Monthly Archives: February 2012

We Are Water

After the first three novels in the Booker Series were published, I thought the series had run its course, and so I moved on to write another different kind of book.  Then, without provocation, I had a very lucid dream where I came upon Pueblo tribal friends from the Booker novels in full regalia doing ceremony on the edge of what seemed to be a dried-up lakebed.  I awoke with an intense desire to know what they were doing, and so I began to write titles to explain the scene.  I know that I wrote and rejected nearly fifty titles until the words Dead Water Rites fell into place.  My Indian family was conducting a funeral ceremony for a former living-water source!  That realization led me on research trips back to the Southwest and a year-long devotion to writing the novel.

Every Earth Day in April, my wife Pat and I are reminded of our American Indian inspired relationship to water as spoken by Joseph, Pueblo Indian Holy Man, in the novel Dead Water Rites (2000).  Let us share these words with you.

 “By spirit, we are inwardly connected and reciprocally related.  We are flowing into each other like water within a stream, our individual surfaces mere sense organs of the passage.  Knowing this, our joy in the moments of the flow should be boundless.  We are a rhythmical process in time and space; and because of the sensitivity of our boundary surfaces, we are Earth’s cosmic sense organ.


 We are water—formed into embryo out of water; first fed by liquids; nourished because water dissolves solids; existing because no chemical process can occur without water as the neutral, mediating and dissolving element.  Water absorbs energy and transports it.  It creates climate.  It balances.  It harmonizes.



Let us honor the virtues of our substance.  Man is baptized of water to receive its nature, to arise clean and pure as Creation intended.  Like water, man should be the great healer in striving for a living balance.  Like water, he should be a mediator between substances, a peacemaker in regard to hostility.  Like water, man should desire nothing for himself.  His function is to refresh, heal, strengthen, revive, and clarify.  Like water, man should be open to light, transparent in motivation, eyes to the visible world and ears to what is audible.  Like water, man should be in eternal circulation between Earth and the cosmos.



Now Brother and Sister, look at your fingertips, the means by which you touch the world.  Your fingerprint is the pattern of an individual vortex just as your voice has its unique patterns.  These are the vibrations of identity.  Our words are the flowing out of creative recognition.  The stream of meaning crosses the void between one realized life to another in an attempt at unity and cooperation.  Water and speech flow with equal purpose.  We must believe that, in the end, all life comes together in peace and harmony.”



 Three of the most important mentors in my life read Dead Water Rites and were kind enough to comment on it.

Dead Water Rites strikes like a lightning bolt at the heart of an issue critical to our survival.  Monty Joynes’s work is Spirit driven.” 

Red Leaf, Cherokee Choctaw Elder






 “As an Indian reader of Dead Water Rites, I am left with the feeling of having been well instructed not only to the potential catastrophe of a waterless West from the environmentalist point of view, but by one whose joint characters ‘Booker’ and ‘Anglo’ look with great insight into the real threat posed by thoughtless ‘progressives’ to the sacredness of water and life in general.” 

 Cherokee Elder Lloyd Kiva New




“What Monty Joynes has accomplished in Dead Water Rites, his fourth book in the remarkable Booker Series, is the rare joining of a page-turning story line, lively with action and memorable characters, together with a sustained poetic meditation on the power and glory of water in the world.  The spiritual vision, the outward and inner lives of the invincible Southwestern Indians, are beautifully summoned up and celebrated.   Dead Water Rites is a powerful story and a pure pleasure to read.”  George Garrett


Filed under Writing

Working from Old Letters

The young artist in Sweden at age 22. Photo by Toni Ottosson

From the time I was sixteen years old and went to sea as a third cook on a Norwegian coal freighter, I have written journals, saved letters, and tried to recover the letters that I sent during my post graduate years in Europe and my Vietnam War-era years in the army.  Over a period of nearly fifty years, the six-foot deep file of letters, notebooks, and journals has been preserved for a writer’s day of reckoning.  In November 2011, the reckoning began as the basis for my 21st novel.

My first intention was to write an epistolary autobiography.  The rare genre had appeal, but the materials—even at a random sampling—proved to be both incomplete and unbridgeable due to surprising gaps in memory.  For example, there were individuals mentioned in the letters who were total strangers in the recall department.  A few of them were women I had evidently loved.  Then, too, as a well-meaning literary friend pointed out, I was not well known enough to merit interest in my autobiography.

The solution between desire and practicality was to use the most dramatic periods in my young adulthood as background for a coming-of-age-as-an-artist novel.  And right away, I realized that there would be a narrator as biographer and a subject character that would stand in for my alter ego, and somewhere in the telling of a fictional story, the one would become obsessed with the ghost of the other.  The working title thus became:  Portrait of the Artist‘s Ghost.

I must warn you that reading your own letters and journals, written mostly in your early twenties, is a humbling experience.  Then, as a novelist, you must make editorial decisions about what to use and what to discard as non-essential to the structure of the novel and its fictional plot.  As it turns out, the glue of the novel is not the story that you tell in your personal letters and journals but the fiction that you invent to make it compelling.  This kind of literary insight probably comes only with maturity.

But if I am to be a candid mentor, I have to urge you to keep personal journals of significant events and to write letters to individuals who will correspond with you in important ways.  Save every outward expression of your inner life and document your activities, attitudes, and relationships as thoughtfully as you are able.  Think of your posterity and how your life will be rendered as a creative person.  You are the documentarian of your generation, and your acceptance of this responsibility is evidenced by every word that you use and every word that you leave behind.

If you are indeed a writer, you must write with intent and purpose nearly every day of your life.

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Filed under Writing