Tag Archives: Bankrupt Heart

Comedy as Balancing Act


Comedy requires concision. As I’ve been building my story I’ve had to battle filling in enough narrative to make the mind’s eye see the scene while maintaining the pace of the story so as not to derail the momentum. It is a brutal dance of first building the chapter and then removing anything that does not propel the plot or is not funny… There is a degree of difficulty here that I would not have been capable of understanding had I not written two bigger novels.


“Always use a high roller at a card game,” Fletcher said.

“Poker playing, men play cards all the time.”

“Mormon’s don’t…” Gage said.

“Give a Mormon half a chance,” Fletch said, “and they’ll be most hung-over rooster crowing at sunrise.”

“Enjoy a game twice as much,” Keefe said, “and be three times as ashamed.”


Sunday aboard our Sailboat

aircraft carrier



What about a gentle breeze, warm sun and our dear friends Lori and RJ aboard our yacht Sweet Seas for an afternoon of conversation? While basking in the light, dining on guacamole, eating enlightened chips… toss in a beer, a glass of wine, steady beats from our favorite  jazz station….

We do a lot of kids shows. I wrapped a weekend at BayFest in Berkeley on Saturday, a fundraiser at Indian Valley Grammar School in Walnut Creek on Friday! Where we raised a handsome sum, you see those of us that have learned how to play to kids, we didn’t just learn to play to kids because it was another gig, another revenue stream. We play to kids because it is our passion…

The world wobbles and the world gets it right. Today at Emery Cove Yacht Harbor four of us dialed in the love and did one afternoon right down the middle, we pitched the perfect game, the hole in one… and we’re ready to do more…


A Day in the Year of a Life of an Author…

Calella Eileen Sycamores web

The Sycamores of Calella, Spain

February 2013

Sixteen months ago I put my second novel Bankrupt Heart on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I printed off 50 copies and those have been distributed to influential helpers or sold to fiction readers.

At the same time I began plotting my third novel, a comedy with the working title Hot Spring Honeymoon. I began drafting this third novel on April Fool’s Day of 2012. I thought a comedy started on such an auspicious occasion had if nothing else good timing.

Writing long fiction is complex enough and is made even more so when added to its list of goals is that it must pass the test of being not just in structure a comedy but in fact it turns out that it is indeed funny.

I worked along steadily beginning in April through August. After five months I had the seven of the twenty chapters drafted. I had other work consume my attentions until the middle of December and that is where the book has remained. I resumed my efforts and sit one year later at work on the eleventh chapter.

I have noted that each chapter more or less requires as best I can judge one month’s time to become high enough in quality to join the others. Where a dramatic scene might be put together in two weeks a comic scene requires another two weeks to discover the rhythms, twists of plot and insight of character to birth its comic potentials.

I’ll leave you with a fragment… and for Bankrupt Heart a few new readers reactions to my second novel. To those of you happening by this blog I hope you’ll keep in touch… a comic novelist is in fact lurking in one of the least visited corners of the Universe!

Fragment from Hot Spring Honeymoon

“You just stay here.” Fletch explained. “Come on back for you after I’m done doing my work.”

Wasn’t a word of truth to what he was saying, Bambalina knew all too well he’d be coming back stopping at the Brewery, leave with one of those easy women he ran with. All she had to look forward to was switching her tail and twitching her ears until that man has had his way with another one of his so called girlfriends. Might not be whip smart but a burro had a keen sense of when her master was not forthcoming about how important her welfare truly was to the man her whole life depended upon.

Fletch stood on top of his trucks running boards. “Don’t give me that look.”

Bambalina knew she’d be stuck in this no good miserable dirt lot with nothing to do but count pickup trucks driving up and down the Hot Spring Highway. She looked right through the miner she had cast her whole lot in with. Might fool some of those women he ran around with but not this burro.

“There’s too much dog and too little cat in you.” Fletcher complained. “I don’t want to have to explain myself to nobody or nothing. All I want is a burro.”

Bambalina’s head drooped, she was inconsolable. She lifted her sad eyes and looked up and down the highway, must be a better miner to devote her life to. The burro turned and walked away last thing she had to say came out of her business end, a greenhouse gas exclamation mark. That’s what disappointment can do to a relationship.

 Bankrupt Heart

 Reader Reviews…

“I read a few novels a week. Bankrupt Heart concerned me, it started out slow for my taste, but by the end I thought that this was a great read.”

Anonymous Reader,  Emery Cove Marina, Emeryville, California

I did so enjoy your novel.  It had great elements,  A shining star on your forehead for a stellar first (actually the second, Highway Home was the first) novel.  Laughed my ass off at the restaurant staff commenting on the musicians and their influence on the fidelity of former lovers.

Max Frobe,   Jeweler, Filmmaker,    Nelson, British Columbia

An effortless read, there’s a natural flow to it, and theirs a nice unpredictability, you get caught up in the saga. His new life at the boatyard was unexpected. How Ry Waters came in as an outsider and became part of this group of misfits and how this set of new relationships alters him. He was forced to reinvent himself. I liked the attention to detail. It all felt quite real. It goes places other books don’t go. It opened a door to a whole new world…

Dom Ferry,   Street Act, Yamba New South Wales, Australia

The Western Writer


I prepare for Australia. It is looming. Like all of us born in California my life is full and not one more thing may be added now. Still, I am unsettled from another clever interview with an author who grew up in Idaho and describes herself as a “western writer”.

We may all say where we are from and what we are made of. I am sure she was a westerner. Then she went east. So at the present moment she is not in the west and no longer under the influence of its force.

Tweeting is of interest to me. I was in Dubai in October and have bonded to a few American expatriate tweeters now living there. They are American’s in Dubai. In fact from Texas, but I don’t recognize their Texan point of view, I recognize their present point of view.

The good people I follow on twitter, the good people from journalism, from publishing, from economics are by and large in orbit somewhere near New York City, as far north as Boston and as far south as Washington DC.

We grow conceit of place. I am a traveling entertainer. I know what people do. They have an affinity for the place they are from. The center of gravity of the American experience is located by the majority of its geographically captive citizens on the eastern seaboard. I don’t mean this to be true, but it does seem to be so.

I don’t mean to sneer at this clan, this club, this group. I mean to welcome them. You are where you are. Of course I am a true native western American. I am born in Oakland, California. I have lived all of my life in the west. I have toured the west. I am at peace here in the west and own the west like some tender freshman from Connecticut that owns Yale.

We are fated to the place and time we are from. Shakespeare is imprisoned at the Globe on the banks of the Thames, Faulkner is crucified upon the kudzu vines of the deep south, and I will forever be held to account for being a western American man.

I have never thoroughly loved where I am. I have had flashes of such passion then it fades. I begin to long for unseen distant horizons. The western frontier of North American continent provides a vast empty expanse upon which I may plunge my discontent into an unquenchable wanderlust.

I am grateful for the space the world has born me into. I have been tooled to work with it, to be with it, and know something about how it feeds scale and scope, how the place shapes the frame of mind and helps to explain the plain fact of why we are comfortable in our own skin out here plopped down in this emptiness.

The west allows by force of space the time to think. We do more of that out here than meets the eye.

All About Bankrupt Heart

Bankrupt Heart

A Novel by Dana Smith 

Bankrupt Heart explores the journey a man begins under some duress when his life on one fateful day vanishes. But wait! This is only where the story begins.

Victoria, Ry’s long term life partner, a composer-pianist on tour in London is not only not coming back, but is immersed in an affair with a British tuba player! Finn who is Ryan Waters true best friend has just purchased a forty-three foot wooden sailboat, Jasmine and offers her to Ry as an escape from his now empty house on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. Into the gale of Ry’s sorrow a boatyard of beatific people is discovered. Penniless souls for the most part; this tribe of sailors, drunks and artists transforms what appears initially as a march into the heart of darkness into a delicious redemption.

Ry Waters withered personage is soon pit against the towering humanity of Jackie Van Hart, watercolorist, yoga instructor and art teacher. Morty, his supercharged agent, vows to find him a new job at another radio station that Ry is not sure he even wants. Finn an avowed bachelor, meanwhile is falling in love with a woman who, like him, wanted nothing to do with relationships.

Pain and struggle’s antidote is plot twist, humor and surprise. Jackie, this gifted, intuitive, uninhibited woman with a knack for shattering convention and sparking the unexpected is the high octane catalyst for change. Then, as if too good to be true, her lover Lenny sails right back into Jackie’s life and even her world spins out of control.

There are intricate totems placed into this narrative that add valuable meaning.

Bankrupt Heart is paradoxically a joyous romp, a story of a man restoring a wooden sailboat while reviving his most authentic self, initially his world implodes into a hellacious mess but soon the main characters join Ry on the path to a wholehearted life.

Available as an ebook at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Or Contact Direct here to Purchase Print Version


Children at the Brink

I was running with the wind again. Headed north with Lacey riding shotgun. We had dinner in Ashland Saturday night. Sunday stopped in Eugene for breakfast. I’d been the producer of the street performing program at the Eugene Celebration for a bunch of years. Downtown Eugene has gone from bad to worse in the last few years.

After breakfast north to Portland and stopped to have a visit with one of my oldest friends. He’s holed up on the Northeast side just off Sandy. My friend likes to think outside the box, he prefers to live outside the box, and working from this scaffolding makes a curiosity, a kind of unbridled romp far from the familiar fields.

Evening shared more time with a husband, wife and their two teen daughters. On my way to see our youngest now at Seattle University it was like a taste of warm ups for what was about to come.

The progressive teen of the Pacific Northwest is a roving Burning Man Festival. They are playful souls. They bet with imagination. They read books, good reads.

They recycle. They eat good food. They like to juggle. They draw. They hook up and get tight with their sweethearts. They know that authenticity is the coin of the realm.

These are the souls we are handing our world off to. They are good loving people. They love the world they’ve been born into. The same as you and the same as me, and they want to do, to do whatever it takes, to turn the world around.

The obstructive class of status quo types that have the world by the throat… they will always want just one more bite of the apple, make one more close, one more deal, one more day before they let go.

My bet is with these feisty types up in this corner of the country. Come high tide, black ice, or snow storm they’re going to try to steer away from the catastrophe.

If you hadn’t noticed, Scientific America published a story this week. The article was unequivocal. Climate change is irreversible. The world is going to get much hotter. An extinction event could be baked into the cake.

We apparently can’t help ourselves. We can’t fix every problem. We can’t win every war. There are things beyond our reach. So, when was it we gave up and became fashionable not to try?


Click on the pic and go to Amazon to get the ebook for $1.00

Connect with me and I’ll sell you a print version for $15.


Eternity Ringing in my Ears

My 1967 Ford pickup truck was home. It took some practice to get the kinks out. Simplicity was the key. When I got the truck it had a V-8 and when I finished it had an inline 6 cylinder 240 cubic inch motor.

Matched weighted forged pistons, steel timing gears, special camshaft profile, roller rockers, balanced the rods, and tweaked the one barrel carburetor. I got 20 miles to the gallon. Smoothest engine I ever made.

Much of what I did to the motor comes standard now. I didn’t get roller lifters. Instead I opted for special hydraulic lifters matched to perform with the roller rockers. I might well have seen 22 miles per gallon with the roller lifters had I installed them.

Got rid of the points and added an electronic ignition system. I bought the rig in 1976. When I was done I donated the engine to a Ford Bronco restoration shop. The 240 was a prize.


I’d swapped out the 8 for the 6 and ran it around for a few months prior to rebuilding it. Ran fair enough, but I knew I could do better. I’d had the truck now for some years. It was about 1983. I had put about 300,000 miles on the rig touring as I had across the United States.

After jerking the engine and tearing her down, sending her out to the machine shop, ordering all the trick parts, getting her back and then painstakingly reassembling the engine back together I was ready to start the motor for her first try.

It was like an out of body experience. The motor purred. Gone were the rumbles and shakes. The motor had come to me speaking in broken English whereas now it was fluent, in fact perhaps mellifluous: to my ear Shakespearean.

I ran north to south. The Ford took me as far as Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and as far south as Bahia de Los Angeles in Baja, California, Mexico. She’d taken me east to Key West three times, New York twice, and Boston once.

I’ve slept around as they say. Finest neighborhoods I could find, or sometimes not, sometimes I’d just sleep where I was, wherever that was, however that looked.

Never put much stock in wanting my rig to draw attention. Curtains sealed out any light my reading lamp might make. Once I was in back on my bunk nobody gave the rig a second thought. You want to be invisible.

On my way to 500,000 miles I’d put something like ten coast to coast tours on this old truck. I spent the better part of a decade living in her, half those years non-stop, twenty-four-seven-sixty-months-straight-during one stretch.


I went over Rabbit Ears Pass on my way to Durango, Colorado in 30 below zero one night; had to chain up for that one. Not the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, but was a nominee.

Life was all about the show. I played dates town to town. Between dates was whatever I wanted it to be. I’d usually stock up the rig with food and then the real art was to know what dirt track to turn down.

If I had a few days I could write, read and workout. It wasn’t anything special. Many of my performing friends did much the same. It was good and still is.

Have a home now, but I still own a pickup truck, still get out on the road, and still pull off and take a dirt track now and then out fifty miles to nowhere pull over and spend a few days with eternity ringing in my ears.


Now Available at Amazon (click on the pic) for the handsome price of $1.00

Or, Contact Me for a Print Copy for $15