Monday, November 24, 2014

Q&A with James I Marino

James Marino is a man who wears many hats. A marketing analyst at a Fortune 500 company for 11 years, James is also an adjunct professor in English and communications at Southern New Hampshire University, and on November 6, he added one more title to the stack as he became a published author.

His formal path to professional writing began in 2007 with his enrollment in the Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing program at Southern New Hampshire University. He began writing his first novel, The Keepers of Mercia, during that time, and was excited to see his project come to life on November 6th.


Here’s a quick Q&A with James – a man who would bring a volume of all of Shakespeare’s works and Pink Floyd’s CD Dark Side of the Moon to a desert island – to learn about his background, writing process and upcoming novels.

How did you become interested in writing?

It’s one of those things that just happened – I’ve always enjoyed writing for classes, whether in high school or college, and everything from essays to literature reviews. I formed a great like for creative writing, especially when I realized how taking creative angles can make my work stand out. From there I realized – I can keep doing this! I don’t have to be in school; I can write for myself.

What is the inspiration for your book?

At some point, we realize our mentors – parents, celebrities, teachers, whomever – aren’t perfect people. They have flaws. They’re human. As a young person that can be scary, because growing up, you rely on those people. They’re a safety shield between you and the world, and it’s unsettling when that safety shield disappears and your safe, comfortable world is stripped away.

[With this in mind,] The idea for the novel came to me in bits and pieces, like mini movie clips of scenes in my mind. Eventually, these wrapped themselves around a ‘coming of age’ story, about having to grow up and make your own way in the world.

Describe your writing process – do you have any quirks or rituals? Did you know how it was going to end?

I do not have any quirks. I do not have any rituals. It is pure discipline.

Some writers do [have quirks and rituals] – but by and large, you have to sit down and write. Whether you feel like you have writer’s block, it makes no difference. You must be regimented and disciplined; you just have to get it done. In the MFA program, I wrote for two to four hours a day. Some days that would yield half a page and some days, two to three pages. But you have to sit and work on it.

It’s also important to remember that a story is a living, breathing thing. I had some ideas about where I wanted to go and what would happen to some of the characters, yes. But as you go, you come up with new twists, turns and ideas. I began with a tentative roadmap, but really the story isn’t done until it’s printed. I made changes right up until I had to turn in the final copy for publishing.

What is the most rewarding part of writing your first book?

First, it’s a sense of accomplishment. Because I know how hard it is to do this, having done it is a real sense of accomplishment, and it’s nice to see my ideas completed on paper.

Being signed by a publisher has added a layer of validation to that as well. It’s difficult to write, and it’s equally difficult to get it published. My hat’s off to anyone who has written anything.

Who have been your biggest supporters?

They would have to be my mentors from the MFA program, who are all professional writers and authors. They taught us the good, the bad and the ugly about writing and publishing, and they taught us everything about making a go in this business and trying to succeed, which can be very difficult. Other members of the writing community and my MFA class, a cohort of twenty students, have also helped because as a writer, it’s important to be engaged.

On top of that, family, friends and coworkers, were truly supportive. They knew I was in an MFA program, and they knew that I was writing throughout the program and have continued. I actually shared the cover with all of them, and the response has been very encouraging.

How have you balanced working full-time and writing a novel?

From 2007-09, I went down to part-time. As the MFA program was non-residency so I didn’t have to be on campus all of the time. For the most part, I was able to do that work from home and strike a balance.

I was nervous in that I knew it was going to be a lot of work, and I wasn’t sure how challenging that was going to be. And it was challenging – but certainly not something I couldn’t do. It’s when you hope something will work out, you hope it’s beneficial to you, and you hope you don’t go home and regret it. And I didn’t.

What lessons have you brought back to the workplace from your experience?

Persistence. Discipline. Confidence.

Writing a book reinforced how invaluable those tools are in accomplishing a goal. Regardless of the challenge – work, school, life – these are the keys to getting it done. It’s nothing earth-shattering; it makes sense.

Not only did I have to be persistent in terms of getting this novel done, but I had to be persistent in terms of getting it published. That part was just as hard. I have stacks of letters of rejection to prove it. You have to continue to be positive and confident throughout it, and you can’t lose heart in the work.


James is familiar with persistence – he finished The Keepers of Mercia in 2009, and though he spent a few months re-working parts of the novel earlier this year, it has taken five years to complete the publishing process. In that time he’s written another novel, government thriller Throwaway Pawns, and has three other novels in the works as well.

The Keepers of Mercia is available at:
On Amazon US
On Amazon UK
On Barnes & Noble
At James I Marino's website (http://jamesimarino.com/) (signed copies and free shipping!)

About James I. Marino:
James I. Marino is the author of the novel, The Keepers of Mercia. James’ love of writing can be traced back to his high school days. Inspired by the works of Jack London and Stephen Donaldson, James began to tinker with short fiction. As an English degree student at the University of New Hampshire, he fell in love with a wide range of fiction, including the works of Shakespeare, Hemmingway, Dickens, and Emily Bronte, among many others. His admiration and enjoyment of the mastery of craft displayed by so many powerful writers encouraged James to press ahead with his own writing, and as the words began to flow, he recognized that his desire to write was something more than a hobby. He went on to complete a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing at Southern New Hampshire University.

Following the completion of his degree, James joined the faculty at Southern New Hampshire University as an adjunct instructor for both the English and Communications departments. He teaches various English composition and public speaking courses.

Having grown up on a small farm in rural Dunbarton, New Hampshire, James developed a deep appreciation of nature that can be seen in the thoughtful, well-crafted images that punctuate his writing. He lives on Haven Hill Farm in Canterbury, New Hampshire with his wife Megan, their son Max, and several furry friends.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Flowers for a Dead Man

Decided I shouldn't let an entire calendar month go by without posting something, so I'm pulling out a short story I wrote about a year-and-a-half ago. It was a rejected submission (too short) but it was my wife's favorite of all my stories. She really really really liked it, which pleased me to no end, of course. 

Fair warning: The tale's just under 1,500 words, considerably longer than my typical post length.


Flowers for a Dead Man
By Jeffrey S. Hargett

Sara told me she loved me with all her heart. What a load of crap that turned out to be. Cousin Kevin said love was the brain's creation, nothing more than hormones, pheromones and trigger-happy neurons. Turns out he didn't have a clue either. Hearts and brains have nothing to do with love. They have nothing to do with hurts and hate either. That kind of stuff lives in the soul.

Need proof? Check my grave. Nothing left of Franklin David Jones but ash and bones. My baby blues turned to dust years ago, right along with my adorable dimples and dashing smile. That's how twenty-three-year-olds like me end up when the Fairlane's got a new set of whitewalls and the girls need impressing. And I did my impressing with all eight cylinders.

That's how I met my Sara.

I'm not really sure what it was about me that caught her eye. She did have a lot to choose from though. Momma raised me to be a modest boy, but still, it wasn't me the ugly stick took to beating. Leastways, I never thought so. But I suppose it could have been the Fairlane's apple-candy red. It did have a dozen or so pounds of the shiniest chrome you ever saw. Most girls like shiny. Sara did too, but I think what got her motor running was the two-hundred horses under the hood. I ain't met a woman yet that didn't like a little muscle. She had all six-hundred-forty-two of mine flexing from the get-go.

Now, Momma raised me to be honest, so I'll admit that Sara caught my eye first. Sara caught just about everyone's eye first. Men tend to notice things like a woman more beautiful than dawn with hair the color of a sunrise.

She'd just got done waiting tables at Charlie's Grill down on Worth Street next to the old Firestone. Charlie dressed his girls in yellow with frilly, white aprons cut to accent hips and hind ends. Charlie's customers were good tippers. I liked to watch from the Fairlane. Watching was free and it didn't require tipping. Besides, the burgers over on Main cost less and came with fatter fries.

When Sara stepped outside Charlie's, I lost every bit of sense I'd collected in twenty-three years. Maybe it had something to do with those hormones and trigger-happy neurons Cousin Kevin always went on about, but I thanked God for my Fairlane. If I'd not been in the driver's seat, I'd have been a red-faced fool. Those swaying hips of hers had my engine revving. Love may live in the soul, but it stirs things you can touch.

I spent the whole night wondering what her name was and where she lived. I'd have followed her, but the sheriff gets involved when guys do that. So I did what any other guy my age would do in that situation. I called Stephen, my best friend since second grade. Now Stephen always gave advice you'd only take on a dare, but she'd left me in a daring frame of mind. And for once, that low-life best friend of mine didn't lead me astray.

I put a ring on Sara's finger less than four months later. I said my "I dos" and meant them all, but just because a man's got a wife at home don't mean he can't still impress the ladies in town. I might have been a married man, but I still looked good sitting on two-hundred horses. When a girl lets her eye linger on you, she expects you to be a gentleman and return the favor. Momma did raise me to be a gentleman.

Nobody ever mistook Franklin David Jones for Ward Cleaver. Some guys got the makings for T.V. dads. Some don't. I was who I was. Folks can say about me just whatever they please. It don't mean I didn't love Sara. Maybe if I'd had a daddy helping Momma raise me I'd have been a better husband. Then again, maybe not. It don't much matter now. I'm dead and can't change a damned thing.

I've got Stephen to thank for that.

Along about September, Stephen calls. He'd found him some cute brunette from the other side of town and his Mercury was in the shop again. Far be it from me to deny my best man a lift in his hour of need. Besides, I was more than a little curious about what kind of girl dates a low-life like Stephen. I loaded Sara into the Fairlane and we set out to salvage what little dignity he had left.

Now I'm willing to overlook a few faults when a girl has a pretty face, but that Angie girl he found didn't know how to shut up. The girl yammered straight through dinner, the whole way to the drive-in and right through the pre-show cartoons.

I kindly yanked Stephen's butt out of the car and dragged his "gonna get me some" grin all the way to the concession stand. The boy thought he was Rock Hudson out with Doris Day. Even asked me if I found Angie attractive. Was he kidding? Anything wearing a skirt's attractive when you're twenty-three. Didn't mean he was getting lucky though.

I'd have spent my whole check on popcorn, Goobers and Raisinets too, just on the chance it'd keep that girl quiet. The funny thing is, every time she got quiet I found myself looking over my shoulder. Stephen was my best friend, but ain't nobody allowed to mess around in my Fairlane except me and Sara. My Fairlane, my rules.

Angie's battery finally ran low just about the time the second feature ended. I enjoyed a good three minutes of quiet on the drive back until Stephen somehow set Angie to squealing. A sudden commotion like that startles a man. I jerked the wheel and the next thing I know I'm Park Lawn Acres' newest resident.

I always did hate cemetery names. I do have to admit though that I'm decomposing under the greenest damned grass in the county. Of course, it'd be a whole lot nicer if all the neighbors weren't dead. Some of these poor souls have been here since Moses saw God. The living might not be able to see us, but we can see each other. We're like faded Polaroids and shimmer when the moon's right.

Some take to moping about and peering at tombstones, sometimes theirs, sometimes not. I thought at first they were searching for someone. They're not. They're just doing what I'm doing. Remembering. The dead don't got much else to do but remember. And we got forever to do it. Dying's a serious thing. I don't recommend it. It takes a spell adjusting to being dead. Some never do. Some go mad. Maybe they were mad before, but now they've got angry and crazy in a gift-wrapped box. Mine comes with a pretty bow.

I never saw Angie here in Park Lawn Acres. Maybe she's staring at tombstones over in Poplar Grove or one of the church cemeteries. Maybe she's still jabbering at drive-ins and squealing in back seats. One thing's for certain. She ain't with Stephen. Stephen's with Sara. My Sara. They've been here. Together. He puts his hand on her shoulder while she plucks stray weeds and places flowers next to the headstone. Flowers! What damn good is flowers to a dead man?

I'd almost come to terms with it, being dead, being a ghost. Never did figure out why I didn't pass on to someplace else. I never really expected it to be Heaven. God knows Momma tried. I always figured I'd be dodging red devils and pitchforks. But this is where I am. The smile-flashing Franklin David Jones everybody loved stays put six feet under. The Franklin David Jones that still feels the loves and hurts and hates stays put too. Ghosts don't leave their corpses behind. Ain't a matter of won't, it's a matter of can't.

Maybe that's what stokes our anger. That, and seeing a new gold band on your wife's finger that matches the one your former best friend's wearing. I can't help but wonder which came first, them patting down the dirt on my grave or Stephen moving in on my wife. At least he don't come here much anymore. Sara does though. She brings a little girl with her. She's got baby blue eyes. Just like me. And she cries every time Sara brings her here. Just like me.

Smiles fade and dimples disappear. You're left to linger on, cling to hates and hurts and loves because you can't lay a hand to anything. The worst part about dying? It's the living that comes after. Especially on the days they bring you flowers.

 - The End

Monday, September 15, 2014

Visiting With Richard

Blogging buddy extraordinaire Richard P. Hughes has invited me over to his blog, Writing and Living, for the day. He's been running a series called Where I Live and Why I Like It.


Every couple weeks or so, Richard showcases fellow bloggers as they discuss the area in which they live. While my little spot in the road has a tough time competing with the likes of Australia and Hawaii (just to name a couple of the places we've seen so far) it's still a place I like calling home.

If you've not seen any of the posts then do browse a while. Richard is making it possible for us to glimpse places both distant and grand. Who knows, maybe your next novel's setting has already been showcased!

Monday, August 4, 2014

30 Years of Our Journey Through Forever

Myra and I would have celebrated our thirtieth anniversary today. Some might say that thirty years of marriage is a long time, but I say thirty years is just a brief step in our journey through forever.

Below are the two cards I selected to commemorate this milestone in our journey.

Card #1 (envelope)

Card #1 (cover)
 
Card #1 (inside)

Card #2 (envelope)

Card #2 (cover)

Card #2 (inside)

Happy Anniversary, Myra!
An eternity of anniversaries to come.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ten Thousand Times

Today.  Feels like it took a century to get here, but its ominous gray has loomed on the horizon for only a year. And I've made it through every single day that it took to get here.

I'm proud. I'm surprised--shocked really. There were times I didn't think I'd make it this long. Truthfully, there were times I didn't want to make it this long. But I promised her. I said I'd live and love for the both of us.

And I have.

My year of firsts has come to an end and I'm still here. I'm still living. I'm still loving our children and grandchildren for us both. I've survived the birthdays, the holidays, the anniversaries. I've faced the quiet house, the empty bed, the missing lunchtime phone calls and the absence of her I Love My Husband messages on my Facebook wall. From the "see me off to work" kiss to the night's last embrace, I've persevered without it all.

I'm doing my best to do my best, if you follow my logic. That includes my writing. I've had two short stories published since Myra died. The Orchid, the first one I wrote after July 17, 2013, was by far the most difficult story I've ever written. Every single sentence came about as easily as a wisdom tooth yanked out of my jaw. But I kept my word.

I wonder sometimes if I'd have been able to keep that promise were it not for family and friends. Your prayers, your words of encouragement, your patience and understanding, they made the difference--literally--between life and death. I am forever in your debt.

In the eyes of society, the state and God, I'm a widower. In my heart, I'm a husband and will remain so until death reunites us. The poem below, I wrote for my wife.


Ten Thousand Times.

10,000 times I've kissed your rings
10,000 times I've whispered your name
Knowing not what tomorrow brings
Wondering why that woeful day came

10,000 times I've shed a tear
10,000 times I've asked God why
All those times in just one year
Seldom a day do my eyes stay dry

10,000 times I've pictured your face
10,000 times I've struggled to smile
Knowing that you're in a better place
And I'll join you there after my last mile

10,000 words I've penned in letters
10,000 times I've prayed for grace
To endure this grief that fetters
And find true peace as I run this race

10,000 days were we on Earth wed
10,000 times has my shattered heart beat
10,000 ways will my soul have bled
When comes that day it's again complete


The first of 10,571 days "on Earth wed"

Monday, June 23, 2014

Klingon Writing Academy


Today is a good day to write.

Rest assured, writer, we will be published, whatever the cost.

Do not approach me unannounced, especially when I am writing.

There is no honor in writing without revising.

Sir, I must protest. My character is not a merry man.

A writer never breaks his promise.

You have never seen rejection? Then look, and always remember.

Writers never quit.

I've noted that some people use writing as a shield. They tell much, but show little.

Proofread this!

If writers cannot handle a little critique, how will they handle bad book reviews?

Do not think of it as a hobby. Make it part of your day...part of your routine. Make it part of you.

I am beginning to see the appeal of this storytelling.

In writing, there is nothing more honorable than finishing.

You have fully written ten chapters. You may now publish.

Good story. Nice cover.

Words come later. It is the scent that first speaks of inspiration.

Less Facebook. More writing.

If you were any other author, I would edit you where you stand.

Procrastination should be illegal.

Writers do not pursue publishing. They conquer that which they desire.

At the first sign of betrayal I will kill him, but I promise to return the manuscript intact. 

It is true. The muse has returned.

It is a manuscript, a warning. Beware, a successful author is about to arrive.

Push! Push, writer! Push!

My writing class was not like this. That process was very orderly.

You look for validation in the wrong place. The true test of a writer is not without, it is within.

He will succeed. He is Writer, a Storytelling Master. 

I have much to teach you about revision!

Writing, I will not be complete without you.

Qapla'! You are a writer. You are capable of anything!




Sunday, June 1, 2014

My Dearest Myra

Sunday, June 1, 2014

My dearest Myra,

What little I know of history suggests that the "season" of mourning lasts for a year--particularly when losing a spouse. I'm halfway through month number ten now and I ponder what makes the anniversary marker so significant. Pain this severe doesn't heal in a mere year. Perhaps the "year of grieving" is intended as much for the mourner's family and friends as anyone. It gives them the option of saying, "it hasn't been a year yet" as though the mourner can be excused until then.

I'm sitting on my deck this morning and I wonder. What happens afterwards? Will my license to grieve expire? Will my mourning privileges be revoked? Does sympathy become derision, an accusation that I refuse to move past it and get on with my life? Do they expect the hurt will magically cease on the 18th of July?

To this very day, tears come from nowhere in the span of a few blinks of the eye. Even now, the agony that simmers within boils to the surface without warning or even a logical provocation. When will I reach the day that I can rein in these unexpected emotional eruptions? Ever?

Perhaps "moving on" really is just choice. I don't know. I just don't see how healing can co-exist with these memories I dare not lose. I want nothing more right now than to wrap my arms around you and squeeze forever. Nothing! Just to whisper in your ear and see the answer in your eyes, I would trade the rest of my life for that one brief moment. God as my witness, Myra, I would.

I look back on my life with you and find that I am so very grateful for so many things. As with any marriage, we had our share of trials and hardships, but we had a rare devotion, one not experienced by many, I think. Nothing separated us. Nothing beat us. Every problem we faced made us stronger, more committed and made our bond of love deeper. Our mutual triumphs brought us mutual joys and enriched our union.

I do not have many of the regrets that other widowed spouses have. I see little shame and much satisfaction in our twenty-nine years. I see how we each made the other better. I see our mutual appreciation for what we both brought to our relationship and how we each enabled the other to grow and blossom, becoming the beauty we each saw budding within the other.

Is it then any wonder why I still grieve? How can my days in mourning be any fewer than the days that lie before me? And how can I hurt less on the year-plus-one day than on the first day I lived without you by my side? Some pains lessen with time, but this ache will last a lifetime.

Eternally cherishing you,
The one whose heart you'll always hold,
- Jeff