Tuesday Evening, 85°F and hazy
Listening to The Zombies—This Will Be Our Year
Smokin’ & Cryin’ – a novel
The Rise and Fall of Smoky Topaz
August 27, 1972. Robin Chelsea, teenage lead singer of Smoky Topaz, disappears into the Atlantic Ocean mere weeks before the group’s double album, Smokin’ & Cryin’, is released. Recorded over one blistering Savannah summer in the dungeon of an antebellum mansion, it’s threaded with candid snippets of the band members’ dirty secrets, bitter arguments, and deepest fears.
In the wake of Robin’s disappearance, Smokin’ & Cryin’ flies off store shelves and dominates radio airwaves to become the obsession of a generation of music lovers. But what really happened to Robin Chelsea?
More than four decades later, the discovery of Robin’s candid writings—juxtaposed with news clippings, legal documents, reviews, letters, personal notes, and interviews—make it possible to finally piece together the tangled truth behind this mysterious rock and roll legend.
I couldn’t be more excited to finally bring you my second novel, Smokin’ & Cryin’. It has been a long time coming.
Set in the early 1970s, it’s the first-person narrative of teenage rock vocalist Robin Chelsea and is interspersed with epistolary elements. It was a blast to write, and I sure hope you’ll find it a blast to read.
I’d originally planned to publish Smokin’ & Cryin’ in August of 2017. But at that point, having changed my mind about how to present Robin’s voice, I was still caught up in revisions. By early November it was ready for my beta readers and posted to Google Docs for their review.
Then in mid-November, disaster struck.
Bone growth inside the foramen (bony passageway) where my L3 nerve root exits the spinal canal began to compress the nerve root. Irritated, the nerve swelled and was crushed flat within the passageway. I can’t begin to describe the agony. It was sciatica to the 10th power. My entire life came to a screeching halt, with pain so intense there were times it caused me to blackout. Because the problem was both rare and in a hard-to-image portion of the spine, I spent three months incapacitated before a neurosurgeon figured out what kind of surgery I needed. (Actually, I was scheduled for a discectomy but on cutting me open, the bone growth was finally discovered and a longer and more difficult surgery took place.)
After a lumbar laminotomy (removal of the bone growth), I spent another three months making incremental progress in physical therapy. Finally, in May of 2018 I went back to work part-time, then transitioned to full-time at the end of June.
The silver lining
Smokin’ & Cryin’ was shelved for the longest six months of my life. Able to see it with fresh eyes—and with feedback from my lovely beta readers Ken and Jamie—I put it through another round of revisions and largely rewrote the last third. The book is much stronger for it.
Smokin’ & Cryin’ was a joy to work on. It’s how I’ve spent all of my summer evenings and weekends, aside from therapeutic walks to regain my lost muscle mass.
At this point, all this novel is waiting for is a final proofread. And cover art which is in the capable hands of artist Morgan Hughes. Oh, and hyphenation for the interior layout. And the layout of the ebook. I’m shooting for September.
It’s good to be back!