days mixed with bad ones. “Quality” began to look like an uneven path through a somewhat boring meadow rather than a Scenic Overlook from a Lofty Plateau. Likewise, the goal of “True Authorship” began to look less like a destination than a consistent daily walk.

This website thing was ruining my dreams and possibly even my future: the Glory of the Writing Life was departing and I was being left with the idea that writing was merely a sometimes-enjoyable (dare I say it?) job. I stopped work on the website altogether.

A couple of months later, I went back to look at it. Definitely amateurish, forlorn. It needed work. Before I could stop myself, I was redesigning the opening-page banner and re-writing the greeting. Somewhere in that refurbishing, I realized I enjoyed the process of writing far more than I enjoyed receiving praise for the product. Even the thrill of having my own website, the warm pleasure and proud embarrassment of explaining why I even had a website didn’t compare to the hours of solitary joy of writing the content. Getting paid would be nice, I realized, but the reason I write —internet copy, light fiction or heavy memoir, whatever— is because I like to write. That’s why I do it.

The Present

So having had that epiphany, have I arrived? Am I an Author? No. Even my wife (who wishes to God I would make some money with this `hobby’!) doesn’t call me an author. I have no substantial publishing credits and by my own, old, definition, I am still only a ‘writer’. On the other hand, to extend the walking analogy I used earlier, I am satisfied to be on this road, still walking. And if inspiration and perspiration can get me finally to “Authorship”, then by God’s grace, I’ll arrive there— and then keep right on walking! The road to Authorship, no doubt in my mind, is ‘a long walk in the same direction.’

So as an encouragement to your own progress, let me ask you: Have you begun the Writer’s Walk or are you still on the couch, dreaming of the “Writer’s Life”, dreaming of suddenly waking up on an Authorial overlook? If you are still sitting, I suggest that, while you are sitting there write a story about it —a short, fiction piece— and then get on with real life. Remember: “Writer’s write.” It really is that simple. And what about the money and the recognition? Money follows: it is a reward that follows good writing which is in turn, a product of hard work. And Recognition leads: that is, it’s meant to be a motivating spur to continue, to go farther on in what you are already doing. Either one is a lousy replacement for the real satisfaction of knowing you are consistently producing high quality work. Remember, Writers write because they love to write.

The Future

For the present, I have stopped adding to the portfolio. There is enough here for anyone to see how well or poorly I have done. Frankly, if you are an agent, give me a call. I do write because I love it, but I’d be delighted to get paid as well!  As time goes on, I will replace some pieces with others that are newer and better, or at least better revised. Check back and see. Persistence has its rewards.

And keep writing. Writers love to.
In Him,
In Dallas,

Gordon De Land

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P.P.S. Gosh it’s hard not to correct that old stuff!


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