Morgan’s Knot evolved from an unfulfilled yearning to resume earnest writing, neglected but never abandoned during thirty-five years of an award-winning career as an advertising and architectural photographer, advocate, volunteer, and educator. (For a peek at my portfolio, please visit: www.rickstiller.biz).
I decided to publish my fantasy series under my full name (I’m Rick to friends and family) to honor my father, an internationally renowned Scottish biochemist and scholar with an expansive Victorian education, who read and retained everything. When I was a wee tike, he would take me on his knee at bedtime and begin a story - filled with young heroes, magical creatures, fantastic settings, and wicked conniving adults - that might go on for days or weeks before the children finally triumphed over the villains…and then he’d start another.
Before the first sentence of the first book appeared on the screen, I spent months pondering potential plots, characters, themes, and challenges. I considered all the things that I hold dear in life, rummaged through a tangle of intriguing concepts, myths, and legends, revisited many of the books I treasured in my youth…and struggled to recall the gist of the tales spawned in my father’s inventive imagination.
Once the actual writing commenced, I’d sneak an hour before heading home from the studio and more after dinner, until the process morphed into habit and these characters became part of my consciousness. There have been many points in this process where I thought I knew where the story was going, only to be interrupted by one of the characters saying, in perfect voice, “I wouldn’t say that!” or “You’re thinking like a grown-up again!” or “There’s something vital and obvious that you’ve completely missed.”
Along the way, I found great respect and admiration for their dedication to ‘all that’s right and true’ as well as their patient persistence and relentless pluck in foiling insurmountable adversity. Would that we all possessed character and determination worthy of such veneration.
The House of the Four Seasons
The House of the Four Seasons is a fictional rendering of our renovated farmhouse and the gardens that surround it. Long abandoned and neglected, restoration of the old house took months of relentless effort to renew her welcoming warmth as our home. We also found that we shared it, not only, with our children and pets but with our resident ghost, Nanny, who likes to move things around, turn lights on and off, open and close doors, and generally play tricks on us when least expected.
Over the first three years, we cut and hauled thousands
of volunteer trees and started installing plants and trees
to fulfill my wife, Sheridan’s imaginative design.
In February, colors begin to sprout from the gray brown
of her ornamental beds and flushes of pinks and yellows,
blues and purples build to an overwhelming display in
late spring and continue through autumn. That's Miss
Gracie making her rounds.
My organic vegetable garden started with two modest beds and has expanded over the years to provide produce from spring through early winter for our family, friends, neighbors, and the local food bank. Each fall when I till up the beds to rest for the winter, I am thoroughly envious of Elsie’s gardens, at the House of the Four Seasons, that produce a prolific abundance twelve months a year.
Over the years, magnificent old trees have matured
and died, while glorified twigs have grown to tower
over the house and gardens. Mother Nature continues
to test our patience and perseverance with droughts,
ice storms, floods, fierce winds, and months of extreme
heat, but gardeners are optimists. Failure is simply a
challenge to learn from our mistakes and understand
what the plant wants…or…finding The Balance.
Someday, I'm going to...
Years ago, when my daughter announced that she was planning to spend her senior year of high school in Spain, leaving our little nest empty of hordes of visiting children, I realized that, if I was ever to accomplish all those ambitions that got put off by real life, I'd best get started.
We all carry those dreams in the back of our minds, hoping to make time to begin our own personal adventure. My realization that we are running out of tomorrows stoked a persistent creative binge, built on an ancient degree in English Literature and a career as an advertising photographer, that has morphed into more than a dozen finished novels, a vast catalog of images, a diverse collection of musical compositions, and a vegetable garden that feeds the neighborhood.
I am reminded that it is the journey, not the destination...it is the doing that sparks the creative spirit to reach for new perspectives that might reveal some hidden truth. As often as not, that faint glimmer of insight is buried under a pile of our own assumptions that must to be cleared away before we can actually begin to create. Once we've solved that first riddle, we're driven to hunt for the next and the next. Trouble is, once it starts spilling over into the rest of life, there's no stopping it.
On the publication of Dealer…
I was a child of the Sixties, the only son of a brilliant couple, who couldn’t live together and couldn’t stay apart. We moved a lot. I read everything in my parents’ vast library and began to write poems, troubled pleas for some explanation for life’s weirdness. I didn’t find an answer, but I wrote volumes.
A drummer friend told me that his band needed a bass player and, if I’d get a bass, they’d teach me how to play. I learned…fast, and it wasn’t long before our little freshman group was playing fraternity parties for drunk and disorderly college kids and getting paid, what seemed, a lot of money…while learning all sorts of things about all sorts of things.
We moved to Fort Lauderdale, again. My eleventh school, a vibrant and intimidating scene, but the hassle of immersion became less forbidding when I found a band that needed a bass player. South Florida blossomed into a thriving music Mecca, with lots of talented bands playing great music in big clubs for teenagers, hip townie bars, and crazy tourist events.
Even then, young bands were surrounded by a very odd mix of characters, who wanted to hang out with local celebrities and were happy to provide pretty much anything you could imagine for the privilege. The bigger the venue, the more sophisticated the groupies, and they turned us on to the trappings of what seemed an outrageous lifestyle, along with a smorgasbord of new temptations.
Thus, the seeds of Dealer were born, because I was a curious lad, who pondered the question, “Where does all this smoke come from?”
If we were sharing our little bag of pot, then the guy we bought it from had a great big bag, and the guy he bought it from had lots more, and on and on. The market in South Florida was huge but that was just a little dot on the map of potential markets across the country and a major portion of the Western World, for that matter. Someone, somewhere was running a very big operation.
Continuing the family habit of moving, I received my political awakening, at the University of Wisconsin, during the height of the anti-war riots, toured with a band out of Macon, Georgia, as Southern Rock erupted into a phenomenon, and spent time in California, New York, Amsterdam, and London.
At each stop, I encountered larger than life personalities, who shepherded little segments of the underground economy that fed the illicit appetite of an entire generation. These young entrepreneurs shared a certain swagger, a confidence that they could provide a consistent supply of quality product for a demanding market, in spite of the dangers. If they succeeded, they retired rich, if not, they succumbed to overindulgence or spent years in jail.
While Dealer was absolutely concocted in my imagination, it is inspired by a herd of immense personalities, who were outrageous and courageous enough to provide the inspiration for social revolution in defiance of irrational laws, unreasonable sentences, and the ever-present threat of violence.
Today, we are witnessing a national reassessment, as a few states and several countries have decriminalized or legalized the personal and medicinal use of marijuana. For the first time, since millions of hippies transformed the social formula, there is the possibility that the national laws might be repealed and hundreds of thousands of people, convicted of smoking or possessing pot, could be free to get on with their lives.
The generation, who flaunted their recreational indulgences during the Sixties, are, sadly, returning to the herb for the relief of pain, nausea, and whole range of maladies. Medical researchers are finally being allowed to look into potential medicinal applications and patients across the country are beginning to benefit.
I will be pleased, if Dealer moves beyond sheer entertainment to provide an impetus for dialogue and discussion, for moving that conversation toward rational resolution and reparation.