Fearless Writing

The audio version of this post appears below. Just click on “play”.



I’m a pussy when it comes to writing. I really am. And, it gets worse with age. I like raw…like, exposed nerve, mind-boggling, “can’t believe it went there” kind of raw. Human character boiled right down to its component parts – darkness, fear, topics too weird to think about, explosive revelations about otherwise seemingly normal people that shock and make you really have to think and wonder how you could have been so wrong about them.


I love to read raw and I like to write raw. But, I hold back and would bet, hell, I know other writers do the same thing. I truly believe that there is a very small percentage of writing out there that really represents what goes on in the mind of the writer. I read so many books where I think to myself – man, this author could have gone so much deeper and I bet they didn’t for the very same reason I don’t – fear.


If only everyone could be like Bukowski – fearless. Bukowski was completely unaffected by the notion that people would find him to be nothing but a drunk, womanizing, sadistic bum. He didn’t care what people thought at all. I need to do that, but I’m far too afraid. Too much of a pussy.


My fear stems from the notion that you are a piece of every character you create and there are some pieces I don’t want my readers to know about, or that just don’t exist, that were born from my imagination, but that I worry people will think I have direct experience with. Here’s a for instance: hookers. I’ve never engaged a prostitute before and certainly never will. However, I do have experience with hookers through my former career as a private investigator. I worry that if I write a largely accurate portrayal of a scene with a hooker and bring my readers into that scene, then people like – oh, I don’t know, my mom, the mother of my children and everyone who knows me would think that I have been a participant in the oldest profession. Stupid, just stupid, I know it is, but I don’t want to have to explain myself every time I write something racy, off color – raw.


And, that’s just sad. I always have a couple of novels brewing and throughout the process I send passages to my trusted advisors Rose and Holli, whom I’ve mentioned in this blog before. For this one supernatural novel, I have a very graphic scene that takes place in Hell and involves a priest, a little girl and the Devil. The writing is probably some of the best I have ever done. And, when I passed it on to Holli & Rose with a very small exception – I think it was word placement or something, they thought it should stay in and not be changed. Guess what? That paragraph will only see the light of day after either me or mom is safely six feet under.


My intention with that scene is to put the reader directly in front of it and instill terror, repulsion and abject hatred. It scores on all of those points. But, my fear is that someone will read it and be like “damn, that JB Vincent is one fucked and twisted individual that he can come up with shit like that.” I realize Stephen King never had that problem and that’s why he’s so rich and famous. I feel like I have to filter my imagination so that when people see me walking down the street they don’t quickly walk to the other side. Or, friends and family will think: “how come we didn’t realize he was so mentally ill.” Unlike Bukowski, I actually do want people to like me somewhat, or at least not be repulsed.


So, what’s the solution? I honestly have no idea. Like I said, it’s getting worse with age – there are my kids to think about. I can just see them going through my things after I take off for the unknown. “Wow. Daddy was sure one weird dude.” Perhaps I just need some yoga, more absinthe and vodka, or maybe I need to lose the confines of my conservative being and just go for it. I’m going to have to keep you posted on this one.

Free Your Mind – Drinking & Writing

Chasing the Green Faery - So great, and tasty too.

Chasing the Green Faery – So great, and tasty too.

The audio version of this post appears below. Just click “play”.



Writers who were drinkers throughout history are as easy to find as writers who committed suicide. Yeah, I know one probably goes with the other but we shouldn’t assume that. I drink and write – not all the time, but a lot of what I consider to be my best stuff has been written when I was a few martinis or Absinthes in. Some people right now are going – “ah, that explains it” and clicking back to their Facebook page.

The thing is I’m a relatively uptight person whose mind never leaves me alone. Most of what is going on in there is a scattered mess of song lyrics from the ‘70’s and philosophizing on anything from intellectual subjects on high literature to how South Park episodes could possibly be the best morality plays in history. Yup, stuff like that.  And, to get in front of that oncoming train about to wreck is no easy task. So, occasionally I need help. Not like Bukowski Barfly help, or three-week binge help, quite frankly anything I’ve written plastered is atrocious, but the kind of help that comes from a mild buzz at twilight. Of course, the product usually needs some light editing the morning after, but during the time I’m writing I find myself able to disengage enough to get to those things lurking behind synapses that remain generally out of reach when I’m full on engulfed in real life.

Writing is hard. I don’t care what anyone says, and anything that helps get your ramblings unleashed from within and out to whatever audience you’re looking for – even if it’s just for yourself, is fine with me. Now, I really don’t want anyone to think I’m condoning getting hammered just to find your inner voice – I’m not. I have a plethora of friends who are recovering alcoholics and I’m sympathetic to their disease and if I found myself on the wrong side of the bottle I hope I would have the strength to do what they have. But, if you can keep yourself in a controlled environment and need a little boost, then I say go for it. You’ll hear a lot of romance writers say they write with a glass of wine. It’s probably why they’re so prodigious.

Timothy Leary's dead.

Timothy Leary’s dead.

Obviously, liquor is the not the only muse of artists. The examples of drug use throughout history are tremendous when you think about it. Drugs just don’t do it for me at all; I wouldn’t be able to write a single coherent sentence on anything stronger than Ibuprofen. But, that’s me, and again I don’t judge and think whatever works, works.  The brain to me is like the universe – too much out there just waiting to be discovered. I’m not sure the Timothy Leary method of discovering what the brain holds is the healthiest way to do it, but who knows – maybe it is.

This is more than a little weird, but when I was a private investigator, I did a few exhumations and autopsies. On one case I was holding someone’s brain in my hand during an autopsy and had this vision in my mind of a little guy with a shovel digging into the grey matter figuratively excavating everything there was inside of it. (And, I was sober as a judge. Scary, right?) Then as the coroner was slicing it in layers, I thought, wow, imagine all that science out there devoted to pulling out every little piece of one’s consciousness. All those drugs whether legal, illegal, or experimental constantly working to peel away the secrets of a capacity we may never know we have. If I weren’t such a pussy, I’d try some of those drugs and see where they take me. But, I’m comfortable with the boost I get from the occasional mini-vat of vodka and am not willing to take the risk.

The risk being what I believe led to those suicides. I feel very succinctly that if I were to take it up four or five notches, I could easily go the way so many have before. Going too far into a dark mind like mine could be dangerous – hell, at this age I don’t even want to teeter on the edge. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t start to write until my late ‘30’s. I was pretty ballsy in my youth and if I started experimenting with drugs and writing it probably would have ended badly. As much as I live in my own head – I wouldn’t want to blow it up! (or off)

Inspiration – You Fickle Thing You

Headline: "Pretty Bridge Inspires Gruesome Story"

Headline: “Pretty Bridge Inspires Gruesome Story”

The audio for this post appears below. To listen, just click on “play”.



It’s a pretty picture isn’t it? That’s the day of the re-opening ceremony of the Taftsville covered bridge in Taftsville, VT this past September. The bridge got totaled in tropical storm Irene and in true Vermont style the community came together and made sure the structure was perfectly restored to its original 1836 condition. It took two years and a serious amount of work, but it was well worth it. The finished product is beautiful and the celebration of its reopening was a picture perfect apropos New England morning fete. There were politicians, dignitaries, American Flags flying, horses and carriages, an antique car parade, ice cream and kettle corn. Perfect. A little too perfect.

While sitting on the riverbank trying to keep my two and four year olds from getting burnt into human jerky by the unseasonably hot sun and suffering through the blathering of the local pols, a story started to percolate in my overheated brain. What if just as the ribbon were cut this perfect scene turned to chaos? What if something happened to the bridge – like, it collapsed as the first horse driven buggy full of period dressed dignitaries were to fall into the river underneath? Not too many deaths, but of course someone would have to go. And, what if it tore the little town apart – a split between the newcomers to Vermont and the old timers, a divide that resonates all over the state. For instance, what if after all the accusations and blame were thrown around there were a battle as to whether to keep the historic structure or build something modern to avoid this tragedy from ever happening again.

Maybe not the best story, but it was a germ of something I could work with and it fit into my genre. After a few weeks I began working on it, playing around with the characters and such, and although it isn’t finished, I kind of like where the story is going and will probably include it in the follow up book to 5 Tales.

It’s seems overly obvious to say that inspiration can come from anywhere. But, that’s what I like about inspiration – it’s so different for everyone. Mine usually comes from a location, or as I mentioned in my very first blog post, cemeteries. With two young rambunctious children I find cemeteries a great place to let them run free without breaking anything, running out into the road, or falling into the lake we live on. So while they’re getting enough energy out to sleep, I roam around thinking about the people lying underneath my L.L. Bean moccasins. I think it’s the energy in the bone yards that sparks my imagination. I create stories behind the names on the stones and if one hits, I take notes and go back to it later. (By the way, Absinthe helps a lot too. No, really it does.)

My good friend the author R.A. Diane, whose blog you should check out, wrote her book Coffee with my Brother as a way to try and help her Sister-In-Law through the pain of her husband’s death. She had been thinking about it for a while, wanting very badly to alleviate her Sister-In-Law’s grief and then one morning while pouring water into her French press to make coffee, she heard her dead brother say to her: “tell her my story”. There’s some inspiration for ya! The book came out of her at light speed.

To me location is so important for inspiration. Most of my stuff thus far has been born in either Southern California or Vermont, and I have a list of other places I would like to live and write in. I could wreak serious havoc in Charleston, Savannah, or Atlanta. My native state of Connecticut isn’t one of them, and the reason is how ubiquitous it is. The state itself is beautiful, in my opinion one of the most beautiful in the country. But, the pulse of Connecticut is just white noise to me. It’s like this level of static I can’t break through. It’s as if New York City bleeds over into Connecticut, only not enough so to be interesting – just a cauldron of ambition and upward mobility. In SoCal, there is a slowing down of the pace providing time to reflect and the people are much more relaxed – the funny part being most of them are New England transplants. In Vermont, well, Vermont is like it’s own universe with its unspoiled beauty and commitment to self-reliance. Vermonters are simple in their way of life but by no means are they simple and extremely interesting conversationalists when you break though their granite facades. And, man do they make for great character development.

Come on - this doesn't look like a guy who didn't try.

Come on – this doesn’t look like a guy who didn’t try.

Chasing inspiration can be very gratifying as long as you don’t force it. I’ve given up sitting around trying to think up story ideas in a vacuum; it just doesn’t work. If I’m not struck by something I don’t try and wrangle up a plot. One of my favorite quotes is from Charles Bukowski, it actually appears on his tombstone – when asked what the key to life and art is, he replied, “Don’t try.”