C’mon, you’re pulling my drumstick.
I am proud to announce the publication of my new book, How to Cook a Turkey and Other Poems.
This is a compendium of 23 poems and 28 photographs. Several poems and photos are already award winners.
In this collection you can look forward to reading such compelling poems as Is My Tea Kettle Too Old?, Saliva, I Wish I Were a Soul Train Dancer, Ode to a Grocery Bag and, of course, How to Cook a Turkey.
I highly recommend How to Cook a Turkey and Other Poems as gifts to friends and family for Thanksgiving and for the upcoming holidays. Some may consider reading a few selections around the dinner table.
As Emily Dickinson once said, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” Maybe she went just a little too far, but I’ll keep a close eye on everyone.
“An Appreciation of Poetry, with Discussion and Readings”
Saturday morning, August 27, 2016 from 9:15 to 11:00 a.m.
Diamond Valley Writer’s Guild | 951-282- 7735
Hemet Public Library
300 E. Latham Ave.
Hemet, CA 92543
I will be leading a Poetry Event this Saturday morning, August 27, 2016 from 9:15 to 11:00 a.m.
At this event I will introduce and moderate an open discussion about poetry in modern life, it’s importance, history, and beauty. I will also be joined by volunteers who will read from their own works as well as from selections they find meaningful.
The public is welcome to attend, to enjoy the readings, and to participate in the discussion if they wish.
Poet, Photographer, Author
Find These Book Titles by Howard Feigenbaum on Amazon.
Join Me in Menifee.
I will be the featured author at Authors @ the Annex, an event hosted by the Arts Council Menifee. I invite those who wish to attend to join me on Wednesday evening, Aug. 24th, 6:30 pm at the Arts Council Menifee Building, Newport Rd & Evans Rd, Menifee, CA 92584 USA.
I will be speaking about my approach to writing. I will also read selections from my various books, including my soon-to-be released detective fiction novel, ‘Hot Zone’, the 3rd installment in my detective fiction series, “Benny Goldfarb, Private ‘I’“. The event is free and there will be light refreshments.
Howard Feigenbaum, Author
The Writer as Artist
Creativity and format shape the writer’s work. The story depends on the ideas the writer brings to the page. The rules of English composition, grammar and punctuation affect readability. How frustrating. If only I could transmit ideas to the reader without paying attention to the rules.
A comparison of writing to painting is worthwhile. I have had the good fortune to learn the visual arts, photography and painting. My fifth grade art teacher, after a year of seeing my drawing and painting, said that I shouldn’t continue with art. I believed her until later in life when photography, then painting, held my interest. Her words still lived in my mind until I discovered that talent wasn’t required for art. One had to learn the rules and apply the lessons. Practice, in my case, did not lead to perfection—but it brought me a heck of a lot closer.
I realized that the images I sought to portray depended on attracting and holding the viewer’s attention through the use of colors, values, contrast and composition. Easy to say, but hard to do. You must give yourself over to the medium. Why do artists do that? Above all, they want to communicate an idea. For the devoted among us, the journey may lead down the path to mastery.
Everyone has access to paper and pencil, but not everyone will be an artist. Some will be dilettantes, having a superficial interest that culminates in a hobby.
What makes the writer an artist? I believe it’s the individual’s dedication to the process of fusing creativity with structure and understanding what appeals to the audience—peppered with inspiration.
We sort ourselves out. Nobody says who can be or can’t be an artist or a writer. No license required. But, in the end, we know.
The Art of Being There in Fiction.
I have found that the best way to bring a sense of place to readers is through research. The characters may be fictitious, but the reality of location makes the story more interesting and believable.
Many people enjoy reading novels that are set in places they visit. I am one of them. In my youth, I read about the ancient Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. The story stoked my desire to see the place for myself. When I visited the ancient ruins, it was like enjoying an impressionist painting. The structural foundation was there, and my knowledge completed the picture.
Much of the action in the first volume of my Benny Goldfarb, Private “I” series takes place in Colombia. I researched the locations, the history, the culture, and the food. The next year, after the book’s publication, my wife and I had the good fortune to visit Cartagena. We hired a driver to take us on a tour of the city, stopping at places described in the book. He heard me informing my wife, in detail, about the sites. “You have been here before?” he asked. I explained that I was an author. My mind had been here before. This was the first time for my body.
A story can be more than a story. It can morph into a three-dimensional experience that comes alive when you visit the setting—but only if the writer’s research is woven into the tale’s fabric.
The Path to Writing
Check out my new YouTube video, Interview with Howard Feigenbaum, produced by fellow author Jim Hitt. In this video I discuss my decision to become a writer and offer advice for those who wish to become writers.
New Horse Racing-Themed Detective Mystery Novel is Out!
An Argentine racing syndicate uses four horses as collateral for a loan. When the loan defaults, the bank discovers that the horses have forged identities.
Benny Goldfarb, Private “I” travels to Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay to unravel the fraud. The tri-border area is a haven for criminal gangs and terrorists. They stand between Benny and his client’s money.
Why do they call Benny to unravel the crime? How do his unique skills come into play? Where does Benny stand with his love interest, Rosa? And how do Rosa’s newly-discovered Sephardic Jewish roots weave into this tale of crime, drama, travel, adventure, passion and romance?
You’ll have to read Home Stretch, my latest horse racing-themed detective-mystery novel to find out.
A Cultural Bridge
Traveling to a country and being there is an important advantage for a writer. Research can’t replace the impressions and feelings one experiences by immersion in the culture. The sound, the look, the language, the humor, the food—all of these make an impact that color the story.
What difference does personal experience make? After all, a work of fiction is what you want it to be. The authenticity of details enhances what is believable. Even readers of fiction will reject descriptions that are inaccurate or don’t ring true. Their attention leaves the story and grapples with what is out of place. The logic of the human mind is always at work.
In some ways, writing is like painting. Most people appreciate realism, firmly planted in the truth of accurate portrayals. Many people will accept impressionism, relying on gestures and forms which rely upon the viewer’s mind for completion. Furthest away from popular taste is abstraction, a created world with few familiar signposts, requiring the viewer to search for meaning in unfamiliar territory.
Art has no definition. Popular acceptance does.
A New Hat – How Illuminating?
A word of warning to people who wear hats on the top level of the hop-on hop-off buses: your hat and your expectations are at risk. I learned the hard way in Buenos Aires. The bus turned a corner. A gust of wind blew. My favorite brown newsboy cap took off across one of the wide streets of the city. There was nothing to do but wave good-bye to an old friend.
As fortune would have it, when the bus returned to the station, there was a street vendor selling hats. He had them arranged on spokes sticking out of a pole. My wife picked out a nice-looking straw hat that fit nicely. The loss of a hat created an opportunity for a acquiring another that would be a fine example of Argentine handiwork. What a stroke of good luck. After examining the hat, I noticed a small tag attached to the sweatband: made in China.
Sure I was disappointed. But not as disappointed as when I bought a bolo tie in Arizona—in the heartland of native-American culture—and the country of origin stamped on the back of the slide broke my heart. If travel has taught me one thing, it’s that my memories of the people and places are the only authenticity I can count on.
I like to have my characters enjoy a good meal.
Barbeque Peru Hacienda
Food is fascinating. If you’re writing about location, why not include food? The characters in the Benny Goldfarb, Private “I” series spend a lot of time in South America. The cuisine changes from country to country, depending on the agricultural traditions. For example, Argentina is big on beef and empanadas. Peru offers a smorgasbord of almost endless types of potatoes. The menus in Colombia are loaded with fish. In my experience, readers enjoy having the local food incorporated into the story.
From my point of view, food is part of a culture. I like to illuminate the setting that characters occupy by occasionally referencing the meals. The reader makes a silent judgment about the food. Sometimes curiosity about a particular dish is aroused and satisfied. The ingredients may add to a feeling of what life is like in that distant place. In any case, I like to have my characters enjoy a good meal. Why not? It’s my story. And they seem to like the experience.
The Music of Life
playing music in town square, Rhodes
Everywhere is different. Everywhere is the same.
We see the world as we travel through it, noticing the things that vary from what we know: the language, the customs, the clothing, the food, the architecture. But the people are not so different. The only thing missing in our encounter is that we don’t know each other.
In the town square, two boys sing and play the accordion. We enjoy. The simplicity and innocence of youth draws us to them. We instinctively care. Our smiles begin the introduction to hearing the music of life.
Attaturk statue in harbor, southern Turkey.
Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, the father of modern Turkey, made revolutionary changes in Turkish society. The first president of Turkey abolished the existing caliphate, separated the state from Sharia law, abolished the use of Arabic while establishing a Turkish language and modernized the country. Women were free to choose their mode of dress. He encouraged the adoption of western styles.
For me. Attaturk’s preoccupation with the hat is fascinating. He wore a Panama hat, among others. Fedoras, derbies and other western hats were, to him, symbolic of a civilized nation. He required civil servants to wear hats and suits. As a writer, and as a lover of hats, headgear is a visual representation of one’s presentation to the world. We know this from watching old-time western movies. The good guys wear white hats, the bad guys wear black. When we see the hat, we know they are cowboys.
When I visited a small town along the southern Turkish coast, I saw a statue commemorating Attaturk. He was wearing a newsboy-style cap. I was wearing a newsboy-style cap. Immediately, I felt an affinity for Attaturk. We were hat guys. We even preferred the same style. The description of a character’s clothing is important for the reader. The detail in appearance tells a story of its own.
Work – and how performance tells a tale.
photo of shredding agave – Manta, Ecuador
The job doesn’t matter. It’s how the character performs the work that tells a tale.
I love professional waiters. They make the dining experience worthwhile. Knowledge of food and drink is important. Knowledge of people is even more important. For me, excellence deserves respect. Mediocrity does not. We all have our opinions about how people behave. I think most of us would usually agree on issues of good and bad. When words describe the behavior, we can share the vision.
I had the pleasure of visiting Montecristi, Ecuador, the home of the Panama hat. The manufacturing process is low tech. Leaves of the agave plant are shredded to get the fibers for weaving the hats. The quality of the fibers determines the quality of the hat. The people who made the hat I bought were proud of their product. I think of the hat’s beauty every time I wear it. And, in the third volume in the Benny Golfarb series, when I relate the adventure in Ecuador, the hat and the native people in the mountains above Manta, will shape the writing.
Food - what the locals are eating.
photo of picarones cart in Mira Flores, Lima, Peru
“Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are.” Frenchman Brillat-Savarin believed that food had its own story to tell. I agree. Writing, travel and food come together in providing a snapshot of a culture. Eating what the locals eat is the first step in appreciating who they are.
Benny Goldfarb, Private “I” has descriptions of what characters are eating in Colombia. My colleagues often tease me about a chapter making them hungry. That is an unfortunate side effect. I believe that by sharing the same cuisine, I move toward greater cultural appreciation. Speaking the same language also has a similar result. There are concepts couched in speech that have cultural nuances.
What might a citizen of Lima feel on a weekend afternoon in Kennedy Park when enjoying freshly-made picarones, a doughnut-like treat? There’s one way to find out—get in the line at the kiosk, and wait your turn. You will know what generations of Peruvian parents and children have relished.
Looking Inside a Book’s Main Character.
Is Benny Goldfarb, the protagonist in Benny Goldfarb, Private “I”, a Jewish character or a character who happens to be Jewish? He is a man with a moral sensibility and an appreciation of how that happened.
In writing, characters demonstrate who they are through behavior and their reaction to events. In general, we don’t know the religion of the protagonists in the books we read. However, when someone has a name like Benny Goldfarb, an assumption occurs. If the reader makes that assumption, why not satisfy the curiosity—not as the focus of the work but as an interesting detail.
Why should the majority of detective/action/adventure characters have Anglo-Saxon or French names? In this case, Benny Goldfarb is an American who works as a private investigator. In truth, he cannot escape the perception of his ethnicity. In the story, his thoughts and feelings are shaped by his tradition and religious beliefs.
A visit to the Palace of the Inquisition in Cartagena, Colombia transforms Rosa Zuleca, the main female character, when she confronts the effects of the Spanish Inquisition on her family. Although this theme is a subplot, it adds depth to the story by introducing a setting where history, injustice and an individual’s identity meet.