Perseverance Furthers

By Mickey Friedman
January 17, 2015

I usually begin Christmas at Fuel Great Barrington. Ever since I lost my office, I write each day at Fuel. But this year Fuel was closed. Blessedly I found Christmas morning sanctuary with Craig and compatriots at Pleasant and Main in Housatonic.

Pleasant and Main is a perfect fit for the town in which it lives. Because Housatonic is mostly a home for the people who live there; and thankfully there are still not enough reasons for tourists to wander the streets except to come and buy Richard’s wonderful bread and eat good food. And for me Pleasant and Main is still filled with the spirit of Joan and Jay Embree: Joan, a writer extraordinaire, a cook beyond compare; Jay, a host of impressive skill. Joan and Jay established the unpretentious atmosphere that Craig has lovingly maintained, and he has continued their commitment to comfort and quality, healthful cooking that Housatonic folk can afford.

Year’s end reminds me of what I’ve lost and what I’ve found. This was the year I annoyed many who wanted a $56 million high school – “the haters gonna hate,” Taylor Swift told me – and the year I finished my novel. “Shake it off,” she suggested.

It took me several years to write my first book and almost forty years to get it published. It took me ten years to write my second book and just days to publish it.

No Stephen King, I.

I thought I’d get the first book published in a heartbeat: a rare oral history of an American Communist Party family, father, mother, daughter, all telling their unique stories in a very personal way. I’ve written about my struggles to get A Red Family out into the universe at http://aredfamily.com.

I began Danger Times Two: An I Ching Mystery with just the tiniest of ideas: a woman with amnesia arrives in the Berkshires with no idea of who she is or why she’s here. When she finds a woman who uses the I Ching to help people. The I Ching, an ancient Chinese text, is a guidebook of sorts, an oracle people have consulted for more than two thousand years with questions about what to do in life. You start with a question that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. In olden days people threw yarrow sticks but modern practitioners have substituted three coins, thrown six different times. Depending on the number of heads and tails, you draw either a straight or broken line and build a hexagram of six stacked lines. Each hexagram tells a story that suggests an answer.

I could only see bits and pieces of the story over the years. Until I made a deal. My characters, we really, would actually throw the I Ching when we had a question about what to do, and we’d all live with the consequences. So there were many times I’d sit at my table at Fuel throwing three pennies, looking for guidance from my over-worked copy of the Princeton University edition of the I Ching, drawing hexagrams on Fuel’s little white napkins.

And all the while I was wondering what to write and re-writing what I’d written, life was changing for writers. Finding a publisher for A Red Family was akin to fishing a large lake bereft of fish. Sending manuscripts off into the unknown, waiting and more waiting, then reading “no’s” tinged with some regret or significant disinterest.

I made a similar effort with an earlier version of Danger, discovering that in the intervening years things had gotten even worse. Publishers won’t even answer an email unless it’s from an agent. And finding an agent is near impossible. A gated community guarded by gated gatekeepers.

Thankfully, the best of technology and the Internet is now empowering people to publish their own work.

So my friend Bill Shein and I founded our own Red Crow Books, which kindly consented to open all gates and publish Danger. It’s remarkably easy with the help of Amazon’s CreateSpace to get a book from manuscript to market. And so you can find Danger in paperback or a Kindle edition at the imaginary Mickey Friedman digital store at http://www.amazon.com/Mickey-Friedman/e/B00R4S2MSE/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0.

I’m always impressed with writers who know what their books are about, and can summarize them in a short paragraph that sends you rushing to read them, who market their books with great enthusiasm. I’m still discovering things I missed about Danger.

I know it’s about amnesia in all its forms, the secrets we keep from others and ourselves. It’s about family, and there are three very different families in Danger. And as the I Ching often reminds us, it’s about the light and dark in life. And because there’s the dark, there’s the danger.

It took me a long time to write this book. A lot of iced lattes. But as the I Ching teaches, perseverance furthers. Happy New Year.

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