W.P. Kinsella & My 11th Novel

I emailed my manuscript of my 11th novel off to my editor yesterday. That’s always a momentous day! It’s entitled THE LOST LINEUP and it’s Book 2 of Myths & Tales of the Winasook Iron Horses. Have no idea if there will ever be a book three. No plans at the moment, but then again, I had no plans on writing a sequel to A DIAMOND FOR HER (book 1) until I was finished writing it. The genesis of book 2 is in the person of deceased Canadian author W.P. Kinsella – best known for his novel SHOELESS JOE which was filmed as the classic 1989 film FIELD OF DREAMS.

I had been an admirer of Kinsella’s writing, having read another of his baseball novels THE IOWA BASEBALL CONFEDERACY. It was the mystical and magical realism that I loved. Baseball to me had always risen above the mundane. There was something magical about it. When I used to pitch, and I stood on the mound and stared down the opponent, I felt something deep within me that seemed right. A settledness – even if the big bruiser lined a rocket off my shines. It was still meant to be.

When I started writing novels, I always knew that I wanted to write a baseball novel one day, and I knew that Kinsella would be an influence. What I didn’t know is that W.P. Kinsella himself would end up as one of the characters in my novel.

In the novel, Kinsella is the brash, no-nonsense caretaker of the game who is protecting it from historical evil forces. Can’t give too much away. The protagonist, Charles Henry, who is the literary author of the books – it’s written in the style that the protagonist is writing a memoir of his favorite team the Winasook Iron Horses – and as he is searching for clues to a certain field in Iowa which may possibly be a portal to the gods of baseball – yeah, it’s a crazy ride – his path crosses with Kinsella and they have a series of run-ins as they discover a lineup of forgotten historical players who want one more chance to play again.

I must say, however, that I have fallen in love with this Kinsella character, and it is my hope that he would have enjoyed his character’s role in this novel. If it was a movie, his character would be a hoot to play. What gave me the idea to use Kinsella was Kinsella himself. In SHOELESS JOE, he used J.D. Salinger as a character, so I thought it would be fun to pay a little homage to the idea and bring Kinsella himself into the story. I hope readers will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

It’s a mixture of adventure, thriller, magical realism, fantasy, and sports fiction.

Releasing summer 2022: THE LOST LINEUP.

Here is the exclusive, unedited foreword to the novel written by the protagonist Charles Henry. Enjoy:

I regret it has taken me so long to write a follow-up to the Raymond and Rochelle Blythe’s story. What I expected to have taken mere months, especially after finding a copy of W.P. Kinsella’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy at the Rochelle Blythe Memorial Library in Winasook, has taken me years. There are reasons, the biggest being the death of my wife merely two weeks after the publication of A Diamond for Her. I had wallowed in her death for far too long (or perhaps not long enough) when I decided I needed a change. That’s when I left for Iowa.
What ensued became this book. It is difficult to articulate everything that has happened to me or even to conjecture the meaning of it all, but I will attempt, chapter by chapter, to explain the bizarre tale.
I don’t ask for your belief. That would be silly of me. But I do ask for your understanding, for in empathy we may all glide a step further towards the truth (hopefully, without over-sliding it).
Again, the shifts in point of view are meant for your reading enjoyment. Plus, I do want to distance myself from the story as much as possible, because it is not about me. Except in the sense that it is about all of us.
With earnest in the mythical properties of ball,

Charles “Shoeshine” Henry
Winasook, Pennsylvania
May 1989

Reading, not writing, with the end in mind.

On my fabulous writing retreat to Tbilisi, Georgia (which I’ll have to post about another day), I finished the first draft of my 11th novel. This one is a sequel to novel 10, my first baseball novel. I’ve had so much fun writing both of these stories, and now that I have an ending, I get to read it for the first time with the end in mind.

What? I don’t write with the end in mind? Not a chance.

This will tell you everything you need to know about my writing process. While others will outline ad nauseum, I just write. Seat of the pants kind of stuff! Just hang on, let the ideas flow, start chaining them together, start to figure out what the characters want, and then they lead me on the chase to the ending.

Last week I wrote two endings. The first was horrible and I hated it. Then I had one of those brilliant moments, the kind that occur too infrequently and I knew, just knew, what the ending should be. The characters finally told me. I, as the writer, had goofed it all up because I wanted to finish it. The characters knocked me on the side of the head and said, “You idiot! We never would have done that!” They were right. So I changed it, now I love the ending.

So with complete draft on hand, I get to read it through for the first time with the end in mind. This is my revising process. I will begin to scour through the details and see if anything doesn’t fit now that I know where the story ended. Then once I get a solid revised draft, I’ll read it again, this time out loud to focus on the language and how it sounds and what could be improved. And then I’ll read it again … you get the point. Eventually I’ll get tired of reading it and send it on to my editor to let her do her magic.

But it’s always a good day when I get to read the entire story now knowing the ending.

I’ll post much more about the story later on, but it does have a title: THE LOST LINEUP.

Subtitle: Myths & Tales of the Winasook Iron Horses, Book 2.

These two books were inspired by the writings of Canadian writer W.P. Kinsella, best known for his novel SHOELESS JOE which was turned into the movie, Field of Dreams. (Coincidentally, this happens to be my favorite movie!) Anyways, I did a Kinsella. In SHOELESS JOE, he used a real-life writer, JD SALINGER, as a character in his book. So to play tribute to that, I use Kinsella as a character in my book. What great fun I had crafting his character. If he was still alive, I hope he would have enjoyed how I portrayed him. It would be a very fun role to play if it ever was turned into a movie.

Coming in 2022.

Finding the Right Book Title

Some book titles just write themselves; they are so obvious that there could be no other title which would mean as much.

My novella was about a spy named Blue. Super easy title: Spy Blue

My first novel was titled after the translated meaning of one of the main characters, plus served as a symbolic backdrop for the unfolding life of Martin. Title: Beauty Rising

My second novel is about a recluse storyteller. Title: The Recluse Storyteller

My third novel ….. I don’t know what to title it. I have one possible title I’m toying with, but it has certain connotations which I’m not sure would be attractive to all readers. Another title was suggested, but I’ve discovered at least three other novels with the same title. I don’t want to do that.  My third and fourth ideas aren’t very appealing either.

Honestly, the cover and title must sell it to the reader immediately no matter how unfair that might seem. I always thought Hemingway chose the best titles for his books –  To Have and Have Not; For Whom the Bell Tolls (quote from John Donne); The Sun Also Rises (from Ecclesiastes); etc … always memorable, quotable with a literary quality about them.

Traditional publishers typically have the final say of what a title will be based on what they think will connect with the audience. Here’s an interesting anecdote concerning the novel Shoeless Joe which was turned into the film Field of Dreams. (BTW, you can learn more about the naming of the movie by getting the 10th Anniversary DVD which has a wonderful from script to film special about the movie.) When the movie was getting close to being released, the focus groups told the producers that they didn’t like the name. They thought it was confusing and was about a homeless guy or something like that. They had no idea it was about Shoeless Joe Jackson, the famous baseball player who helped throw the 1919 World Series. So the producer approached novelist W.P. Kinsella and told him that he was sorry but they needed to change the name of the movie. The novelist said in surprise that it was OK, because the publisher was actually the one that gave it the name Shoeless Joe. Then the producer asked him what the original name was. He said “Dream Field.” A match made in heaven – Field of Dreams was born.  (This also shows that you shouldn’t mess with writers)

So here’s hoping as I put the finishing touches on the novel and try to distill the themes and plot into a quotable phrase that something perfect will jump out at me.

If You Build It, He Will Come: Revisiting a Modern Classic

It’s a phrase that has made its way into the modern American vernacular.

If you build it, he will come.

The “it” is a baseball field, and the “he” (or so we think) is the great Shoeless Joe Jackson, a sure-fire Hall of Fame baseball player who was disgraced and banned from the game for life for his part in taking a bribe to affect the outcome of the 1919 World Series.

The movie is, of course, Field of Dreams – it’s my favorite of all time.  The reasons are many:

1. I love baseball

2. I watched it with my newlywed on our honeymoon at Walt Disney World.  Yes, it brings back good memories.

3. I’m a fan of W.P. Kinsella – the author of the book Shoeless Joe which inspired the movie.   If you haven’t read The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, check it out.

4. Lastly, it’s not about baseball.

And that, my friends, is the most important message to remember.  Field of Dreams is a tender wish for any son who wants one last shot to make things right with his father.  It’s a modern day pilgrimage of a man (Kevin Costner) whose regrets have long haunted him only to suddenly to be given a second chance at making things right by bringing back his father’s hero- Shoeless Joe Jackson.  How does he bring him back the long dead slugger? By plowing under his corn field and building a magical baseball field – a field of dreams.

It’s a whimsical, feel-good tale, full of an amazing cast (James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, and the legendary Burt Lancaster) that helped propel it to an Academy Award nomination for best picture. (Even though that means nothing to me.)  Even the real life field in Dyers, Iowa has become a shrine for hundreds of thousands of fans from around the world who have been moved by the film.

It’s a modern day classic in the cinematic tradition of It’s a Wonderful Life.

If you haven’t seen it lately, it’s time to revisit it.

It is spring training after all.