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books, hippies, sex

Nice and Dirty

Yes, my adult fiction has sex. It’s only natural since I write about people and their relationships. Sex is a part of that.

But writing about something so personal without being vulgar is a bit tricky. My approach is to give readers enough description so they use their imagination. That’s the case in Peace, Love, and You Know What, the novel I am launching soon on Kindle and paperback.

The novel is set in the raucous early ’70s. Most of the characters are college hippies or lecherous professors aka members of the Dirty Old Bastards Club. There’s a three-day bash at a slummy college apartment. Of course, there has to be sex.

But being a comedy, I keep it a light-hearted. Playful. (That is not the case with my serious novels. In a couple of instances, sex definitely is not fun.)

So, the novel has raunchy talk by both genders. There are quick hookups. Lots of nudity and open flirting. Dirty professors get it on with their students — and don’t get fired for it — but one of them with a bad ticker does drop dead.

And Lenora, one of the main characters, has sex with three guys in two days, including a ménages à trois she initiates. Lenora is the type of girl who takes love very seriously, a trait she decides to drop during her last weekend before she graduates and splits for Europe.

Here’s a section called Skinny Dipping. It takes place at a pond following a softball game between two rival hippie factions — the Winter Street and Roach Motel tribes. Tim, Joey, and Manny are three of the roommates at 221 Winter Street who are holding the graduation bash.

Lenora sat with the happy hippies chilling at the pond and celebrating the Winter Street team’s come-from-behind win. She watched Tim, Joey, and Manny horse around in the water, dunking each other and making wild jumps off a large boulder. They were naked like the rest of the swimmers except for Big Ray, who was too embarrassed to be seen that way, so he rolled up the legs of his overalls and went into the water up to his knees. Lenora hadn’t been in yet.

Tim stood on the boulder, whistling sharply. He waved his arms and shouted her name.

Lenora shook her head and shouted back, “Too cold. The water’s too cold.”

She watched as Tim made a flat dive into the water, swimming toward shore until it got too shallow, and then he was running and grinning like he had something in mind. Pond water dripped from his naked body. She cowered and yelped as it splashed on her.

Tim got ahold of her wrists.

“Come on, Lenora, time for you to get in the water. You look too hot sitting here.”

She held back and dug her feet into the grass. She kept saying no. Her laughter was breathy and high.

“Okay, okay. Let me take my clothes off first. ”

Tim released one wrist.

“Sure, Lenora, but I’m holding on. I know what’ll happen. You’ll run off as soon as I let go.” He pointed toward her skirt. “Hurry up, or I’ll get Manny and Joey to help me.”

She looked toward the pond where their hairy, smiling faces floated above the water.

Joey hollered through two hands,“Come on, Lenora. The water feels great.”

“Don’t lie to me. It’s effin’ cold.” She kicked off her sandals and tugged at Tim’s hand. “What’s the matter? You don’t trust me?”

“Uh-huh. You’ll split as soon as I turn my back. You won’t even say bye.”

Her skirt slid down her hips into a dark purple bunch at her feet.

“I did say bye this morning, but you wouldn’t wake up.”

“Sure, sure, I went looking for you all over town. I even went to your apartment, but you’d vanished into thin air.”

“You must’ve just missed me. I had a million things to do today.”

“One of them didn’t include leaving a note, did it?”

She tucked her free hand on the band of her red satin panties. Tim gave it an appreciative glance.

“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” she said as she yanked the panties to her feet. “There’s no way I can take this top off with you holding my hand. You’re gonna have to let go.”

Tim chuckled.

“Only for a second.”

He grabbed her hand when she was done.

“Wait, my beads.”

He watched as she pulled each one over her head. She made a teasing smirk.

“I’m ready.”


She ran with him into the water, screaming because it was so cold.

“Dive, dive,” he yelled, and when they came up for air, Tim dragged Lenora toward the boulder where Manny and Joey waited. She laughed the entire time.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: A photo of me taken a long time ago at a railroad station at Bridgewater, Massachusetts. I renamed the town and its state college Westbridge in Peace, Love, and You Know What.


books, hippies, Writing

A Novel Idea

After the author Pat Conroy died Friday, The New York Times offered this quote: “One of the greatest gifts you can get as a writer is to be born into an unhappy family,” Mr. Conroy told the writer John Berendt for a Vanity Fair profile in 1995. “I could not have been born into a better one.” He added: “I don’t have to look very far for melodrama. It’s all right there.”

And so Conroy used his experiences being born into an unhappy family in his novels The Great Santini, Prince of Tides and others.

When I look at my own writing, I admit it is inspired, certainly the adult fiction, by where I’ve lived, whether it is rural town, a psychiatric halfway house, or a small state college.

The books are not memoirs. I am not that interesting a person and frankly, I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. (A former agent wanted me to write a tell-all book about the hill town where I once lived in western Massachusetts but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.)

But I do use what I have experienced, heard, or observed, and then have my way with them.

My novel Peace, Love, and You Know What will launch soon, hopefully by the end of this month. And I anticipate questions about how much of it actually happened.

Here’s the basic storyline: Hippies at a small state college are planning a three-day graduation bash in 1972. The main characters are: Tim, who is faking his graduation so he doesn’t disappoint his mother, and his roommates Mack, Manny, and the nervous poet Joey. Then, there’s Lenora, their queen who is graduating and splitting for Europe.

The three-day bash is a big hit for every hippy freak and dirty professor. Then, there is the aftermath: graduation and adulthood.

Yes, it is a comedy.

People who have read drafts have asked how much of it is true.

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Me on the steps of an apartment house that appears in the novel.

To be honest, I didn’t go to a three-day bash although pretty damn close. No one got away faking their graduation. A groovy professor didn’t die doing the dirty deed.

People I knew and loved inspired some of the characters. But in Peace, Love, and You Know What, I gave each a life of their own. Actually I used parts of my father twice — for Lenora’s dad and a coach.

(Unlike Conroy, I didn’t have an unhappy childhood. It wasn’t perfect but the people in my life then encouraged me to use my imagination.)

Many characters are made up like Tim, Manny, and Mack.

Lenora? I’d like to think she’s a much hipper version of myself back then. Yes, I did hang out with a group who had a slummy apartment that was party central. We did smoke pot and drink. We protested and plotted. I fell hard and fast in love, and suffered for it.

It was an exciting time. And I hope by using what I know and letting it rip, I’ve captured it for you.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: I found it tucked behind another in an album. I have such few photos from that time. On the back, it says: “Keep those cards and letters coming, folks, love Joani.” I dare say I look a bit stoned.

books, hippies, Writing

Writing about Peace, Love and You Know What

The first book in my bilingual series for kids is out. Now here’s something for the grownups. My novel Peace, Love, and You Know What — an experiment in ePublishing — will soon be released.

I’m one more close read away from handing the manuscript over to Michelle Gutierrez, who is designing the cover and the book’s contents. We met this week to go over concepts. Michelle read the novel and I trust her designer’s eye to translate what I wrote into a reader-catching cover.

We’re doing Kindle first, then paperback. I might even do an audio version if people can stand my Massachusetts’ accent.

So what’s Peace, Love, and You Know What about? Hippies, to be specific, college hippies who are planning a three-day graduation bash. Yes, it’s a comedy.

There’s Tim, who is actually faking his graduation, and his roommates Mack, Manny and the poetry-spouting Joey. Then, there’s Lenora, their queen who is graduating and splitting for Europe. Tim and Lenora have been tight friends for four years and he figures this might be his last chance with her.

The three-day bash is a big hit for every hippie freak and dirty professor at Westbridge State College. You name it, they do it … but I’ll tell you more when I get closer to the launch.

I want to backtrack a bit and give credit to my friend Craig Dirgo, an author of thriller fiction who encouraged me to try ePublishing. It’s a bit of a story on how we met but one afternoon I listened to his take on the topic with an open mind. While Craig spoke, I thought about how I now get music, news, television, movies etc. via the Internet. Why not books?

I’ve gone the traditional route of agent — I actually had two — and publishing house with no success in getting the novels I’ve been writing into the hands of readers. It is time for me to try something different.

Of the books I’ve written Peace, Love, and You Know What is a solid choice for this try. The early ’70s was an exciting period of time. Perhaps the book will be a bit nostalgic for those who lived through it and a curiousity for those who didn’t. There’s enough sex in it that I will be hesitant to show the book to my mother, but I bet she will be proud anyway when I tell her it’s published.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: The VW van belongs to my friends Mary and Hector. It may make an appearance on the cover of this novel.