"And there it was again, the zen of elevator travel, those few moments when all that was required of her was simply to occupy the space without any thought, in the calm silence of a mind now desperate to reach its destination."
That’s right, something good came out of 2020 from the Team Torres camp, as while in the midst of the worldwide pumping of the brakes that was the COVID-19 quarantine lockdown, I was able to sit down and punch out my fourth book, a short-story collection entitled, The Zen of Elevator Travel.
Well, let’s back up a bit …
As some of you may recall, there was once a little gathering about four years ago that myself, Dickie English and George Ortolano organized here in New Orleans called The Artist’s Entrance. Designed as a place where artists in the three main areas of music, visual arts and creative writing could congregate and be heard, the event took off and had a great run, cementing the idea that something of that nature needed to exist at the time ... at least for Dickie, George and myself!
The structure of the event was simple: each month, we’d feature a visual artist, a writer and a musician, all three of which would show their work, so to speak, and then take questions from the audience regarding their process. Between featured artists, we’d reserve time for an open-mic portion designed primarily for other visiting writers and musicians to show off their stuff. As it turns out, I took this opportunity to showcase some of my writing, in particular, this new thing I was trying called short stories.
During this time, I had written and read publicly two short stories, one called "Timelines" and another, which would eventually become the title story of this new collection, "The Zen of Elevator Travel." The stories raised some eyebrows – short and sweet atmospheric jabs to that part of the psyche that basks in the sensual. I understood immediately that I wanted to explore this form, and even when The Artist's Entrance concluded its run (for now), I continued on with my new passion of "manufacturing" these short stories.
I'd learned during this time that short stories can be about anything, about settings and situations, about stream-of-consciousness thought and ideas, and as was the case in what would become the longest piece in the collection, "Stan the Man," a true narrative with a beginning, middle and end wedged between the other paint strokes of words and ideas. It was exhilarating, especially when I began to connect the stories much like skits from a Monty Python episode, with characters walking in and out of one story into the next. However, a further intended artistic decision was to make all of these stories mutually exclusive, meaning that they are able to be read in any order, or in the case of the framework of the book, on any "floor" that the reader should happen to visit. It had truly become my "novel" (new) collection of short stories.
I worked on these stories on and off for the next few years, especially during the height of the pandemic, culminating in a collection that evolved into something that I hadn't anticipated, and which would result in my fourth completed book. I'm extremely proud of this piece, a departure from my larger novels, but a format that I can guarantee I'll visit again. I've fallen in love with the format of the short story, and I hope that this piece inspires writers to create their own literary "paint strokes."
This book is dedicated to the manufactures of short stories everywhere, and to you, I hope that I've done you proud.
And to you, the faithful readers, thank you for your continued support and accompaniment as I continue on with this, my writer's journey.
I've been asked quite a bit lately what this second book -- the namesake of the Trilogy -- is actually about. I'd say that it's a multi-generational ghost story that spans the late 1930s to the late 1990s in New Orleans, one that carries the suspense right on through to the New Year's Eve drop atop the Jax Brewery at the dawn of the new millennium.
It's a story of excess in a city that helped define excess, a reminder of the now antique phantoms that are still hiding in the shadows of the French Quarter, the ones that are always ready to raise a glass in toast to a good time …
"Watch out for the shadows, Judith,” the Funnyman said. “Don’t give yourself up to the night, not in this town, because it’ll sure as hell take you.”
I cannot tell you how happy and proud I am to write these words: the Trilogy is complete. As fate would have it, August 1st, 2019 became the release date for my long-awaited third novel, Darker Prometheus, my first new work in over a decade. This book marks a convergence of my two halves, as it is a novel about a band.
I've you've ever worked in the clubs on Bourbon Street, first off, you have my respect. But secondly, this book will bring back memories for the veterans and accentuate the memories for the ones who are still making them. This book is for all musicians really, a perfect read for those in the know when it comes to being in a band with all of its dynamics and politics and sacrifices.
This novel is the culmination of lots of hard work and dedication, and most of that was just trying to get it out to the public. If you've followed my blog over the years, you've more than likely read the "Operation: Agent" section, my chronicle of trying to score literary representation for some new project that I'd finished at the time. Well, this book was that project, and now the agents will just have to take a backseat again while I make this one happen independently, as has always been the case, and which in some ways is just a little more satisfying to me.
I sincerely hope that you enjoy this book, a departure in tone from my first two books, featuring Daniel Foster from The Petrified Christ and Blake Worthington from Scenes from the Blanket. The plan was always to have this third novel be a hit and spark interest about the backstories of these characters from the first and second books, so here's hoping that you decide to take that journey with me. I say this without exaggeration: this one is a real page turner, suspenseful and philosophical with a strong plot and strong characters, and with enough fast-paced action to keep all of the literary stunt doubles busy (unfortunately, Blake and Daniel refused to do their own stunts for this novel).
If you've read the book already, first let me say, damn! But also, who were your favorite characters? And to all of the musicians out there, let me know which parts hit just a little too close to home!