WRITER - FATHER - HUSBAND - BIBLIOPHILE
A second son must find glory where he can.
-GEORGE R.R. MARTIN, A CLASH OF KINGS
Jude's Story, So Far
It is an honor and a privilege to have you visit my site. Here is some information about my life and adventures in writing so far.
I was born on November 7, 1970, the third of six children, in Chicago, Illinois. My mother and father are pure Midwesterners - my mother was born and raised in Chicago, and my father was from rural Indiana. Their middle American values, along with their great example of faith, played a vital role in helping to form me and my brothers and sisters.
When I was five years old my folks relocated to suburban New Jersey, and that is where I spent the rest of
my childhood, in a small town called Berkeley Heights. I attended Xavier University in Ohio as an under-
graduate, alma mater of my father, my uncle, my big sister, and my twin brother. While there I was enrol-
led in the Army ROTC program, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army after graduation. I also met and studied under Dr. Trudelle Thomas of the Xavier English department, a wonderful educator who has now been at Xavier for over 25 years. She was a significant influence on my decision to pursue my interest in creative writing.
Also at Xavier I continued in my lifelong Catholic faith - still an important aspect of my life. My great uncle had been a Jesuit priest and a faculty member there a long time ago, and the Jesuits at Xavier helped nurture my father spiritually as well. He went on to become a Jesuit novice himself, a calling he pursued until God called him into another vocation, that of father and husband, ten years later. This is to say that Roman Catholicism lives in me and informs my worldview greatly, and with the election of a Jesuit to the papacy in 2013, Pope Francis, I expect to explore different aspects of Catholicism in future writings.
After graduation from Xavier I reported to Fort Benning as a young Infantry officer. This is where I had the experiences which form the basis for my debut novel, Blue Six. I stayed at Fort Benning throughout my time in service, where I was a mechanized infantry platoon leader, a TOW platoon leader, a company executive officer, and a brigade staff officer in the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) and, later, the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized).
After putting my uniforms away for good, I attended the Writer's Program at New School University in New York City, graduating with an MFA degree in 2001. While there I had the chance to work with and study under many great writers, including David Lehman, David Gates, National Book Award finalist Francine Prose, Dani Shapiro, and Stephen Wright. I studied with some very talented people, including Andrew Huebner (author of American by Blood and We Pierce), Siobhan Fallon (author of the award-winning You Know When The Men Are Gone and the novel The Confusion of Languages), and the renowned, independent musician Sufjan Stevens.
Since the early 2000s I have been writing essays, stories, and reviews consistently year in and year out, trying to break into print anywhere I can. Getting published has never been easy, and I wouldn't want it to, but thus far I have managed to have some of my work appear in small magazines such as Xavier, Touchstone, Rock & Sling, Paste, America, St. Austin Review, The Other Journal, American Chronicle, eFiction, and I have been a contributor to the terrific online journal Dr. Hurley's Snake Oil Cure.
2013 was a truly unprecedented year for me in terms of my writing life. After years of struggling to find a way into the world of traditional publishing, and experiencing the frustration that can come with that process, I made the decision to self-publish and bring my work to the public on my own. After publishing Blue Six in March, I felt so gratified by the experience and encouraged by those who read the book, that I returned to two other books I had invested years of work in. April saw the release of a collection of my short stories, written over many years, called We'll See You When We Get There, which was a great thrill for me because I had put so much time into writing each and every one. Then, in August, I published a nonfiction literary memoir/"lit crit" mashup that took me two years to prepare for and write about the great Herman Melville. The book is called Forever Voyaging: One Writer's Apprenticeship with Herman Melville, and it is one of the books I am the most proud of. My late father loved this book about Herman Melville, which is good enough for me.
In fall 2013, I wrote another adult novel called Little Fathers, which has to do with three very different men at the crossroads of their lives. I am very proud of the book - but, for now, it will remain unpublished for personal reasons. It may see the light of day some time in the future.
At the end of 2013, my young son, age 6 at the time, brought home a wintry picture he drew that had black snowflakes on it. When I asked him why the flakes were black instead of white, he replied, as only small children do, "Because I could not find a white crayon." From this curious provenance, an idea rose from my mind that developed into one of the more surprising works of fiction in my whole catalogue. Written across nine months, the resulting novel, Obsidian, is an adventure story for young people, and has been one of the favorites among my readers. Adults tend to like it too (!!). This novel was written in such a way as to set up at least one sequel, but so far, none are in the offing. Maybe someday.....
In the intervening years between 2014 and 2016, I worked on a few short stories and essays here and there, when the muse hit me. In 2015, I had the chance to go see one of my all-time favorite rock and roll bands perform live on their remarkable 40th anniversary tour. That band was RUSH, who had just been inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame, deservedly, for their incredible and highly influential career. While waiting to see this great band perform again, maybe for the last time, I began to consider my life-long love of their music and how rare it is to have one band color decades of your life, and what it means to be able to create art of such staying power. It began as an essay, just gathering my thoughts before seeing the anniversary show. It grew into my second nonfiction book, Random Samples: Demystifying the Magic Music of Rush, which has incidentally become my "best-selling" title. It's a short but I think fun book that offers more than simple fan-boy enthusiasm about a great band - it also explores deeper questions about creativity and what art means to us as human beings.
In 2016 I decided to collect a bunch of essays and reviews that I had written over 15 years that offered a different side of me. Some of these that I am the most proud of were never published; others appeared in the publications mentioned above. Divided into three sections - "Books", "Music", and "Family" - this volume includes what I think is some of my best writing. The Family section is personal in nature and may not have mass appeal, but the book concludes with two essays written in tribute, one to a beloved uncle after losing his battle with cancer, and the other to my father, composed before his death in 2014 but not published before. The book is called A Few Words Before You Go.
One longer-term project I am involved in now is writing and editing a new historical series entitled Only The Dying. The series will feature two novels based on the life of my paternal grandfather, an oil distributor from Indiana who helped raise six children during the Great Depression. He died long before I ever had the chance to know him, and my project was inspired by only a few details, some of which are probably apocryphal, about his life. The first novel, The Widow's Prayer, was mostly written years ago, from 2006-2009. In 2017 I made a decision to return to this material and finish the first book. It was published in 2017.
The second book, The Sick Man, is in the planning stages. The first volume was one of the most difficult things I have ever attempted, and involved a lot of research. I expect the second volume to be highly challenging as well. But I have come to believe that this story is worth telling, and that only I can tell it. It's an honor to be able to work on a novel about my father's parents, and I interviewed my father many times before his death about them. I do plan to continue this work in dedication to him AND to his mother and father.
My original plan was to continue write into researching and writing The Sick Man. However, in late 2017, I was on the phone one day with my older brother, and he was telling me about a side-job he had landed as a package delivery worker for Amazon.com. He mentioned that he didn't even really have a boss - instead, he had downloaded an app, and the app would send him instructions and tell him where to go. This gave me an idea for a new story, and as I thought about it, I quickly realized that it gave me the chance to write the kind of story I'd always wanted to try - a fast-moving, thriller-type novel, with lots of twists and turns, but with little basis in actual reality - a kind of fantasy-thriller. I knew my story wouldn't make much sense - what I wanted to do was craft it and pace it in such a way that the reader didn't really care, and was just swept along for the ride.
The result was DeliverMe, my fifth novel (fourth published one), published in November 2018. It tells the story of Dave, a divorced father of two young daughters, who sets out on his first shift one night delivering packages, but makes a fateful decision at his first stop to deliver a package from an injured man to his "buddy" in the apartment building across the street. This turns out to be a poor choice, and sends Dave on a very wild ride that just may cost him his life. Readers have been responding very positively to this crazy story, which currently averages 5 stars on Amazon reviews. I dedicated this book to my big brother, and I am thrilled with its outcome and reception by readers.
In 2018 and 2019, I returned to the short fiction form here and there and started to accumulate some new tales. But the work was happening at a slow pace. Short stories have always been tough sledding for me. But I was pleased with some of the newer ones, and as I drew near to my 50th birthday in 2020, I had the thought that it might be fun to collect some of my favorite older stories with the new ones I was writing. The result was the retrospective Door in the Air: New and Selected Stories, 1999-2020, which contained fifteen older stories and six new tales, including "Winged World: A Pennsylvania Gothic part II," "Trouble Low and In," "Tom=Time," and "Door in the Air." For me this volume represents the best I could do in the short form before the age of 50 and I am happy with the outcome.
From working on short fiction in 2020 I began a tale that morphed into what might be the most unusual and unexpected of all my books. You never call tell where writing fiction is going to take you. I had been reading some classic noir tales from the likes of Dorothy Hughes and Cornell Woolrich, and had the smallest fragment of an idea about a writer working on a story in the middle of the night in the Bronx, New York. There's a knock on the door, and when he answers it, a beautiful woman from an apartment below him is there who has heard he is a writer and has come to ask if he will help her "tweak" a Dear John letter she is penning to a man who has become besotted with her. This thread led me into a feverish period of writing with all the brakes off, with no guard rails. The result is a stand-alone, mind-bending thriller that is a sort of "cousin" to DeliverMe. The book is called time o'clock and was published under a pseudonym, Foster Mullins, which is the first time I have done that. The book isn't even featured on my Home page, but you can take a look at it here.
After time o'clock I really wasn't sure what to do next, and I flailed around for a while. Maybe out of desperation more than anything else, I turned to an old idea I had had in my mind for a number of years about a short story based on one specific moment found in the New Testament. The gospel of Luke is the only one that spends much time relating the birth of Jesus and His infancy. Chapter 2 describes how an angel appeared to shepherds in the field to announce the event. Verse 13 then says, "and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heaven;y host praising God." I had always been intrigued by that one word, multitude, and wondered what that would look like in the literal sense. That led to finally getting a story out of me called "The Multitude" in which a shepherd boy and his disabled sister witness those events first-hand.
Writing this story was a tremendous challenge. But when I was finished with it I felt galvanized and inspired again to take on my old nemesis, the short story form. I had one or two other ideas kicking around, and one or two older stories I thought could be cleaned up, and after reading some poetry, I was even inspired to take a run at telling a fantasy tale in verse. After several months' laborious work I had a new collection of eight stories, including another tale that had existed in my mind only in a vague form called "All Men Are Brothers" about World War II. I really fell for that title, and so my newest collection of short fiction, new and previously unpublished tales, is in fact called All Men Are Brothers and will be published on November 1, 2022. I think some of these newer stories are the best work I have done in the form. Who knows what readers will think?
This all leads to my newest book, my 15th to be published independently, my 17th overall, and my 6th nonfiction title. In the early months of the global pandemic that came about from the coronavirus, in the spring of 2020, I fell into my first-ever experience with clinical depression. There were many factors involved, but the bottom line is that for a period of time I was really struggling with my mental health, and had lost any semblance of what we call happiness. This wasn't unique to me, of course. But the events that followed were part of my individual story.
One night I was sitting around in the dark, mindlessly flipping through the TV channels, when I landed on a Korean baseball game. Because all of our sports were shut down at the time, I started watching. I really loved baseball as a boy, but for at least 30 years I had not been interested in it. Something happened while watching that game. Around the same time, I had been visited, so to speak, by a memory I had of my father telling us about his father taking him to see "Negro League" baseball games during the 40s in Indiana. That led me to write a short story about the great Negro league pitcher Satchel Paige called "Trouble Low and In, " which ended up in my collection Door in the Air.
Between those two separate turns of events, an interest in baseball was rekindled within me. That turned into quite a journey of memory, self-reflection, and even renewed promise. Almost everything about that journey was unexpected. So I had an idea to write a book about it, my own "baseball memoir" that has kept me busy for the last six months. The result is The Tie Goes To The Runner: Reflections on the Game that Saved Me, which I plan to publish to coincide with Spring Training for the 2023 seasons (February). This book is very different for me in some ways, and it was a fascinating process to mine my baseball memories from the distant past while also taking a fresh look at our national pastime from my present perspective. I'm excited to share this book with readers!
Finally, in 2018 I was able to realize a long-standing dream by finding a regular writing "gig" on the side, in
which I could write regular pieces on books and literature for a magazine. I discovered a new magazine
which was being published in my area, but read by readers around the world, called Silver Sage - a journal for
readers over the age of 40. The magazine launched in 2017 and covered a very wide palette of subjects, from
health and welfare to science to fashion to sports to culture. I wrote for Silver Sage for four years, but unfortunately it had to shut down in 2022. I published 42 articles with them on books and popular culture, and am proud of the work I did for the magazine.
In the late 90s I was lucky enough to meet my beautiful wife, Kelly (Mersereau) Lovell. We were engaged in County Cavan, Ireland, in 2001, got married in 2002, and have established a wonderful family with four amazing children. We currently live in the Lehigh Valley, PA.
Signing Blue Six in 2013.
2017, photo by Jane Lovell.
Jude with son Patrick, June 2021