Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Journey Forward

Well the reviews (some) are in. I submitted The Journey Forward in Amazon.Com/CreateSpace's Breakthrough Novel Award contest. It is a contest that (shocker) allows aspiring and unpublished novelists to submit their manuscripts in hopes of winning a book deal with Penguin. While my novel did not make it to the quarterfinals, they still provide you with feedback. Anyone following this blog or this novel can see what some of the great critics of this internet world are saying about The Journey Forward:

"I like this so far because I was an English major and took several classes on the American Novel, so right away I was hooked. However, I think the author's assessment of the Great Gastsby is a bit off but most of being an English major is having a difference of opinion and convincing people you know what you're talking about.
Aside from that, my curiosity is aroused about the characters brought up in these pages. What goes on between Mark and Sophie? What happened between Mark and Petr? The writing is clear and I like the descriptions of the senses, taking in the colors, the smells and the feel of the warmth. I'd like to see where this goes." - Expert Reviewer #1

Ah, the wonders of youth, college, love, and the Great American Novel. "The Journey Forward" begins in a very open-ended fashion as we follow Mark Deluca, a young literature student with the Gods of Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Joyce, and Fitzgerald on his mind and on his lips. Amid the warm spring weather and the rising sap in the student body, the author describes Mark right before term break, a much-anticipated trip to Burlington with his friends.

I enjoyed the author's introduction of the various characters; future roles and motivations are implied in various ways such as seemingly passing conversation, his professor Louis Stevens' attention to an attractive blond as well as his attention to Mark, an underachieving friend and a pugnacious roommate, his girlfriend Sadie Gordon whose intensity matches Mark's. The prose strikes a good balance between nonchalance and portent -- in which direction will the author take us?

At one point right before a class discussion of "The Great Gatsby", Mark has a premonition of a car accident on his way to Burlington including "Snow, cold, wreck, red blood". Weather is repeatedly described and alluded to throughout the first chapter, leaving the reader to wonder if Mark's thoughts describing the only serious passage in the first chapter as well as mentions of God, guilt, and Catholicism will be one of the novel's critical events.

"The Journey Forward" will prove engaging for younger readers in particular. The conversations and descriptions are believable and swiftly moving, although perhaps a bit mundane for a novel's opening; I would have liked a passage that might provide a better hook or a signpost for future plot and character development. Still, this is solid writing; Mark appeals to intelligence and he is presented with a youthful joy that leave me wondering about his coming journey."
- Expert Reviewer #2

Well there you have it. They did not get to read the whole novel but a lengthy excerpt. Good and bad take the comments in and perhaps see for yourself about this manuscript. Maybe you'll enjoy it.

In more blog related news, in the upcoming days and weeks you can look forward to posts about Paul Simon's first solo album, Talk Talk's album "The Spirit of Eden," a review of Tony Earley's book "The Blue Star," a wrap-up and review of the Final Four, and a preview of the NBA playoffs, and of course more editions of "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt" and more heartwrenching poems.

See below for the latest installment of "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt":


I’m in the darkness of my eyes. In the beginning there was the word. Repent your sins and welcome the love of the lord. Taake aaand eeat. Taake aaand eeat. Let me escape from this past from what is holding me back. Forgive me for hating my brother and for not knowing my family well enough and for being glad that my mother is dead in some way because it sets me free somehow and I think she knew that overall. She knew that by dying she would be able to bring us together again even though we’ve always been together something needed to change and she being the woman she was knew that in some way too. I move my knee on the blue and smell perfume and mothballs. There are stars and rings of color in the darkness, in front of me I hear the shuffling of feet on the stone floor, and I know that hanging up there is the crucifix and Christ. Forgive me for not taking advantage of the opportunities given to me. Why am I afraid to move on with my life? Why didn’t I go away to college? Why am I content to work two jobs I don’t care about? I come to church for answers because it is the only thing I know. It is what my mother knew and so stubbornly stuck to. We’re all not believers.

Next to me one of the two old women is coughing. I think it’s the one wearing a fur coat and she must be hot in it. One of the women – I think it is the same one – is blowing her nose. They’ve stopped singing the communion hymn and now the organ just plays its chords and notes. The organ has such a resonant sound; there is something about it. I wonder if Maggie could play the organ if she tried. Her auburn hair. James’ short and clean cut brown hair, his still athletic build and broadish chest. Liza’s light brown almost blonde hair that seems so out of place with the rest of us. Dad is grayer and grayer. We all have to move away and grow up sometime. Why is that? Why do we have to keep moving and growing up? What does it all add up to? Why can’t we just be young forever? We have to die don’t we? Our parents will die the ones we came from and so must we. These things are too morbid I have to open my eyes but I can’t. I’m deluding myself of something and I think that something might be death but its what we all have to face and understand isn’t it? I don’t know. Open!

I look up at the wooden sailboat ceiling of the church. Everything looks the same as it did before I closed my eyes and stepped into the dark. I wish I hadn’t come to church and just stayed at home and slept in my bed or sat with Liza or James or Eve. I look at the two old women next to me. The one in the fur coat smiles. She has white hair and she reminds me of a substitute teacher I used to have in high school. The other one is still closed within herself praying to God. Her brow is furrowed. I can only imagine what things she is facing inside of herself after being alive for so many years. I remember to smile back at the woman and then I turn away and gaze up at the cross. Christ is thin in his frozen middle age.

In two days we’ll watch mom go beneath the ground. Then we’ll have to leave this house behind unless James manages to change Dad’s mind. Something has to give within me.

Christ is sad and bleeding. He knew he couldn’t escape. None of us can. I haven’t truly even tried. But I can’t, James can’t, Eve can’t. Maggie can’t either.

I’ll get a beer from 7-11 on the way home.

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