My novels are fictional autobiography. They read like first person stories of things that really happened. That's my writing and reading preference. One reason is that it makes opinions, especially funny ones, more fluid. Who doesn't add his or her personal opinions to their stories? And although my novels are mostly based on real life experiences, my own life story doesn't warrant an autobiography. It had to be juiced.
Here's the fact-based reality.
The Quick Version
I was born and grew up near Binghamton, New York. It was a great place to break in and may still be, but I grew out of it. I left and so did nearly all my family and friends. In 1969, a committed hippie writer excited at watching the world change so dramatically, I left because my draft board sent me away as as my reward for being a conscientious objector to the Vietnam disaster. I was lucky to get that (I expected Leavenworth ) and to be sent to Buffalo where so many good things happened to me, including meeting my best friend for life, having a great son, marrying twice and filling twenty years of challenging to rambunctious experiences.
Before that, though, I finished by first novel, Peter McCarthy, writing all night while waiting for my draft board to decide what to do with me. Written at a table in our one room apartment on Hawley Street in Binghamton, the book was 100% fiction, but an editor and Atlantic Monthly praised its "verisimilitude," which made me think it was so genuine she thought it was autobiographical, which it wasn't, not one word. I wrote it like a diary to help me with structure and stole thematic material liberally from The Graduate.
What I kept from that experience was a character I loved and was free to develop over time. Peter has stayed with me in many stories since. Right now, he's the main character in a trilogy I'm finishing next year when I finally publish Clear, a working title may stick for the last segment of The Autobiography Of X. The first two books, The Garden of What Was and Was Not and Traveling Without A Passport are currently in the wild, looking for readers.
I also wrote a lot of poetry before I realized how very few people care about reading it, even for free. If at any point you are interested, drop me an email, and I'll send you the PDF collection I put together.
Short stories are another thing I tried to follow the conventional wisdom in writing. I don't know if what I did was any good because I never got inspired enough by the medium to finish many. As far as I know, I don't even have a single copy stashed anywhere. I wrote a couple of intense novellas, one of which, Laughter, my only serious effort at protracted surrealism, was good enough that an abandoned girlfriend held the only copy hostage and never returned it.
I had some neat success with gag writing. I wrote freelance for greeting card companies and cartoonists long enough to discover that, for me, writing jokes isn't funny at all after too long in isolation. It's work, although the idea of getting up in the morning, grabbing a legal pad and pen and laying down on the couch to work was alluring for a while. The number of my gags that reached publication was never sufficient to pay my rent, let alone feed me or pay my child support, even while I subsisted on hot dogs and fried eggs. Which made the not funny part hard to endure.
Eventually, I started writing nonfiction too. A lot of nonfiction, as it turns out. Most of it is online, and you can read it for free. I'll set up some RSS feeds on pages to follow. But I do have one book with an ingloriously long title, A Million Different Things: Meditations Of The World's Happiest Man, that came about when I realized that, as I've often said, I'm the world's luckiest man, it follows that I must also be the happiest. You can buy it, but you can also read it serialized online for free by clicking here. A second book, Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness is now available.
The most pleasure I've had writing has been in working with my wife and creative partner, Deborah Julian, to produce two successful, illustrated cat books, Travels With George: Paris and Travels With George: New York. The fun part is writing from the cats point of view, but a lot also comes from building a foundations for my wife's remarkable illustrations of the cats touring the sites of great cities.
I left Buffalo for New York in 1989. I've lived and worked here, except for a two year stint in Rochester, ever since. I've finally found a place where I don't run out of room.