How Did I Get Here?


Today, I had a lovely duck confit for lunch at the St. Botolph Club (since 1880 a refuge for Boston’s cultural and political luminaries), at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Exeter Street.

The Club’s first members were a diverse lot. Some were luminaries of letters, such as William Dean Howells and John Boyle O’Reilly. There was Henry Cabot Lodge, then better known as author and editor than for his political career; publishers Henry Houghton and George Mifflin, editors/writers John Bartlett and the many-faceted Edward Henry Clement. Artists there were then and later: Frank Hill Smith and John Singer Sargent, whose famous portrait of Mrs. Gardner was exhibited at the Club amid some stir; Daniel Chester French, sculptor of the Abraham Lincoln statue. H.H. Richardson was among the architects; even the clergy were represented by the enthusiastic Phillips Brooks, though we lost a great preacher Edward Everett Hale who withdrew to find “more congenial company” when the Club (providentially) refused the W.C.T.U.’s request that we embrace teetotalism. Men of affairs were there: Henry Lee Higginson, Leverett Saltonstall, and James Storrow; for Academia there were Charles W. Eliot of Harvard and the great historian, Francis Parkman who became our first president.

To my left was Ladette Randolph, editor-in-chief of the Ploughshares (a literary journal of Emerson College) and author of A Sandhills Ballad (New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, May 2009).

To my right was Diana Nicosia, fine artist and aspiring novelist/screenplay writer.

Across from me was Russ Bubas, my host, friend, sometimes client, one time business associate, and author of Be A Big Deal, Big Time Private Eye and the just-released Clowns & Capers. (Russ is also the inspiration for Rex Barkley, Paul Forte’s PI pal in Diary of a Small Fish).

One moment, I wondered, “How the hell did I get here?”

Then I thought about it.

It’s been a little more than three years since I began Small Fish. In that time, I’ve completed that novel, gotten an agent who’s submitted to five key mystery publishers, written 60k+ of Law & Disorder, written 7 short stories, three accepted for publication, another an Honorable Mention in a well-respected competition. I’ve learned more than I want to acknowledge about the challenges and difficulties of the traditional publishing industry (why would anyone pursue such a ridiculous pipe dream?). I’ve followed the sea changes in ePublishing and the self-publishing marketplace. Along the way, I’ve learned a thing or two about the writing craft, what it was that I’d been doing that worked and why, and the converse. I’ve broken a lot of bad habits.

I’ve read over 50 novels by Cormac McCarthy, John D. MacDonald, Ross MacDonald, Daschiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Robert Parker, Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Donald Westlake, Elmore Leonard, and a dozen others.

And I’ve written over 250,000 words of fiction (no counting the damn rewrites).

A year before I started writing Small Fish, when I told a friend I might start writing short stories again, he asked me, “Do you have a novel in you?” I replied “no,” immediately.

I wasn’t wrong. I have more than one.

And although I would have been just as happy in the corner of a Dunkin Donuts (or, if no other choice, Starbucks), yeah, I understood how the hell I got there. It wasn’t easy, but it’s been a blast.


8 Responses to “How Did I Get Here?”

  1. I could be wrong but I think EVERYONE has at least ONE novel in them. Therein lies the problem. But I love the idea of someone like you starting in the middle and then continuing the journey.

  2. You got here the same way we all did. One word at a time until we finished the story. Ain’t it great

  3. 3 pete

    LOL, great comments.

    Mar – yeah, everyone’s got a story. But you gotta write the damn thing, or you don;t have it in you.

    And Lindsay, your assessment is brilliantly simple and true.

  4. Eloquently written, Peter. You deserve to be sitting amidst some big names. You’ve worked hard at taking yourself and your writing seriously–which is probably the best lesson to be learned from your story.

    It doesn’t matter where you start. Just that you dared to do it and persevered because of the trials along the way.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us. It lends hope to the quivering masses of aspiring writers!


  5. Amazing, isn’t it? Congrats. 🙂

  6. I have an eReader in me

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