Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ed Sullivan Stuck Out His Neck On Fidel--Was He Ever Wrong

One of the most wonderful parts of writing a novel in the days of the Internet are the limitless resources that are only a click a way. There are a lot of film clips about Cuba both before the revolution and afterwards that are free and easily found. I happened upon this link which shows Ed Sullivan interviewing Fidel Castro in Havana within weeks of Batista being overthrown. Here's a shot from the archives of the Chicago Tribune:

Click on the link below to see a video of  how Fidel completely pulled the wool over Ed Sullivan's eyes:

I wonder if Ed Sullivan ever looked back to see how thoroughly he was duped. Castro played him like a proverbial violin.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Finding the Right Time to Write

Balancing the needs of the day job with writing continues to be a challenge. I am grateful for any progress I am able to make toward completion. This past weekend we took the dogs up to Lake Tahoe. I had a meeting at a home on the shore of the lake, so Sammi and Scruffy had an opportunity to go for a dip. Only Sammi ventured in. Scruffy used the opportunity to go beach combing and found a sandwich abandoned on a swimmer's chair. He had a picnic. Here's Sammi cavorting:

I've continued layering the story, which at this point has three distinct story lines and filling holes that have appeared over time. In some respects, fixing a narrative is like repairing a street. I no sooner repair one gap in the pavement when another pothole appears somewhere else.

To further whet your appetite, here's a draft of chapter 2:

Chapter 2

The Sierra Maestra

            Two weeks after meeting Pedro at the club, Vilma Espin labored up a trail rutted with car tracks. It was just wide enough to allow a small four-wheel vehicle to go by, typical of what passed for a road in the Sierra Maestra Mountains. They are located in eastern Cuba and, except for the major cities of Baracoa and Santiago de Cuba, are sparsely inhabited. Dressed in military fatigues and a black beret, Vilma climbed alone, carrying only a rucksack on her back. In the high humidity, the 90 degree heat felt like someone had wrapped her body with a hot wet towel. Up ahead, she heard the sound of a diesel motor, but the jungle was thick, and the road that cut through it, full of switch-backs that blocked her view. She leaped into the brush at the side of the road and hid in the dense growth.

In a few minutes, a Cuban army jeep rumbled down the trail, followed by a half dozen regular troops, armed with rifles. The men’s shirts were drenched in sweat. From the shadows, Vilma waited for them to pass. When the jeep’s motor had faded to a whisper, Vilma climbed out of the jungle and resumed her trek. She climbed up and down the snake-like trail for another three hours. Just after 3 p.m., she spotted a tree to her left, whose bark was scarred with cuts, flayed in the shape of “M.” The wounded tree marked the entrance to the small trail. This was a path just wide enough for a hiker. No vehicle could possibly drive it.

            She walked down the trail for another hour until she came to yet another “M”, marking another branch. She followed the new path about 300 yards and came to an encampment, under a dense canopy of trees. It was filled with canvas tents. As she was about to exit the jungle and come into the clear, she was immediately confronted by a rebel sentry in jungle fatigues that matched he own. He was bearded and stank like week-old meat.

            “Halt,” the sentry said.

            “Halt yourself,” said Vilma. “I am here to see Raul.” Vilma spoke in loud simple words, her voice commanding obedience.

            The flap of one of the tents opened, and a mustached rebel stumbled out. He looked at Vilma, then opened his arms.

“Raul,” she cried. “Mi querida chiquita,” he called racing to Vilma. He reached her in seconds and threw his arms around her. Then, still in an embrace, he kissed her passionately in front of the very confused sentry.

“Put your gun down, comrade,” said Raul, “this wonderful woman is a friend.” Vilma shot a glance at Raul.

“Friend, eh?” she asked.

“You came alone?” Raul asked, ignoring her question. “Where is everyone else?”

“The army has been very active in Santiago and we are short of supplies to bring here. Ever since Frank was killed last July, it has been difficult getting all the medicines we need.”

“Yes, he always knew how to get things done. When those Batista bastards killed him, they killed the conscience of our movement in Santiago. If I ever find out who informed, there will be no place on earth that scum will be able to hide.”

Vilma pushed herself away from Raul. “Look, Frank was great, perhaps too great. In the long run, perhaps we are better off without him, no? I went to Havana with my father two weeks ago to coordinate some groups there, to get more supplies. They’ll be here, but not too soon, I am afraid.”

“Fidel is not going to be happy,” Raul said. He reached his arm around Vilma’s waist and guided her to the tent. As they got to its entrance, he squeezed her, causing her to giggle. “But right now I have other things than revolution on my mind, no?”

Vilma ducked under the tent flap and Raul came in behind her, closing the flap. He approached her smiling face and reached to unbutton her blouse. Vilma reached up and let her hair fall loosely to her shoulders. “Comandante, is this how you treat all your friends? The sentry…” Vilma was interrupted by Raul’s lips covering her own. He drew her close and she returned his kiss, grabbing to open his shirt. “I missed you so very much,” Vilma said, as she lay back on the bed, pulling Raul atop of her. For the better part of an hour, the revolution took a break in the Sierra Maestra.

Vilma and Raul fell asleep in each other’s arms, but were awakened by a voice calling from the tent’s entrance, “Comandante!”

Raul stumbled into his fatigues, leaving Vilma in the warmth of their blanket covered mat, and came out of the tent. The sun had set and a few campfires were lit upon which men were cooking dinner. “What is it Gonzalo?” Raul asked the rebel who had awakened him from his idyl.

“A messenger just arrived. Fidel needs re-enforcements to flank a column coming from Santiago. We need to be there at dawn.”

“Get everyone going,” Raul commanded. “We leave in 30 minutes!” Raul returned to the tent and told Vilma that he was leaving.

“Not without me,” she said. “I’m going to the party.”

“Party? This isn’t going to be a fucking party. Those are real soldiers with real guns heading our way.”

“Then every gun counts,” Vilma said. “I am a better shot than you.”

“You’ve been climbing through the mountains all day and now you want to go all night too? You’re nuts.”

“Only nuts about you, my comandante.”

“Well, if you’re coming along, I suggest you put some pants on.”

The rebel forces made their way to the position by quietly passing along narrow trails into valleys and then back into hills by the light of the moon. Numbering about a hundred, the rebels met up with Fidel’s column and spread out and hid in the jungle opposite Fidel’s along a wide portion of a mountain road that traversed the Sierra Maestra. Some tried to sleep, but the anticipation of the coming fight made sleep elusive.

As the sun came up over the trees, the distant sound of motors and grinding gears could be heard. Vilma, Raul and the others peered through the jungle at the road’s edge and watched as the government troops approached, led by armored vehicles and followed by infantry—in all about a thousand men. When the entire column was in range, Raul gave the order to fire. Shots rang out from both sides of the road as Fidel’s forces joined in the slaughter. A young man, no more than 18 ran toward Vilma’s and Raul’s hidden position in the jungle. Raul fired and missed. Vilma raised a rifle and blew the side of the soldier’s head away. “I told you I was a better shot!” she said.

The battle lasted twenty minutes. More than a hundred of the soldiers were killed. The rebels had one slight casualty. Some of the soldiers had retreated down the road toward Santiago, but the vast majority threw up their hands in a sign of surrender and was quickly surrounded by rebels.

“It’s only a matter of time now, my darling,” Vilma said. “We’ll be marching into Santiago soon.”

“I hope so, but we have to plan as though the war will go on forever. We still need more supplies.”

“I’m working on it. I should be back here in just a few weeks.”

“I wish Frank were still alive.”

“Enough about Frank,” Vilma said. “We can get along quite nicely without Frank.”


“Listen Frank is not here anymore. I am here and I will get you your fucking supplies.”

Raul was puzzled by Vilma’s dismissal of his regrets over Frank Pais’s death. Frank had been a critical part of the supply chain to the Sierra Maestra.

“I am sure you will, chiquita.”

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Over the past two or three days, I've taken a step backwards to look at the narrative arc of the story. It did not take too long to realize that greater tension could be created by shifting between scenes of the hero, Father Pedro Villanueva and the antagonist, Vilma Espin. To do this I used a process called layering. For a good analysis of the technique, see http://writerunboxed.com/2011/01/30/3-layers-of-layering-in-fiction/.

Of course along the way, I tripped over many expressions that had me banging my head against my desk asking myself how could I have written something so awkward. The truth is, I love to edit, to play with the rhythm and the sound of words. Sometimes, I have to stop myself from playing with the language, searching for just the right word or expression, and just write the damn words down and get on with it. As a result, a lot of the editing that should take place during the second and third drafts is occurring right in the middle of the first draft, delaying its completion.

I did manage to take a break today and took Sammi Harris, our 9-year old dog to the dog laundry. It's not really called that, but the description is apt. The place is called Splash Hound USA and is 15 minutes away in West Sacramento (www.splashhoundusa.com). Tony, the owner, is wonderfully gentle with her and manages to grind down her swordlike claws to a pleasantly dull point. Suncita and I did the actual washing. Most of the shampoo got on Sammi, but inevitably the suds got on us, as well. Here's an "after" shot of Sammi and Tony outside the shop:

I will not be getting much writing done tomorrow. Although it will be Sunday, I have a meeting literally on the shore of Lake Tahoe at 1:30, to discuss the sale of some lakefront property that has been in a family for four generations.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Havana Yacht Club

One of the challenges of writing about a place that I have never visited is finding pictures of places where my characters were living. The opening scene of The Death of the White Rose takes place in Havana Bay and the Havana Yacht Club. With the help of Google Maps, I found this aerial photograph of how the club looks today:

It is not too surprising that there is not a single boat in sight in modern day Havana. Fifty years ago, the docks would have been lined with sail boats.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Scruffy Is Now Fluffy!

Tracy from Carr's Mobile Grooming did a fabulous job and Scruffy was relaxed though the whole procedure. Of course I paced outside like an expectant father waiting for news from the delivery room. As promised, here's a shot of Scruffy fresh from the groomer's van:

Today, we tempted fate (Scruffy gets car sick) and took him to Green Acres, a garden nursery. It is August Dog Days there, and all customers with dogs got a discount with any purchase. The dogs got free treats and toys. Scruffy put his feet in the wading pool and patiently waited as her paw was used as an ink stamp for a Christmas ornament (see below).

Food for non-canines was provided by Drewski's Hot Rod's, an upscale food truck. The special was sliced granny smith apples and brie, sprinkled with almonds, grilled on a panini maker. Yum!

The weekend was not all fun and games. I did have time for reflection on a story I had heard. A friend told me of a priest at Assisi who extinguished the votive candles after a busload of tourists left the church. When asked why he did that he explained that the candles could be reused by the next busload. But what of the dreams and wishes embodied in the hope of the flame? "What they don't know won't hurt them!" the priest explained. Not sure, but I think this vignette belongs in The Death of the White Rose.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Note to My Non-registered Readers

I have discovered that starting a blog is more complicated than I thought. I have received several e-mails from readers with suggestions and questions about the book. All comments, positive and negative are welcome. Only, I do wish you would register to follow the blog and post your comments in the blog, rather than e-mail me directly. That way other readers may be prompted to enter into a diaolog about writing and reading or anything else that this blog might prompt them about. Furthermore, some of you are very funny and it is a shame to waste your humor on me alone. Use this blog as a platform for your sterling whit!

Not much writing today as the morning was spent finding a groomer for Scruffy, our new puppy. Here is a "before" picture.

Tomorrow, Carr's Mobile Pet Groomer will drive up our driveway to snip away. I'll post an "after" picture when he is newly groomed.

One comment I received questioned the name of Pedro Villanueva. Pedro is a common name in every Hispanic country. It is particularly important to me because of the Pedro Pan exodus that occurred. This is the name given to event that saw thousands of children being sent to foster care in the US after the revolution started to turn ugly in 1960. The exodus was supported by the Catholic Church. All that was missing was Tinkerbell.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sample of the first draft

I just finished reading Stephen King's On Writing. In it, he advises not to let anyone see the work in progress until its finished. That book was published eleven years ago, when the publishing industy still flourished and the e-Book was not even a blip on the radar screen. Given the explosion of Kindles, Sony readers and the like, that day is over, for better or worse. Because of the omnipresent Internet, authors and readers can have a closer relationship through blogging, webpostings and e-mail. E-publishing, as an alternative to traditional publishing, is gaining traction. Why else would J.K. Rowlings have fired her publisher? In Hemingway's day, that would have been unheard of (so would ending a sentence with a preposition).

Below is how The Death of the White Rose, first draft starts. Let me know what you think:

The Great Day

Hurrah for revolution and more cannon-shot!

A beggar upon horseback lashes a beggar on foot.

Hurrah for revolution and cannon come again!

The beggars have changed places, but the lash goes on.

By William Butler Yeats

Chapter 1

The Beautiful Island

            Eighteen Lightning class sloops cut through the waves of Havana Bay, like a school of fish, first all in one direction and then, in a flash of billowing sail, another, as each rounded a racing buoy. It was the first race of the ‘58 season, and each boat was skippered by members of the Havana Yacht Club. The sailors were haute bourgeois, the upper crust of Havana high society. Except for one. A priest—Father Pedro Villanueva. Thirty-four years old and dressed in madras swim shorts and HYC polo shirt, he looked more like an off duty lawyer than parish priest. As the boat hiked in a close reach, he leaned all of his six foot frame out as far as he could to counterbalance.

As he shoved the tiller to port and started his homeward tack, Pedro could see the windows of the yacht club sparkling with the reflection of the sky, a pink and orange glow from the setting sun. With the breeze steady at 12 knots, he knew he would make it back to the club before dark. He was two lengths behind the lead boat, but the finish line was too close for him to overtake the leader. He’d have to settle for second.

            Pedro’s family had been members of the club since the 30s. It was the most chic of the elite clubs that dominated Havana’s social life, and its members prided themselves that even Batista, now dictator, did not qualify as a member. The club was for-whites-only, and Batista, part Indian, white and Chinese, lacked the necessary pedigree. Pedro’s family defrayed his dues, as his stipend from the archdiocese did not begin to cover his cost of living, let alone a yacht club membership.

     That Pedro Villanueva would become a priest came as no surprise to anyone in his family. His father and mother had always planned for their first born child, Tomas, to follow in his father’s profession--medicine. Dr. Hugo Villanueva was an obstetrician with a busy practice in Havana. From the time Tomas was a child, his father pushed him toward the goal of someday joining the practice. Alberto, the second born, was destined to be a lawyer, the profession of his maternal grandfather. That left the church for Pedro, child number three. Twice a week, Pedro's mother went to the Iglesia del Carmen for mass, praying for her children, but most of all, praying that Pedro would be her gift to God for all that He had given her. 

For his part, Pedro had no interest in the church. He was always the one who would not finish his homework, was late to class, talked too loudly or giggled too much at the wrong time. He always seemed to provoke the professors at the Belen School, in whatever classroom he found himself in. Ramon de la Vega, the assistant director of Belen, called Pedro’s mother at least once a month to report on his most recent transgressions. The calls were inevitably followed by an appointment between Pedro and his father’s belt, but nothing seemed to curb his enthusiasm for getting into mischief.

Sailing out of the Havana Yacht Club beyond the canon of La Cabaña fortress, he found the world was fresh and full of a natural rhythm. Seabirds dove for fish, and dolphins playfully raced alongside his sailboat. There was peace to be enjoyed there that was absent in the final dark days of Batista, when terrorist bombs would explode at movie theaters, and the news was packed with stories of revolution and death. He was also away from his mother, who constantly reminded him about how proud she was of him for joining the priesthood. Best of all, he was away from the church which he had come to regard as his soul’s prison. Out on the blue-green expanse of water the breeze blew steady and he did not have to think about the worries of his every day world. Prior to 1958, sailing was an activity he did only for the pure fun of it. He had been a priest for almost 10 years, and the weekly Saturday voyages were as a regular part of his routine as officiating at mass at the Iglesia del Espíritu Santo. As Batista grasped to hold on to power, and the revolution brewed in the distant mountains, his sailing became an escape from the darkness of the political turmoil that was engulfing his homeland. 

When he took the position as a priest at Iglesia del Espíritu Santo, his parents’ dreams for him seemed to be fulfilled. It was the oldest church in Cuba, dating to the 1630s. While an integral part of Havana’s religious life, it had from time to time ventured into politics, receiving a royal prerogative from King Charles III to grant political asylum to anyone oppressed by the local government. When he first learned of the church’s history with asylum, Pedro thought it an anecdote that was historically interesting, but of no significance modernly. Cuba had long ago left the control of the mother country, and the Spanish king’s decree appeared to be no less an artifact than the painting of the seated Christ adorning the wall to the altar’s right. Certainly, as a priest in Batista’s Cuba, where despite occasional revolutionary turmoil and the ominous headlines, he had never even thought of offering a parishioner asylum; most of them seemed more concerned with just getting by at home and following the Catholic cycle at church. The store keepers, fishermen, and clerks did not come to church to discuss the student rebellions, or the Castro brothers’ July 26th movement, or the corruption of the Batista government. Political asylum was an arcane issue, not a reality in his experience. It never dawned on him that history might come full circle and entangle him in the granting of asylum.

Pedro had eventually succumbed to his mother’s entreaties to enter the priesthood, but not without a struggle. He was not exactly a stranger to romance, and the concept of forever celibacy weighed heavily on his mind. He had had more than a few girl friends in college, and the thought of not having the intimacy of a woman for the rest of his life troubled him. He discussed this with his own priest, Father Domingo, whom he had known since childhood. Domingo always looked like he needed a shave. He was short and round and in the tropical heat of Cuba, he perpetually wiped the sweat from his forehead. Once Pedro had seen him fall asleep during mass, and it was only because the music director walked over and “accidentally” stepped on his foot that Domingo regained consciousness. Although not much to look at, Domingo had a good heart and was always very kind to Pedro. He told him that the priesthood was a calling. He believed the reason priests could not marry is that the Church wanted its priests to love everyone, not just one woman and the children she might bear. By devoting himself to the Church, a priest could show the love of Jesus to everyone in the parish. Domingo advised Pedro to listen to his inner self and he would make the right decision.

Pedro tried desperately to hear. He was aware of his privileged youth, and he felt that it was his turn to do what he could for those who were not children of wealth. While there was a growing middle class under Batista, there were still masses of the poor who needed help. He finally decided that there was nothing compelling commanding his attention to do something else, he would try to see where the seminary might lead.

After entering the priesthood, he was able to use his social connections to the upper class world of his parents to support his various causes. The club members purchased many a raffle ticket at his request or sent skilled workers to fix a leaking roof or broken boiler. For this the Havana Yacht Club was a great benefit. The only hitch was that its whites-only admission policy gnawed at him. He had brought the matter up to his parents, who urged him to keep such concerns to himself. Try as he might, he could not erase his awareness of the dissonance between the brotherhood of man that he preached at church, and the symbolism of his being a member of a segregated yacht club.

He had been a priest ten years, but it seemed that recently, as he looked back at his life on the pulpit, he realized that he had been unable to make but a small ripple in the ocean of turmoil that most in his parish faced. With each passing month, the calling, for which Father Domingo had told him to listen, seemed to fade to a whisper. When he looked in the mirror, he was not happy with what he saw. In his reflection he saw someone ill at ease. He felt like a fish out of water when he officiated at mass. This was not him; he performed the service precisely the way he was taught, and it was the same every time he did it. Sometimes there were different faces accepting the Eucharist, but the act of sanctification had become routine, practiced and done completely without thought. The spiritual life of the church did not comfort him the way it had at the beginning of his carrer. Everywhere, new casinos and clubs were opening. Some had Hollywood stars standing at the entrance greeting the public. Others offered live sex shows. The sensuality of the modern Havana made him literally hot under the collar.

While he felt different from how he thought priests should feel about his existence as a parish priest, he also sensed that he didn’t fit in outside either. At the club he felt uncomfortable around the others, including his own family. And oh those beautiful women sparkling in the candle light in the club dining room, he was not sure how to talk to them. His tongue thickened when one came near. He stammered, not being able to get his words out.

After going to the locker room to shower and change after the race, he walked into the main dining room to find his parent’s table. His casual attire from the race had been replaced by his priest’s white collar and black tunic. His only affectation was a brilliantly shiny gold cross hanging from a chain around his neck and his Brylcreemed hair parted sharply to the side, with every shiny follicle firmly in place. His brother, Alberto, was there with his wife. Pedro arrived just as the canon fired from La Cabaña across the Bay. The roar was enormous and was an event signaling 9 p.m. each night since the 18th century. He saw his family on the other side of the dance floor and began to make his way to them. His parents, looking like well dressed-mannequins from El Encanto department store, the Saks Fifth Avenue of Havana, were seated at a large round table. Alberto was wearing a tuxedo, and his wife, Alejandra, was wearing a strapless dress which left little to the imagination. As Pedro walked, he focused on a woman dancing a Tango in the center of the floor.

Her every movement was just a little more languid than that of the other women on the floor. Her arm would stretch just a little further down her leg, she arched her back just a hair more exaggerated, her glance just slightly chillier than the others dancing beside her. Soon, the other dancers wandered to the side of the dance floor and stood facing toward the voluptuous dancer and her partner, admiring every sensual move that they made.

Pedro stared at the gyrating woman on the dance floor and smiled. Women can be so beautiful, he thought. He asked Alberto if he knew who this creature was and received a précis on his vision. Vilma Espin was the daughter of Jose Espin, a Bacardi lawyer and had attended MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She spoke English fluently and moved about Cuban high society with ease. Pedro was very taken by her energy and wavy brunette hair. She obviously had the attention of most of the men in the ballroom. Alberto had assisted her father with some legal matters regarding a distillery owned by Bacardi. Vilma held a degree in chemical engineering, but did not look in any way like a scientist to Pedro. Rather, as she tangoed across the floor, he was reminded of a modern day Carmen. All she lacked was a rose in her mouth.

At Pedro’s request, Alberto stood up and waylaid Vilma when she walked by their table, to make an introduction. “Your dancing was exquisite,” Pedro said, as she extended her hand in greeting. She smiled broadly at the praise. As she shook Pedro’s hand with her right, she draped her left hand on his shoulder. As they talked, she played delicately with his collar, as if she were a moth drawn to a light. Rather than chasten, it appeared to inspire her sensuality. Pedro retreated and moved a step back, forcing her hand to drop away.

“Now Father, don’t be so shy,” she teased. Pedro’s face reddened. “I’ve embarrassed you, I am sorry,” she said.

“I am not used to beautiful women being so close to me,” Pedro said. Perspiration formed on his forehead and above his upper lip.

“You may be a priest, but you are still a man, no?” asked Vilma. “I saw you out there racing today. You nearly won!”

Pedro’s face was now crimson.

Her laughter was infectious. “Oh listen to me. There I go again, I am embarrassing you,” said Vilma. “I am sorry.” Another couple jostled its way onto the dance floor behind her, pushing Vilma forward, pressing up against Pedro’s chest. Pedro was flummoxed. Their brief collision came to an abrupt end when a uniformed army officer, who had been obviously drinking, staggered over and put his arm around her.

“Here you are, Chiquita! Baring your soul to the priest?” he said. “Padre, you better think up a long list of penances to expiate Vilma’s soul.”

The officer guided Vilma onto the dance floor. Pedro sat down and grabbed his drink. The trumpets growled, and the bongos beat out a distinctive rhythm; the two got lost in a crowd of cha-cha dancers and a party that would last until the small hours of the morning. Pedro, as always, went home to his church alone.


Monday, August 8, 2011

The Death of the White Rose

Having reached 30,000 words into my story I have decided to give it a more allegorical name. The poem, "I Cultivate a White Rose", is a clear description of José Martí's hopes for his homeland. It is as follows:

I cultivate a white rose
In July as in January
For the sincere friend
Who gives me his hand frankly.

And for the cruel person who tears out
the heart with which I live,
I cultivate neither nettles nor thorns:
I cultivate a white rose.

The poem is an expression of a Cuban version of the Golden Rule. Martí was a man of peace. A leader of the Cuban independence movement against Spain, he wanted to establish unity amongst the people of Cuba, through a common identity, with no regards to ethnic and racial differences. Today, Martí's dream has yet to become a reality.

Sunday, August 7, 2011



I sure hope the answer is yes, otherwise they'll be no quitting my day job. The challenge is the blank screen and the unforgiving whiteness of its empty space. Once I finally sit down, do the required fidgiting and actually touch the keys, the story does start to spill out.  Of course, it is easy to get sidetracked with editing and polishing what I wrote yesterday or last week. Whenever I look at the existing work, it never is the way I want it and changing words to convey shades of meaning and rhythms is very enticing. Sometimes it is hard to push onward and get the story down, reminding myself that I can edit later.

Yesterday, I read about layering--structuring the story so that two or three stories are told at the same time. This was a technique that came naturally in my first novel. It is not coming so naturally this time. Going back and scanning each chapter has brought certain missing steps along the way that I must go back to butress some of the conflicting story lines. At least I have a summary now to work with that shows what happens in each chapter.

For now, it's time to go for a swim. I am glad it is summer and the pool beckons.

Slow progress, but progress at least


The antagonist in The Death of the White Rose is Vilma Espin.  She was an integral part of the Fidelistas in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, eventually marrying Raul Castro, the current president of Cuba. In reviewing the first 28,000 words, I realized that more focus had to be brought on her activities that took place outside the presence of the protagonists. While she was a real person and took a historically important role, her character in the novel is entirely made up and plays a role I only imagine she could have played, had she ever met the heroes of my story. I managed to get down 750 words about her exploits in the Sierra Maestra before my eyes started to close. The day job just gets in the way constantly and by the time I have a chance to write, I'm beat.

A word about the heroes--there are two of them. The first one the reader meets on page one. His name is Pedro Villanueva, a Catholic priest, age 36. Pedro is not happy being a priest, and he only entered the priesthood to make his parents happy. That reason does not seem to fulfill him at the time he first enters the story. He's happiest when sailing a sloop on Havana Bay, as a member of the Havana Yacht Club, a membership paid for by his parents. While he enjoys the sailing, he is troubled by the fact that the club is a whites-only enterprise, making him feel that he is violating his principles. The other club members are proud of the fact that Batista was denied membership due to his being mixed race. The second hero is Maria Guerra, the chief auditor of El Tribunal de Cuenta, the Cuban IRS. She is the third highest ranking person at El Tribunal under Batista, although she is a secret supporter of Fidel Castro. We meet her for the first time at a meeting of Fidelistas called by Vilma to gather supplies to smuggle to the rebels in the mountains.

I hope this brief character introduction will help understand the process and progress of the telling of the story. For now, my eyes once again are shutting and I am signing off.