Monday, April 30, 2012


We've got some guests, and they have brought an electric charge and an air of nobility to our small-holding. They have masks to keep the bugs out of their eyes. George and Aurora are summering in our field. They are welcome to all the grass they can eat. In exchange we get the pleasure of their company, and their owners Alyssa and Phineas will be caretakers for the sheep and chickens when we take a couple of weeks hiatus from farm chores this summer.
The first thing they did was roll in the grass when they got into the field. The sheep did a quick series of leaps to release the adrenaline. Poor creatures, they are still circling on the outside of the enclosure in awe of the newcomers. These are beautiful and enthralling creatures, not just to humans.
For me the best thing is looking out the window and seeing them in the field and then going to Wikipedia and looking at the lists of horses in literature and myth, from Pegasus to Black Beauty. Maybe the centuries of inspiration will rub off. My favorite horse book is All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, not only because of the horses but because he gets Mexico pretty well and he writes as well as Hemingway or better.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Billy Kagan - French Pond Road (excerpt)

  In the throes of getting my "platform" together in order to get the word out about my new book LATITUDES - A Story of Coming Home. But as part of that I've been trying to organize my presence on the web and so increasing the visibility of previous work. This book, French Pond Road, was written under a pen name a few years ago, but it traces the wanderings of the same character from Birdman, Billy Kagan, once back on home soil from his journeying in Ireland.

As a side note, I have to admit it's an intriguing process getting up to speed with the different social media protocols and the collaborative, crowd-sourced nature of book marketing today. The difference between self-published and "trad" published authors has shrunk to the vanishing point, with some in both camps taking to the new medium like ducks to water. I am not one of those, but am working hard to make up for my slow and halting, painful awakening. Is there an emoticon for self-pity? Wink, wink.

Anyway, here is an excerpt from French Pond Road:

When he came back to Boston it was 1992, December, and snow blanketed the roofs of houses on the North Shore. He’d called his sister - the number he still had for her in Brookline. Kagan had a mental picture of May with Jimmy and their two girls. The girls were thin like their mother with long arms and wrists that hung like shellfish dangling from their knees when they sat on the sofa together. They were all Jehovah’s Witnesses now.  May had been attracted to the certainty and penchant for hard work, so like their own father, Hiram Kagan, although the root of his certainty had been a mystery and Kagan had always suspected, even hoped it was bogus. But the rigidity ate at the girls, all very tense with twisted uncertain smiles mirroring the hardness of Jimmy’s face and poor eating habits from Hiram via May. He’d pictured their hearts beating in unison, the enflamed tissues palpitating, as he dialed at the bank of public phones at the airport and waited. The air had smelled of cigarette smoke and metal and a forty year-old winter as if it was 1952 and he was his own father returning from duty in Germany and calling his wife in Windsor.
“Hi. May?”
“Is it? Billy? Is it you?”
“Yes, May. Yes, I’m sorry. I…”
“Don’t be sorry. Where are you?”
“I’m at the airport.”
“Patricia’s dead, Billy. Did you know that? We didn’t know who would tell you. Angela has your boy. She’s somewhere in California. California or New York. I’m not sure. Jimmy knows.”
He’d already known that Patricia dead no longer made an impact on him. His fingers were cold. He needed to find a warm place. Then he could think of the disaster that he was coming home to and ways to bend himself to it again.
“I’m wondering where’s a good place to go now, May.”
“There’s nobody in Windsor anymore. Wayne Jefferson is in Penacook. Outside of Concord. You remember him?”
“Yeah. He was in my French class.”
“He works for Sylvania up there.”
“Okay. I haven’t talked to him since high school.”
“But you were pretty good friends. That’s the only person I can think of, Billy. You could come here, but we don’t have a lot of room.”
“How are the girls?”
“They’re fine.”
“That’s good. That’s good.”
They talked on, mouthing platitudes, but May’s advice was enough for him, a direction in the darkness, good enough to get him moving. Any direction would do. 

French Pond Road (Kindle Edition)

Anthony Caplan is a writer, blogger, teacher and homesteader in New Hampshire. He is the author of the novels Birdman, French Pond Road, and the forthcoming Latitudes - A Story of Coming Home, due out at the end of June from Hope Mountain Press. Find out more about him and his work at 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April almost come and gone is usually my favorite time of year, before the black flies arrive, but not this year. They are already here and making their horrible presence known. I wish I could find a silver lining to the suffering they bring, but there is none. Unless you can count getting inside with a good excuse when the day is absolutely beautiful otherwise. But trying to bring out a book in a couple of months means a lot of preparatory work; right now it involves putting together a marketing plan and figuring out the best way to distribute the baby when it arrives, whether it's ebooks or traditional paperbacks. I don't believe in spelling out the details involved, because I prefer to produce the work with a magician's sleight of hand and preserve some of the mystery for the general public. I mean, do you really want to know the benefits of going with Amazon versus the independent bookstore, or the ins and outs of social media for writers, or Google rankings for websites? Okay maybe you do, but I don't want to talk about it. But believe me, being an independent self-published author is a bundle of work. Add to that lesson plans for Spanish classes for the end of the year, summer plans for the family, spring preparation of the vegetable garden, and an eye operation, (old scar tissue - too much time in the out-of-doors as a youngster), and you could say my plate is full, thank you very much. But, I like it this way. When I'm busy I'm not thinking about which foot to put forward and am less likely to trip. A basketball coach once told me the time you get injured in a game is when you relax, and I've remembered that rule and applied it to life in general. Whatever you're doing, do it with intensity and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the results. I'm not going to knock meticulous planning, but sometimes when a task seems overwhelming, the trick is to dive in and start flailing until you see some clarity. So that's not me running from the black flies, that's me figuring out what to do to make my next book, LATITUDES - A Story of Coming Home, a best-seller. 
Anthony Caplan is a writer, blogger, teacher and homesteader in New Hampshire. He is the author of the novels Birdman, French Pond Road, and the forthcoming Latitudes - A Story of Coming Home, due out at the end of June from Hope Mountain Press. Find out more about him and his work at 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I'm like a parent who refuses to give up on his kid. Sure he'a made some mistakes, gotten sidetracked, but he deserves a second chance. Don't we all.

Anyway, here it is, the new Birdman edition with new cover. It's only 99 cents on Kindle. Here's the foreword, which you can preview anyway on the Amazon site, so it's not like I'm giving it away. Take a chance, support a local writer, save some trees, find some meaning in your crooked, twisted life. I mean, what are you waiting for? Download it now!

Foreword – Second Edition

It has been almost a dozen years since Billy Kagan, aka Bert Smith the Birdman wandered the Irish hinterlands seeking his soul. Much has changed. The Celtic Tiger has come and gone. The world seems to have survived the passage into a new millennium, albeit semi-fractured in its consciousness and its ability to carry on.
It is instructive to look back on the world Billy was watching in those wild-eyed days.  We seemed to be perched on the edge of a yawning chasm, pursued by the ghosts of our former misdeeds, and uncertain of a future providence. Nowadays, a new generation looks to the birds, “perchers, songsters, blown by the wind and content to sit in the early and late days of the lingering sun, faith in perpetual sustenance, sharp-eyed observers of the moribund and settled,” as the waves of creative destruction crash down again on the rocks of these shores.

It is time to bring Billy forward on the bridge he foresaw being built, bypassing the architecture and snares of the old city, into a new land of opportunity. This electronic edition of Birdman is for the reader who knows that sometimes you have to step back in order to move on.

Anthony Caplan

Anthony Caplan is a writer, blogger, teacher and homesteader in New Hampshire. He is the author of the novels Birdman, French Pond Road, and the forthcoming Latitudes - A Story of Coming Home, due out at the end of June from Hope Mountain Press. Find out more about him and his work at 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hungry Mountain (From Birdman*)

“Over here, Bert,” he heard Ed yell.

Ed had climbed down from the wall and cut across the ditch where a path led between a thicket of hazel, their bare branches spreading shadows across his portly figure. Kagan followed. Once out past the trees, they came onto the grounds of what had been a mansion, a walled garden grown over with weeds, stables, a muddy path where there must have been once a wide road leading to the main house. Kagan was not sure, but thought he saw a light on in a lower window of the house.

“Do you think anyone still lives there?” he asked Ed.

“Yeah. Maybe the house servants. Haven’t heard they’ve been liberated.”

“Or maybe the masters themselves.”

Holed up in an Alamo of memory. Days of cultivated magnificence and summer glory. The long ago heroic gyre gives way to a counterfeit age. Barring the barbarian hordes such as himself and Ed, descendants of the native horsemen that had called this home and wished it to last forever, now on foot and still tracking an impossible dream.

He let Ed get ahead and took out a quart bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label he had in his inside coat pocket and unscrewed the top, holding it up and letting the fire water run down his throat. He took a deep breath and looked at the stars, sighting them in the blackness of infinity. He picked up the pace and caught up to Ed, climbing seriously. The path had turned steeper and rutted, a trickle of water running down between the stones. Kagan walked behind Ed, noting where his feet fell, picking his way among the boulders.

“You want a drink?” he asked Ed. 

Ed stopped ahead of him. They turned and looked at where they’d come from. The river snaked silver in the moonlight and they knew the road was down there also. In the distance was a brown glow of light that might have been Kilgooley. The mountains of the interior rose and fell, the undulations of the land like a lover’s secret face. The whiskey reminded Ed of his father.

“The old guy used to contraband cigarettes. Drive up to Canada in an empty Peterbilt eighteen wheeler. He’s probably still in jail, doing twenty years for assault, illegal possession of a firearm in the commitment of a felony.”

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know. Last I heard he was in Arizona. They move him around all the time. He’s considered a dangerous and hardened criminal. He’s tried a couple of breaks. Close to seventy by now.”

The path disappeared. They made their way over clumps of reed, climbing the boggy side of the hill. A herd of sheep, startled, spread out around them, took off in retreat. Kagan thought of his father, seeing his face, wondering also where he was, wishing he had not died ignorant of his son’s love. His aspirations for respectability, seriousness, standing in the community, never forgiving Kagan his wild streak, his hunger for raw life. In old-age he grew weak-eyed and more distant, studying the US News and World Report, his stock options in the utilities plummeting. Yet he’d retained the outward appearance of duty to Christ dead, risen and coming again, which was as good as the real thing perhaps, and a stubborn, almost perverse allegiance to the Horatio Alger dream of an America where everyone could theoretically be President, and he despaired of his son’s path leading through what seemed thickets of wilderness and futility. And Kagan at the end ashamed to level and admit he’d been wrong, admit he admired his old man’s tenacity and loyalty, even if to a nothing, to a mirage. He never remarried, still had the photograph of her on the dresser when he died, the bonsai and cacti on the windowsill just unpacked from the Walmart. He had been ever hopeful, even though she’d bolted for a better life and left him holding the veritable bag.

“Even though he was a criminal he was the most honest man I ever knew,” said Ed.


“He gave away all his money. Generous to a fault. His friends saw more of it than we did. He was not what you call a homebody. He stopped writing about five years ago. Always thought I’d come spring him. He had hopes in me. I wish I knew where he was.”


“I’d spring him now if I knew. But he could be anywhere. Sing Sing. Angola. You name it. The minute you make any inquiry you generate about a thousand files and the lights go off in the FBI. The only way I’m going to get my old man out is when that bitch of a federal government goes under the waves.”

“Hence the Remus.”

“You got it right, Bert. This is the perfect site for it. Atmospheric conditions seventy eighty percent of the year completely untrammelled. You get a constant charge of ions generated by the activity of the Gulf Stream. In terms of Gaian physics we’re sitting on the fuel pump here, Bert.”

Ed was clarifying as they climbed. He could see the point of the Remus now in bringing about the demise of the government of the United States, the jailers of Ed’s father and the gatekeepers of the world’s fuel supply, even if it did not truly solve any environmental ills, perhaps even made them worse. But one thing he did not understand was how the Remus squared with Ed’s apocalyptic brand of religion. He did not have long to wonder.

“Know one thing. Atlantis will rise again. The knowledge cannot be held back forever.”

“What knowledge?”

“Never mind what knowledge. It’s not yours to know. The conditions set out in Patmos. That’s what knowledge. Then the four thousand will rise to execute the judgement and the government of the righteous will be set up, with a seat in Bermuda.”

 “A seat in Bermuda. You slay me, Ed.” 

“Well, there’s no question you got the mark of the beast on you.”

*Look for the soon to be released anniversary edition of Birdman with NEW COVER - Formatted for Kindle

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Real God Particle

There better be a purpose to life, otherwise what are we all setting the alarm clock for tonight. That's my first thought whenever i read a scientific article, like the one in the Los Angeles Times today by some renowned professor extolling the latest discovery that points the light further into the vast recesses of time and space and then pronounces, ""See. there is no God there."
The latest novelty, gained by smashing atoms together in a machine the size of a small city built underground in the Swiss Alps, is something called the Higgs Boson, tellingly nicknamed the "God" particle. First theorized by Einstein, the "God" particle supposedly explains the existence of gravity in the Universe. For a longer explanation of the science, go here.
The scientists at the Hadron Collider have recently glimpsed some tantalizing signs of the Higgs Boson, enough to get Lawrence M. Krauss of Arizona State excited and waving the placards once again that we don't need no God because we've got the Higgs Boson to prove that we can go it alone.
Seems kind of short-sighted. The obvious retort is always going to be, well, what put the Higgs Boson there, Larry? Was there a purpose to that?
It's funny because I love science. i believe that so does God. He wants us to use our minds, otherwise why did he give us the silicon to make computer chips. My bias is that the Hadron Collider will never prove that God does not exist. I could be wrong, but for me purpose in the Universe is the real "God" particle. It's the message of all ancient civilizations and great art, it is overwhelmingly a part of the cycle of life. I cannot believe it is a hoax. Sometimes I have doubts about certain tenets of my belief, and about my own fitness to be here, but never that there is a purpose in the process of being revealed. I'm just as excited as Mr. Krauss that the Higgs Boson is being discovered. That the Universe is wondrous beyond belief goes without saying. That man is capable of such extraordinary intellectual and engineering feats as could lead to the discovery of such structural truths is inspiring and awesome. But don't tell me that it proves the universe is random and purposeless. That's sad.