Nathaniel’s E-Journal May 2007 – I’m Now A Published Author

As I sit here typing my mind is still in a whirl.  The idea that something I’ve written is actually getting published seems unreal.  Then again a lot of things I’ve done in my long life feel that way.

The first time I stepped out onto a stage in vaudeville to play a part in one of the Marx Brothers routines I felt the same way.  I’d been helping out in their rehearsals and knew the routine by heart, so when Gummo wasn’t able to appear with his brothers one night, I was drafted then and there.  I’m proud to say that I did not suffer stage fright, but that was mostly because I had Julius, Arthur and Leonard with me.  I knew they had my back and I wasn’t about to let them down.  In a way, it was like being back in the Union Army, where I knew I had a bunch of guys watching out for me just as much as I was keeping an eye out for them.  When we finished our routine they made sure I took a bow with them.  After that I started finding myself on stage a number of times with some of the other acts who knew me pretty well.


But I digress.  As my second semester taking writing classes was drawing to a close, one of my instructors urged me to try and submit a few of my short stories to a few magazines for publication.  This was in March and I trusted my instructor’s judgement and with their help I prepared a cover letter, synopsis and a sample of one of my stories.  Needless to say the results were pretty much what I half expected…

Not to say I wasn’t a little hurt, but my instructor was like, “Good, now you’re really on your way to being an author.”  Needless to say I gave her a very curious look, but nodded and kept trying.  Within weeks the responses, or rather more rejections, came rolling in…

Yet in spite of this, Brian, his family, fellow students, and even other members of the English and Literature faculty kept urging me on.  So I kept at it.  Finally, yesterday, I got a response from of all magazines Playboy, who wanted to publish one of my stories. It was one I submitted on a whim to their college fiction contest last year.  I didn’t win mind you, but one of the editors kept it on file because he thought it was really good.  


In any case, somehow they were looking to fill space and he remembered my story and contacted me saying they wanted to run it.  Naturally I said yes so next month, my first published short story will be coming out in Playboy Magazine.  I’m hoping the readers like it, or at least those who read Playboy for the articles, all of two of them.


Still, to have my first published story appear in a magazine of that caliber is an honor.  I’m hoping it will help springboard me into other publications or at least get my name out there.  Or rather my pseudonym Daniel Bachmann.  Bachmann was my mother’s maiden name and Daniel was my grandfather’s name.   Too many people out there know or heard of Nathaniel Steward over the last few decades who don’t know my secret.  So a fake name just seemed more appropriate on this occasion.


So my first published work will be sandwiched somewhere in between naked women and… now I’m jealous.  Time to head out and enjoy some nightlife.  I hear there’s plenty of great places here in London, and the lights at night are beautiful.  Who knows, I might get an idea for a few more stories.  Yup… I’m a writer all right.  Always thinking about the next tale.

Nathaniel’s E-Journal, August 2005… Beginning A New Chapter Part-II

Another night and I stand once more in my artist’s studio located on the top floor of the building that houses my club “The Crypt”.  No one’s allowed up here unless I say so, and tonight I wish to be alone with my thoughts.  For two days now I’ve been wrestling with the idea of trying my hand at writing novels.  

 
In some ways the idea seems ridiculous.  Me? An author?  


Then another question comes to mind in the form of one word, why?


That’s the sticking point for me.  Why would I take up writing?  Because I’m bored and want to try something new that I’ve never done before?   It wouldn’t be the first time.  When I joined vaudeville, it was simply to keep myself busy and working behind the scenes as a stagehand at night seemed ideal.  But then I started to get to know the performers like Julius, Arthur, Herbert and Leonard… better known as the Marx Brothers.  Their range of talents fascinated me.  The number of instruments they could play, or the snappy patter they should spout on a moments notice never ceased to amaze me.  Plus, they seemed to sense the feeling of being ‘lost’ and ‘adrift’ in me, which made them reach out so I could be a part of their comeraderie.  But it didn’t stop there.  Others in the troupe welcomed me as well, like “Fatty” (Roscoe Arbuckle), the Keatons, Harry and Bess Houdini, the lovely and sweet Mae West and so many others…

Before I knew what was happening they’d be teaching me all kinds of skills and even dragging me out on stage to help out in their acts.  I could write endless stories about those days and the ones that came before.  


My days on the battlefield while serving in the Union Army.  So many stories were lost there that only I know about.  The hopes and fears of my brothers in blue, as well as some of those who wore the rebel gray.  In 167 years of walking this world, I’ve not forgotten a single person who I’ve met, good or bad, I remember them.  I also remember the stories they shared, the sweethearts they pursued and the outcomes.  


So many stories to choose from, but where would I begin?  


I brought up the idea of my taking up writing to Brian and his family last night at dinner.  Much to my surprise no one laughed.  Instead they eagerly supported the venture.  Brian in particular urged me to take a couple of creative writing courses at the college where he teaches history.  “We’ve got some really good instructors there and they could really help you hone your skills?” Brian pointed out.  “I’ve taken a couple of them and they were really helpful.  Of course, you’ll need to decide on a genre to write in.  Agents and publishers like to represent someone who has a specific kind of novel.”


“You should write romance,” his daughter Lisa suggested with a twinkle in her eye as she looked at me.  Even though she’s only a child I have a feeling she’s developing a crush on me.  I’ve seen that look before in girls her age and even younger, over the decades.  But only one ever managed to land me, but she was extremely persistent.  


Even now I can feel her eyes on me after seven decades.  Looking up I find myself staring into a pair of dark eyes, forever captured in oil.  Dark hair frames those eyes along with the lovely face and strong chin.  “Magda,” I whisper and smile.


Our time together was not nearly as long as either of us had hoped, but it was magical.  Our first meeting and her prolonged pursuit for my love could fill several volumes.  Her persistence paid off and after three years she became my wife at the young age of sixteen.  


As I stand there lost in thought, the sounds of music reaches my ears from several floors below.  The Crypt is now open and is already filling up with the usual crowd.  Even from here I can sense the whirl of emotions and life down there.  Laughter, sorrow, broken hearts, lust, hopes for love…  


A flash of light through the window catches my eye.  After several nights of gathering clouds it looks as rain is finally drawing near.  I make my way up the stairs and onto the roof of the building to watch the approaching storm.

I see lightning in the distance over my hometown, it’s going to be a good one.  But instead of retreating back inside, I stay where I am and feel the breeze on my face and close my eyes.  I can feel the storm’s energy on the wind and without thinking, several lines of words describing the feeling come to mind.  Some of the words are trite, but they still help paint a picture within my head.

Suddenly my eyes shoot open as realization sinks in.  Painting a picture, but with words instead of oils or acrylics!   No pencils, no paintbrushes, just words that form an image or a scene within the readers mind.  That’s what an author does. But they don’t just paint one picture, they paint a whole series of images, coupled with emotions and thoughts.  Yet, I can still use my skills as a painter as well.  Illustrations and book covers… yes.  


And I have so much material to draw upon.  My own experiences as well as those of people who’s memories lives I keep alive within me.  I’ve shared their stories countless times with descendants so they are never forgotten.  


But what kind of stories to write? 


From down in the alley I hear the sound of raised voices.  Looking over the edge I see a young couple having a heated argument.  The boy is obviously breaking up with the girl and leaves her in the alley alone.  But she does not remain that way for long.  Three others, friends of hers arrive and comfort her.  One of them is a young man who obviously has feelings of his own for her.  But instead of being foolish and declaring his affections, he merely gives her the support and comfort of the friend she needs right now.  


But I can sense a change in her.  It’s not big, but her gratitude to him and the two girls with him is obvious.  I hear her say she wishes more guys were like him as they step inside.  Perhaps something will come of it eventually.  


However the thing that gets me most is the image that forms in my mind.  Just like the other night down in the club, I could see other figures, superimposed over the trio.  Their outfits changed several times within the span of a few seconds.  I saw flappers, soldiers, suits, gowns, hippies, but their actions were all the same and leading towards one thing… romance.


“Love Across Time…” I murmur as the first drops of rain start hitting my head.  


Why not?  I’ve seen and experienced it so many times in the last fifteen decades.  Oh, the settings and ways one behaved have changed over time, but the feelings never do.  


Feeling elated at the idea, I spread my arms wide and let the rain and story ideas pour over me.  

Nathaniel’s Private E-Journal – August 2005 : “Beginning A New Chapter…”

Summer in West Virginia hasn’t changed all that much in a hundred and fifty years and tonight is no exception.  It hit the upper 80’s which in and of itself isn’t so bad, but the humidity makes it feel much worse.  Brian and his family are out of town, so I spent part of the evening with Jack, the town’s physician, and his family.  They know my secret and have kept it to themselves for the past one hundred and twenty years.  It was nice spending time with his mother and grandmother.  As much as time has passed I still see them both as little girls who I used to take up into the evening sky on a warm summer night.  


But only when the sky was clear.  Tonight there are clouds overhead so I can’t even enjoy the stars.  I’d have spent the rest of the evening with Jack and his family, but they were hosting a party with others from out of town and I didn’t want some of our conversations overheard, so I left early and headed to The Crypt.


One of the nice things about having a private club that’s located in the basement level of an old building is that it doesn’t get too hot down there and I’m not the only one who knows this fact.  Even before I turned down the alley and reached the stairs that led down into my club, I could hear the music playing, accompanied by laughter and cheering.  

Upon opening the door I find the room is full bodies gyrating to the latest hit tunes my new disc jockey is playing.  He goes by the name of Scar-Man due to on old wound that runs from his forehead and across his face.  Thank God I got to him in time, otherwise it could’ve been a lot worse.  I’ve offered to help him get it fixed but he always refuses.  “I need to remember where I’ve been… so I don’t forget where I’m goin’,” he always tells me, so I leave it at that.


He spots me from across the room and gives me a questioning look.  Some nights I like to make a grand entrance, other times I don’t.  Tonight is one of the latter.  Instead I find myself in a reflective mood and give a little shake to my head.  He nods and keeps the party going.

I quietly make my way through the crowd in my own unique way.  I pass between bodies that only a fly could navigate without anyone noticing.  Soon I’ve reached a dark quiet corner of the room where I can observe without being noticed.  There is a table here and I settle in and let my eyes roam.  Oddly enough they fall upon one of the old vaudeville posters I have lining my wall.  My mind begins thinking about how things were back in the 1910’s and the 1920’s.  Without realizing it, my eyes swing back to the crowd on the dance floor and I see something wondrous.  My eyes are clearly seeing the young people moving back and forth, flirting, and kissing and having a wonderful time.  Yet in the same moment in my mind I’m seeing another image super-imposed over them.  I see uniforms from bygone eras.  One moment I see the Union blue, then the brown ones we wore back in World War I, in another instant I’m seeing the dresses become flapper style, while the young men are decked out in the old Zoot suits.

The styles continue to change, yet the emotions and feelings are still the same as I watch the figures both before me and in my memories.  Something stirs within me as I stare.  Soon I leave my little corner of the club and head upstairs.  Normally, I’d take the actual stairs themselves, but tonight I take my ‘mist’ form and head upwards until I reach the door that leads to my art studio and slip through the open transom above it.

Once inside my artistic sanctuary I solidify and stare around at my surroundings.  Canvasses, both finished and still under way, line the floor and walls.  

I soon find myself studying each one intently.  My mind begins to think back to when I created each one and the story that led to their creation.  But more than just the stories return, so do the emotions that inspired the imagery.  Before long I find myself exploring where those stories and feelings began which culminated in these artworks.  I’ve often heard people say, “I wonder what the story is behind this art piece…”   Well, I know each and every story behind my works.  Some of them are simple, others could fill page upon page of a number of books.  

“And I’m the only one who still knows most of them…” I murmur to myself as new thoughts enter my mind.  “Do I dare…” I whisper to the silence that surrounds me.


TO BE CONTINUED…