Revision Update: The One-Third Mark

Photo1Yesterday I hit the one-third mark on my next novel’s major revision. Other revisions will follow, but this is the heavy-lifting phase, so it’s great to have the first 50,000 words essentially in place.

For the first few weeks, I revised fairly quickly. The last ten days have been a grind. Hours on a single page, that sort of thing. I suppose it’s the natural ebb and flow of the creative process. The chapters I’m revising now were originally written in October 2012, and they’re more of a mess than earlier chapters. I must have been rusty after taking a break that summer, and I’m hoping the next few chapters are in better shape.

Still on target to have a finished manuscript by the first day of spring, 2014: an arbitrary deadline that just felt right.

The 12,000-Pound Potato

Yesterday, right before bed, I read a news story about The Great Big Idaho Potato. It was here in my own hometown and nobody had told me. I’d never heard of it before, but it’s a 12,000-lbs. replica potato, it’s already travelled 18,000 miles cross-country, and it was parked less than five miles from my house.

It was scheduled to leave for Syracuse the following morning. I went upstairs, walked into the bedroom, and said to my wife:

“There’s a giant potato parked in Troy. I’m going to drive down and see it.”

“Go out in the hall and walk back in,” she said.

I went out in the hall and walked back in.

“What did you say?” she asked.

“There’s a giant potato parked in Troy. I’m going to drive down and see it.”

“Why am I even surprised?”

“I know! I won’t be long.”

“Be safe.”


Life Beyond Writing Q&A: Kevin Guilfoile

Twenty questions for authors, none about writing. Some questions are not in the form of a question. (Previous Q&As may be found HERE.)

This week we have KEVIN GUILFOILE, author of A Drive into the Gap, The Thousand, and Cast of Shadows.

Drive-into-the-Gap-254x3001. Rename yourself.

KG: Barry Manilope.

2. Satan hoofs up and says two words to you. What are they?

KG: “Barry Manilope?”

3. Give us an A+ summer song.

KG: “Bag of Hammers” by Thao with The Get Down Stay Down [Soundcloud]

4. What is the worst injury you’ve ever sustained?

KG: Full body, ventral bruise after being launched from a sled in Brian Boyer’s back yard, righting myself in mid-air, and making spread-eagled, pancake impact with the side of Luke Sampson’s clubhouse. 

5. Form a supergroup using any four musicians, living or dead, that would be thoroughly awesome to experience, for better or worse.

KG: Ray Davies. John Prine. Syd Barrett. Demi Lovato.

6. What was your best Halloween costume?

KG: Nakatomi Towers security guard, the first guy killed in the original Die Hard. Had to explain that one a lot, but worth it.

7. Tell us something you built.

KG: A loft in college that was somehow not the cause of my grisly death. Other than that, most of my construction has been in the medium of Lego. In fact, I’m a little bit famous in my house as the go-to guy when you have to put stickers on those tiny bricks. Fortunately, I live next door to the man who built my house.

8. If you could safely have one non-domesticated animal as a lifelong companion, what would it be? (Fantasy creatures are allowed.)

KG: Minotaur, right? Does anyone ever say anything else?

9. What do you like to grow?

KG: Mold, from the looks of my refrigerator crisper.

978140007827110. Name a thing you love that nobody else you personally know also loves.

KG: This. I wish it were longer.

11. How would you like those eggs?

KG: Two of them, over easy, hash browns, bacon, Greek toast, OJ. Wait 15 minutes, then bring me a Mountain Dew in a to-go cup.

12. What’s the worst thing about your favorite holiday?

KG: The radio station that, starting just before Thanksgiving, plays the same 20 Christmas songs over and over. And I say to my wife, “I just put 300 cool Christmas songs on your iPod. Sufjan Stevens, William Bell, Diana Krall…” and she says, “No, this is fine.” But it isn’t fine. It really isn’t.

13. You’ve just been turned into a lousy superhero. Who are you, and who is your nemesis?

KG: Titanium, a man with really strong knees. Super strong, I mean, not just for his age. His nemesis is Paison, who always orders exactly the right amount of pizza. I’m talking uncannily. Even if extra people show up. Kids. Neighbors. Whoever. Exactly the right amount.

14. Name a thought that has profoundly scared you in the night.

KG: If you were asking my brother this question he would surely say it is the memory of the night I went sleepwalking, grabbed an (unloaded) deer rifle off the wall, jumped up onto his bed and woke him up by gently pressing the barrel into his forehead. If you’re asking me, it’s not whatever I was dreaming that night. I awoke in the morning quite refreshed.

15. You’re stinking rich. What’s the first thing you add to your home?

KG: A portcullis.

16. What are you up to this weekend?

KG: Guitar and drum practice. Two soccer games. Turning the guest bedroom into a music room. Overseeding the lawn. Not laughing when the kids accidentally swear. Grilling. Shiraz. The Wall Street Journal Saturday puzzle. Hockey playoffs. Elmore Leonard’s Riding the Rap. Tapping in on video games when one of the boys has to go to the bathroom. Cleaning the garage. Top of the Lake

978140007826417. Which color makes you feel the most comfortable? The most anxious?

KG: La-Z-Boy Blue. Crippling Magenta.

18. What is the strangest job you ever had?

KG: I was a “houseboy” on a large private estate for three summers. It does make watching Downton Abbey feel more immediate. Also I only just realized this year that my job description (which actually appeared on my paycheck) is probably horribly racist.

19. I mean honestly: aren’t you better off living without ___?

KG: Erasable pens. 

20. James Cameron discovers something new at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. What do you hope it is?

KG: A cassette recording of me, Rob Crampton, Karl Hartmann, and Sam Barwick playing Dungeons & Dragons in 1981. I would rest easier knowing where it is and that salt, water pressure, and the loamy secretions of prehistoric Kraken have rendered it unplayable.

Kevin Guilfoile is the author of two novels, Cast of Shadows and The Thousand, that have been translated into more than 20 languages. His latest book is a memoir, A Drive into the Gap.

Official Site
Kevin on Twitter

Previous Q&As may be found HERE.

Buy Kevin’s Books:

A Drive into the Gap
Official Site
Barnes & Noble

The Thousand
Barnes & Noble

Cast of Shadows
Barnes & Noble

The Best Imaginary Friends I’ve Ever Had

FSG asked me for a short essay about summer reading, so I wrote about my love of the Patrick O’Brian Aubrey/Maturin novels, which probably constitute the best reading experience of my life. These books were the basis for the superb and criminally un-sequeled movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

The Best Imaginary Friends I’ve Ever Had

This summer I’m going to start rereading Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series, about life in the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. This isn’t the kind of fiction I usually read, and yet my first pass through the series was the best reading experience of my life.

I’m not alone. Director Peter Weir, who eventually directed the movie adaptation, Master and Commander, used to plan for certain trips by determining how many O’Brian novels he ought to pack. David Mamet finished rereading the eighth book and said to his wife, “This fellow has created characters and stories that are part of my life.” Everyone I’ve met who’s read these novels responds similarly. Used book stores frequently don’t have copies on hand; one store owner believed that people who bought the books tended to keep them. And I recently got to know a writer three-thousand miles away when we shared enthusiasm for the series on Twitter. Captain Jack Aubrey and his companion, the naturalist, physician, and spy Stephen Maturin, felt like mutual friends.

I would see these books on the shelf when I worked at Barnes and Noble during college — a long row of similarly sized novels with pastel spines — and wonder who on Earth read them…

Continue reading at FSG’s Book Keeping

And here’s a good scene from the movie:

Fire + Tornado = Author Fun

I did a fun conversational interview thingy with author Kate Southwood about our novels (her: FALLING TO EARTH, me: FELLOW MORTALS) for Barnes & Noble. We talked about the similarities between our books, approaches to writing, what we like to read, and lots of other stuff.

Please check it out:

Emotions Bled Through, Almost Unexpectedly: Dennis Mahoney & Kate Southwood at B&N

How to Hang a Hammock Seat from a High Branch

Our son got a hammock seat from his grandparents and we wanted to hang it from the backyard maple, so he could swing and read and max/relax in the yard now that it’s warm.

It didn’t come with rope so my wife and I went to the almighty Tractor Supply. We bought polypropylene rope with a load weight of 420 lbs., so our son would have to do something really crazy to break it.

First off, cool trick: with this kind of synthetic rope, you can melt the frayed ends together with a lighter so it doesn’t unravel:




The tricky part was getting the rope tied to a branch thirty feet in the air. I learned how to tie a double bowline knot, which leaves a secure loop at one end of the rope.


Then I had to get the knot over the branch and pull it back down. Even with a stick tied to the throwing end, this was hard to do. The stick wasn’t quite heavy enough to compensate for the weight of the slack rope, which kept slowing the stick and preventing me from getting it over the branch. I finally did, and then the stick just dangled there. The easy solution was to snap-ripple the end of the rope I still had. Each ripple let the stick fall a little farther down, until at last I had both ends on the ground with the rope looped over the branch.

I slipped the loose end into the earlier knot loop and pulled.


The knot rode up and tightened itself on the branch. It was incredibly satisfying, as good knots often are.


After that I tied another double bowline at the opposite end and clipped on the hammock seat. Our son spent hours in this thing. He had his iPod at one point, but for the most part he was content to hang there, watching the dog and daydreaming. He even went out this morning when it was cold enough to need a puffy vest. Total success.


The Plain Dealer on FELLOW MORTALS

The Plain Dealer in Cleveland has this to say about FELLOW MORTALS:

Every character in this tightly knit debut novel has a choice to make in how to handle the aftermath of the tragedy. What each one does affects the rest, bringing home the truth that ‘you’re not alone, even when you are.’

Read the review (halfway down the page), and please buy the book!