Friday, February 15, 2019

#19 Inside The Emotion of Fiction - Rick Robinson's "Alligator Alley"

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****Rick Robinson’s Alligator Alley is the nineteenth in a never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.  All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION links are at the end of this piece. 

Name of fiction work? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us?   Of  all my novels, my personal favorite is Alligator Alley. I thought about calling it the Alligators of Prisoners' Lake, referencing a story within the book.
Fiction genre?  Ex science fiction, short story, fantasy novella, romance, drama, crime, plays, flash fiction, historical, comedy,  etc.  And how many pages long?   The genre is literary fiction and it is 160 pages. 
Has this been published? And it is totally fine if the answer is no.   If yes, what publisher and what publication date?   Alligator Alley was published by Publisher Page, an imprint of Headline Books in 2013.
What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction?   
I started writing this novel when I was 17 years old, but could never get past the first couple of chapters. Essentially, I could never figure out what the book was about. As I hit my 50's, the story began to mesh with my values of the time. That is when the words started flowing
Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work?  And please describe in detail.  And can you please include a photo?   Like all my books, Alligator Alley was written in places where there were lots of activity. For some odd reason, activity helps me concentrate. Bars tend to be my favorite places to write.
What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day?   All of my books have a soundtrack that I play over and over (if only in my head). 

What is the summary of this specific fiction work?   Despite his material success and outward appearance of happiness, James Conrad feels empty inside. He is spending his 50th birthday alone in South Florida when he decides to take a drive
along Alligator Alley into the depths of the Everglades. Searching for childhood memories of his great uncle—a man who left his family behind to live on a Seminole Indian reservation—James discovers his small town definition of success may all be a ruse. When given the chance to make a real
change, James Conrad must make the hardest decision of his life. Alligator Alley is the story of one man's struggle with his own destiny, but it could be the story of anyone facing change in his or her life. 
As Robinson states with simple eloquence, “This book asks a very basic question—if you could change, would you?”
Can you give the reader just enough information for them to understand what is going on in the excerpt?   In many respects, Alligator Alley is autobiographical and includes many gut feelings from my own life at the time I wrote it. 
Please include the excerpt and include page numbers as reference.  The excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer.   Right now, I would gladly trade my new plasma television for simple peace of mind and a night in bed where my own screams do not wake me from my sleep. Call my desire for personal serenity a longing for a second shot at so many things – Life 2.0, I guess. 
I spent most of my time on earth believing that life was a zero sum game – a personal philosophy based on a fundamental principle that you get out of life precisely what you put into it. I grew up being told those who put in enough hard work would reap an equal amount of success. Wait for success to come to you and you die waiting. Emotionally, it all balances out. Moments of occasional sadness are balanced by laughter. Start feeling too giddy and that feeling of emotional weight starts building right behind the eyes. It all washes out. Zero sum. 
Such a core belief in equality rested in an underlying broad world-view that life is fair. I grew up in a small town where I was taught a person’s actions lead to parity. My parents, my Sunday school teacher, my girlfriend’s mom all told me to work hard and I would succeed. I did not see then what is so clear to me now. They were all feeding me a line of bullshit. Monetary rewards and the material satisfaction that follows may come from hard work, but at some point a person desires more than the newest electronic toy.  
My middle-aged malaise likely came from the definition of success adopted by me and my generation. Material wealth was how we measured our own value. Our parents regaled us with stories of how they sacrificed during the depression, wearing their impoverished upbringing as a badge of honor. When our fathers gathered to talk in the alley, it was a competition about who was poorer as a child. They wanted something more for their children, they told us. 
We took their suggestion of “something more” and pushed forward with gusto. Our parents were poor and seemingly happy. Possession of things should make us that much happier. We bought the newest car, the largest home and had more nips and tucks to our bodies than any generation before us. Hard work was one way to attain the material success that we were led to believe is the measure of one’s life. 
Unfortunately for us, we never looked at the balance sheet. All the things had credit attached to them. We became a generation of new cars, plasma televisions, McMansions and no money for retirement. So we took on second jobs and tried to convince our egos that down-sizing was not the equivalent of failure. We worked so hard to find a way out and our reward was early heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression.
As I got older, I came to discover that life is not fair. Fairness is at the bottom of the list when it comes to God’s cosmic ranking of intrinsic worth. Often those who put the least into living, are those who least deserve the rewards a virtuous life bestows, but who somehow get those rewards anyway. One only need watch the nightly news and see the film of who wins the lottery to understand. There was a time when one of the distinctions between the big urban cesspools known as American cities and small communities like the one I grew up in was the way people in the little nooks and crannies of the country took care of each other. 
In my town, there was an old guy named Dan who was mentally disabled. His parents were dead and his sister looked out for him. Every day – in a suit and tie – he walked from store to store, checking the wall clocks against his own Timex wristwatch and tearing down the day-to-day calendar that hung behind each cash register. We called him Dan “the Time Man.” In the afternoons, Dan would handdeliver packages from those same shops to their customers for tips and an occasional glass of lemonade or a bologna sandwich. No one ever thought twice about it. Dan was simply doing his job and he did it nearly until the day he died.
I had not thought of Dan in years until last month when we had a going away party at a local bar for several employees who had fallen victim to my company’s latest reduction-in-force, an action somehow “demanded” by the dictates of nameless shareholders. As I looked into the eyes of my departing colleagues, I saw the fear in their eyes. Men and women who had dedicated their lives to the success of the company were being cast aside by the demands of capitalism. Then I noticed that the rest of us – those staying at the company – had nearly the same look. Dan “the Time Man” should have taught me a lesson. People are capable of loyalty. Institutions are emotionless bastards.
Shortly after my final visit with Gator, I got my first job as a soda-jerk at Pete’s. I would take telephone lunch orders for Pete to prepare and then serve up ice cream for malts, sundaes, and cones for all the walk-in customers. I made enough money to occasionally take a girl to the movies and drop a couple of gallons of gas into my old man’s car. Flood waters threatened the main drag one year, and I became a hero to all my friends for giving away Pete’s ice cream for free before we battened down the store. On Friday nights, Pete let me and a couple of other kids unplug the jukebox and play Dylan tunes, occasionally struggling through Peter, Paul and Mary style harmonies.
My parents had brought the whole family to Pete’s on my first day of work. Angel was so proud of my strong work ethic. I served my family banana splits and cherry phosphates. The tip Angel left me was as big as the tab itself. I gave it to a kid in my class that bussed tables and washed the dishes. His parents had never been to Pete’s to see him work.  
The meek may inherit the earth, but it is the assholes who own it during our lifetimes. 
Why is this excerpt so emotional for you?  And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt?

 At the time, I was going through a difficult stage in my life where I was trying to figure out my middle-aged lot in life. The entire book is a reflection of that struggle, but this one stands out to me.


001   11 15 2018 Nathaniel Kaine’s
Thriller Novel
John Hunter – The Veteran

002   11 18 2018 Ed Protzzel’s
The Antiquities Dealer 

003   11 23 2018 Janice Seagraves’s
Science Fiction Romance
Exodus Arcon

004   11 29 2018 Christian Fennell’s
Literary Fiction Novel
The Fiddler in the Night

005  12 02 2018 Jessica Mathews’s
Adult Paranormal Romance
Death Adjacent

006  12 04 2018 Robin Jansen’s
Literary Fiction Novel
Ruby the Indomitable

007  12 12 2018  Adair Valerez’s
Literary Fiction Novel

008  12 17 218 Kit Frazier’s
Mystery Novel
Dead Copy

009 12 21 2019 Robert Craven’s
Noir/Spy Novel
The Road of a Thousand Tigers

010 01 13 2019 Kristine Goodfellow’s
Contemporary Romantic Fiction
The Other Twin

011 01 17 2019 Nancy J Cohen’s
Cozy Mystery
Trimmed To Death

012 01 20 2019 Charles Salzberg’s
Crime Novel
Second Story Man

013 01 23 2019 Alexis Fancher’s
Flash Fiction
His Full Attention

014 01 27 2019 Brian L Tucker’s
Young Adult/Historical

015 01 31 2019 Robin Tidwell’s

016 02 07 2019 J.D. Trafford’s
Legal Fiction/Mystery
Little Boy Lost

017 02 08 2019 Paula Shene’s
Young Adult ScieFi/Fantasy/Romance/Adventure
My Quest Begins 

018 02 13 2019 Talia Carner’s
Mainstream Fiction/ Suspense/ Historical
Hotel Moscow

019 02 15 2019 Rick Robinson’s
Multidimensional Fiction
Alligator Alley

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