Winter night

West view, Morning, January 2015

West view, Morning, January 2015

The Four Seasons


The second-floor  window looks west over a moon-lit landscape, black forest the border to snow-swept fields intensifying the moon’s reflected light.  Just above the SW horizon Mercury and Venus lie close.  The nights have been clear and thus the snow fields make full moon last longer than its allotted week.

When I go out to put wood into the outdoor furnace in early morning, the spruce and tamarack plantations are photo-negative black and snow-topped white. Can it be 30 years already since I began to replant those rock-filled glacial farm fields into trees?y

Tree tops west of the house catching the sunrise.

Tree tops west of the house catching the sunrise.

We are upgrading the farmhouse. I make slow progress redoing the downstairs bathroom; old plumbing is mystifying to my dyslexic eye, so I have become buddies with Jim at the hardware store.  Five trips to Merrill.

This is the problem. Old farms and farmhouses have many tasks; those undone flit like bats through my brain when I want to write a novel scene. The mental effort required to construct a kitchen back splash is the same mental effort required to compose a subtle and emotion-filled dialogue, both equal to 1/252nd of the finished task.

In the mornings I will write The Executioner’s Son one scene at a time, one paragraph at a time if I must.  In the afternoon I will upgrade my web site. In the evenings I will finish the bathroom, one task at a time.

The kitchen will wait until April.



For friends and family who fret the world will end in CO2 rather than Rapture, I bring you a modicum of peace. To date, the 80 thousand trees I’ve planted over thirty years have sequestered 30,000 tons of CO2 to date and are projected to sequester 100,000 tons in their ninety-year projected lifetime. There, don’t you feel better?


Deception and working truth [3] Moscow

Deception in Moscow, 1961

The ‘middle morass’ of The Executioner’s Son, that miserable time when, between the sparkling first scenes and a dramatic conclusion, you sit in that writing swamp struggling to “The End.”

A 1900 Russian short story, The Beacon, by Korolenko, comes to mind (Russian version here, English translation here). It is late Fall. A young man hires a boat, which conveys him in darkness along gloomy  Siberian river. He spies a light and exclaims “We’re almost there!” The boatman glances over his shoulder and returns to rowing. “No,” he replies, “Long way off.”  The young man, flabbergasted, philosophized, as Russians are wont to do.   The beacon shines, seemingly near, now distant, always deceptive.

Lecture Hall, Soviet Union

Lecture Hall, Soviet Union

The novel’s eminence grise, Colonel Alexander Soroka,  lectures on deception. I attend the lecture.  Also in the auditorium is Danton Larionov, who wonders if this fierce Soroka is somehow related to the young beauty he met in Suzdal during that Spring 1953, the year Stalin died, Beria was executed and his father committed suicide. [Read more…]


Winter morning

Hoarfrost: It remained on the trees, seemingly renewing every night, for the second week of December (2014). On other nights, the sky was clear and the full moon rendered the middle of the night like day, save as if viewed through a photographic negative.

Hoarfrost: It remained on the trees, seemingly renewing every night, for the second week of December (2014). On other nights, the sky was clear and the full moon rendered the middle of the night like day, save as if viewed through a photographic negative.

Early morning, December 12, 2014: The Town of Russell school bus, a veritable light show of blinking and flashing amber and red  and strobe lights, flies past  in the pre-dawn darkness. The temperature hovers either side of freezing. The forest, gray and white save where for the spruce stand stark and black, is covered in hoarfrost, the fields in snow. I cross-country ski every day, the snow so right that it seems I fly over the fields. Deer and bobcat use my tracks to avoid deep snow.


Deception and working truth [2] (Moscow 1962)


Morning Fog and Snow, N. Wisconsin, Early December, 2014

Morning Fog and Snow, N. Wisconsin, Early December, 2014

Patrice and I are at the farm for at least the next year. Of late, the mornings have been fog-shrouded over one foot of snow. Beautiful.

I work every day on The Executioner’s Son. We are in 1960-62 post-Stalin Moscow. Lenin/Stalin’s genocide/democide and WWII is the near past.   It is known well enough that some number of Soviet citizens perished, but the fault lies neither with Communism nor the Soviet people, but elsewhere. It was Fascism or the “Cult of Personality” or even ” ‘mistakes were made.’

The main characters witnessed mass murder, though none save one has murdered. Each has borne witness, and each will admit or deny what they have seen. The novel’s action takes place against a backdrop of deception: State-to-state, person-to-person and, self-deception. [Read more…]


Deception and working truth (1)


There are so many ways to lie, so few ways to hold a working truth. Then, It takes but a moment to create another lie; it takes forever to disprove it (unknown)

Define the word

I am writing a dramatic novel with the working title,  Executioner’s Son.  

Wooden Church, Suzdal, Russia

Wooden Church, Suzdal, Russia

Deception is the backdrop against which the characters act out their roles.  The locations are three: Suzdal, Russia; Moscow, and Mariel, Cuba. It opens in Suzdal, a medieval Russian town, where those who survived the Mongol extermination of 1238 emerged from the forests and ravines to form modern Russian from under the ‘Mongol Yoke’. It is 1953. The Bolsheviks, Mongol-like, regained Russia to reimpose the “Mongol Yoke” while, Mongol-like,  exterminating millions and enslaving the survivors.  Suzdal’, once Russia’s spiritual center, has become prison in the Gulag system.   The Bolsheviks exhort with slogans.  “Building Socialism!”  “Life’s becoming better, sweeter.”  “Work makes you free.” [Read more…]


Upon a long road

Colorado landscape–one actor in the novel,  "The Wounded"

Colorado’s Mt. Wilson, an actor in the novel “The Wounded”

Dubai Fountain

Dubai Fountain. I look out on the pool and fountain.  I have yet to tire of watching it.

It has been a long road across storied lands – Croatia, Germany and the United Arab Emirates before I go to the farm. Patrice is teaching these two months in Colorado, and felt I would be underfoot, so…I’ve come to Dubai to write and visit my child.

The United Arab Emirates, financed by European and American petrodollars, is a collection of sultanates (princedoms) of which Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the wealthiest.  Thirty years ago a sand wasteland, it now advertises itself as a commercial ‘crossroads’ and so they are, insofar as gazillions of dollars and euros cn convert ‘vision’ into hotels, fountains, airports, malls and office buildings.  This is not unprecedented––sudden wealth and sudden building boom––in the history of the world.  Dresden was once a newly build city as I see growing around me here.  [Read more…]


A Simple Plan

The Wounded (To Blog)


  Two down; three to go

There is a recent novel, A Simple Plan, where two brothers and their friend stumble upon the wreckage of a plane–the pilot is dead and his duffel bag contains four million dollars in cash. In order to hide, keep, and share the fortune, these ordinary men all agree to a simple plan. The title is ironic.

I have a simple plan:  write five linked historical novels set against the backdrop of the cold war deception. Two down; three to go. [Read more…]


The Wounded, The next book…

The Wounded

the second novel in The Long War series:

  Available to pre-order now

The Wounded

 1 October  price $4.99

Pre-order price $2.99



Barnes and Noble



 (credit card not charged until the book is shipped on 1 October 2014)

“The Wounded” is the second book of Townsend’s The Long War Series. Ricky Belisle travels across the south and west of America, a minor league baseball player, seeking redemption before his family, his people, his Marie Jeanne. It is 1960, the nuclear age. His forebears far into the mists of time––father, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and beyond––had been warriors. The world no longer needs such men. He encounters temptation and corruption and injustice, a south of explosive rage,  injury and death lurking behind the friendly grin. Within the baseball stadium, there are rules, which are firm, just and clear.

He signs to a AAA team, on his way to the ‘big house.’ A run down between third and home, a concussion, and his quest for redemption is stopped short.  Marie Jeanne finds him on a Colorado mountain, recovering, hardened. Indifferent nature tests them, their love, their worth, yet again.


The first book in the series, Spirit Falls, is free until 30 September

Simply click on the  book cover

Free until 1 October 2014

insert the coupon code,  CM69E 

(not case-sensitive)

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Long Road: Dresden to Dubai

Novelist seeking words in storied lands

Dubai Fountain

DUBAI: Michelle’s apartment looks out upon Dubai Fountain. Click here for one of many u-tube videos.

The Zwinger Palace, Dresden

DRESDEN The Zwinger Palace

 Our year abroad on a budget approaches an end. Our strategy was to live where it was inexpensive (Rovinj, Croatia) in order to afford better (Dresden, Germany), then giga-expensive (Dubai) (visiting a child). It has worked.

Patrice and I have temporarily went our separate ways, she  to Boulder, Colorado to teach and I to Dubai. We will meet in Northern Wisconsin in mid-October to spend the winter at the farm. Weather predictions suggest the coming winter will be as the last––brutally cold, overcast and heavy snow.  Note to Robert; buy firewood.

I’ve come to Dubai visit my daughter and to finish the third novel,  Executioner’s Son, in The Long War series. My child has been the personification of kindness and hospitalityThe novel is a bastard.

I know about as much as you what the finished Executioner’s Son might look like. The protagonists, Danton Larionov and Ekaterina Soroka, are Russian, the novel taking place in Soviet Russia circa 1952-1962.  They enter one another’s life in Suzdal, a once beautiful Russian medieval monastic city,  now a Gulag.  I both understand and do not understand what drives these two young people. They are of course human with human failings and yearnings, but also Soviet Russian young people coming of age in a blood-drenched era from whose capitol, Moscow, the orders emanated to murder millions.

In Dresden, in the former East Germany, Soviet occupied for forty-five years,  they glance eastwards with a quivery nervousness as Vladimir Putin, the former Dresden KGB boss, presses westward. Might he be satisfied with Ukraine? [Read more…]


Memory and memorial

Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’

Mary McCarthy, a  New York writer and Trotskyite, speaking of Lillian Hellman, a New York writer and Stalinist, on the Dick Cavett show (January, 1980)

Dresden, Germany

Dresden view from apartment window, June 2014

View of Dresden from apartment window, June 2014

Dresden after night of 13-14 USAAF and RAF bombing.

Dresden after night of 13-14 Feb 1945 USAAF and RAF bombing and the.

 I am in Dresden until late summer. We have rented a fourth floor apartment in Dölzschen, a village a mile SSE in the foothills with an amphitheater view of Dresden’s city center.  Often I forget how close the German city is to the German countryside. Though German towns now merge into one another like suburbia in America, this five- or six-hundred year old farm village still, if not for much longer, has a sense of the country.  The town hall (rathaus) borders the barn yard (bauerhof).  It is as if in the morning and evening cows still walk to pasture down the main street.

Our apartment has high-stadium view of the downtown where the 13-14 February 1945 Dresden firestorm gutted the city. One can almost feel, having finished the milking that evening sixty years ago, the farmer hears the horses, agitated, their heavy hooves striking the pen boards a few times, resonance to the first few bombs the pathfinders dropped to mark the target zone, then the silence, then down along the Elbe River,  the city beneath the clouds lights up in fire and explosions.  The firestorm killing twenty-five thousand. In the conflagration the innocent, half-innocent and guilty alike perished. Such was the first half of Europe’s twentieth century; 25,000 dead barely registered a blip. [Read more…]