by MC D’Alton
Q. What got you interested in writing?
I might say I have always been interested in telling stories.
Q. How long have you been writing?
All writing? On the order of 50 years, but that includes sermons and software programs. Think programming is not literature? I doubt you will find a stronger critique of grammar, syntax, and spelling than a compiler used to generate the machine code for a computer.
Q. Do you have any goals/projects in the pipeline?
Yes. Down is the Moos. A pastiche on John Steinbeck’s The Moon Is Down. It follows that model, but set on the Moon, it is not Steinbeck’s story. I used the pastiche to kick start the story, and the amazing thing is that it worked.
Q. What do you like most about writing?
I’m writing for me. Not some corporate deadline or overseer. These are my words in my context in any world I want them to be. I think I have covered all the genres in the past 3 years and seem to work best in sci-fi and memoir like stories.
Q. What genre do you write?
A lot of science fiction, but I have delved into a lot of other areas. Given I began writing as a Baptist preacher and retired from a 45 year career as a software engineer, there is a lot of material to choose from.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
It was the first genre I sat down read a book all the way through. It was Third grade and I had found a Heinlein YA book in the library.
Q. Where do you get your ideas?
I don’t know. Disturbances in the cosmic aether?
Q. Tell us about your process, how do you get into a writing mindset?
Process sounds so much like a blender, or a Mix Master from the 1950s. Throw a bunch of stuff into a bowl apply mixmaster and out pops The Lord of the Rings. Really I guess my process, if I have one, it is to wait for that stray gamma ray burst. Tain’t reliable, at all.
Q. What are you working on at the moment?
Just short stories or opinion/memoir, and of course several magnum opii that need to be finished.
Q. Which writers inspire/influence you?
William Kent Krueger, Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Tolkien, Lee Childs, Dan Brown, Jim Baggot, Baldacci, Hawking, Brian M. Fagan, and Lawrence Krauss.
Q. What else about your writing journey should we know?
It keeps me occupied. Whether writing Facebook diatribe or working on a real fantasy. I like writing dialogue. I can hear it while I am writing and I can feel the story move as the characters talk.
Excerpt of “For I Have Touched The Wall”
Clothes in tatters, sandals barely hanging to his feet, the old man staggered, stumbled, fell to his knees, and slumped onto his back. In the middle of the busiest intersection of the town, that old rag-a-muffin lay.
A young man rushed into the intersection, threw his arms wide to halt the horse drawn cart that would have trampled the old man.
“What?” Cried the driver of the horse and cart. “What be the matter, Prim?”
“Did ye not see the old man in the middle of the way, Mr. Tinker?”
“Old man? Where?” Tinker looked to Prim and then down and his faced turned a pale white. “No, I never … how did … I would never … Thank ye Prim … Do ye know his trouble?”
“Have you control of Dobbin?”
“Yes, yes, I’ve got the old girl now.”
Prim released Dobbin’s bridle and turned to the heap of rags at his feet.
“Sir,” he called softly. A member of the Fourth Fire Brigade and trained as a medic, Prim reached down and had trouble finding a pulse. “Weak and thready,” he mumbled to himself when he did find it.
“Mr. Tinker, can ye fetch Doc Billings?”
“Certainly.” Now with purpose, Tinker turned Dobbin down the left cobblestone street. The clippety clop of hooves echoed away as Prim turned back to the old man in front of him. Gently he probed and felt for broken bones and other signs of trauma. No breaks, and no bleeding, but he found several bruises that drew a low moan from the old man as Prim explored chest and head.
The next few minutes were a blur as Doc Billings arrived and the old man was rushed to the nearest hospice. The rags were removed, and nurses gently bathed and dressed the old man. No identity tags were found. Not even hardcopy. All they found in a hidden pocket of the tattered and torn cloak was a locked journal.
Prim sat near the old man’s bed. For two days Prim and the nurse administered care to the old man, a guest of the county. At last, the old man looked at Prim with rheumy, unrecognizing eyes, squeezed his hand, and whispered, “for I have touched the sky.” His last sound was a death rattle, his eyes closed, and his hand went limp.
Unashamedly, Prim took the journal from the night stand, and pressed the old man’s right thumb to the journal’s lock. He heard the mechanism click and release. The journal might tell him who this old man was. Maybe he had family that should be informed. Most of all, Prim needed a name, an identity that Prim could remember.
Doc Billings stepped behind Prim. “Do think that might help?”
“I don’t know, Doc. It’s all we’ve got. I’d like to know who he is.”
“And what he meant.”
“‘For I have touched the sky.’ What did he mean? What sky? Where did he touch the sky, and most of all, why was he seeking it?”
“Yeah, that is curious. Why was he here? Did he choose Belfast? Where did he travel from? Like you said, where did he touch the sky and why come here.”
Doc busied himself with the body, and motioned to Prim that he did not need assistance. “You see what you can find in that journal.”
“I’ll be in the study,” Prim said as he carefully placed a finger in the journal to keep it from snapping shut, and walked out the door and down the hall. “Heather, is there coffee?”
“You be a knowing that Prim Palver. Where do you want me ta bring it?”
“I can carry me own coffee, ye needn’t bother, but I do thank ye.”
“Truth to tell taint quite done yet. Got a bit more perkin’ ta do, so where will ya be?”
“Ach … I see, in the study.”
Prim took the platter, heavy with freshly baked treats; the aroma of butter, pecans, and chocolate chips almost more than he could stand. He teetered the platter in one hand, and made his way from the counter.
“Now don’t ye drop that, Mr. Palver. That’s a fine bone China,” Heather called after him. Prim put the hand with the journal under the other edge of the platter to steady it and walked into the study. No one there this time of night. He sat the platter down on a table near a comfortable reading chair, took a seat, and a tollhouse.
He examined the journal. Soft black Moroccan leather. Well finished, tight stitching. No gold embossing on the outside, just a thumb print lock. He looked at the flyleaf and whistled. It was incredible technology. Each page, as flimsy as fine vellum, could store hundreds of pages and illustrations. The journal contained hundreds of those pages. He flipped through the pages and all but a few, at the very back, were full, each with uncounted sub-pages.
Near the middle, as he exposed one page the air was filled with the strum of a lute, and the soft voice of a tenor singing a ribauld diddy. He blushed, but paused in flipping the pages. The diddy ended and the tenor was joined by a baritone voice and a beautiful harmony filled the study telling a tale of love lost, and found again.
The journal was old. As old, at least as old, as the Builders.
“And what was that I heard?”
Prim started, nearly dropping the journal, as Heather stood next to him, offering a steaming crock of coffee. He reached for the coffee.
“Careful, t’is a might hot,” Heather said as she sat the crock on the table.
“What was what you heard,” Prim asked as he smelled the coffee and took a cautious sip.
“That lovely music. I dinna know ye could sing Prim.”
“I didn’t either,” he said with a sheepish grin, “but wasn’t me. Was the journal.”
“Really now? And how can a journal sing two part harmony and strum a lute?”
“This one can.” Prim stroked the outside cover of the journal. “It’s old Heather. The flyleaf gives the date of binding well before the Troubles, during the time of the Builders.”
“Ach, ye jest Prim Polver.”
“No. No I’m not.” Prim opened to the fly leaf again and turned it so Heather could read.
“And here…” he turned two pages passed the fly leaf, “is a list of those who have held the book … no … not held … added to the story recorded here. Even illustrations and recorded music during their travels.” The list was long. It started before the Troubles.
Thank you so much Gary for being our guest here on BookBaybZ!