Writing About the Town You Live In ~ GRL Spotlight Stop with A.C. Burch

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The old adage is, “write what you know.” Rather straightforward and sensible advice, which I took it to heart when I set out to write The HomePort Journals. At first, I felt fortunate because Provincetown is such a diverse place, chock full of intriguing characters and natural beauty. It seemed a no-brainer to write about the town I’ve called home for nearly 30 years—there’d be so much to write about. But then I began to have second thoughts….

In the first place, tons of writers have already written about Provincetown. If you search on “Provincetown” in the books section of Amazon, you come up with roughly 1,300 entries as of the end of August 2015—excluding the calendars and tourist guides. That’s a lot of words about a 2-mile stretch of sand. Within that astounding output, some fabulous authors have written books about Provincetown: Norman Mailer, Michael Cunningham, William J. Mann, Mary Heaton Vorse, Roger Skillings, Mary Oliver… the list goes on and on. What would I have to say that they had not already said so much better than I ever could?

Then there were the different communities within the town itself: The natives who grew up here. The “washashores” who moved here. And the legions of people who vacation here or simply love the town from afar. An incredibly diverse group of people, each having a different experience. Just think about it for a moment. Someone who comes for Bear Week has little in common with the snowbound existence of a person working at the Stop and Shop all winter. The drag entertainer who is here for a one-week bill would be hard-pressed to relate to the fisherman whose livelihood is made from the sea. The fashionista from New York who owns a waterfront home has little to nothing in common with the busker who sings in the rain in front of Town Hall. Yet they are all drawn here.

Whose Provincetown would I write about? That question intrigued me. I couldn’t pick just one. How could I write in a way that many different types of people would appreciate? Eventually, it became clear that the town would have to become its own character. By that I mean be enough of a presence to engage the reader from their own particular point of view. If the reader fell in love with Provincetown, they’d understand my characters much better. That meant the town would have to take center stage.

To make Provincetown a character meant showing its moods: The dark, windswept winter with its ever-present gray and the angry ocean sweeping over Long Point. The rare February day when there’s a hint that summer might just return someday. The shifting sands of the dunes. The warm spring morning when everyone ventures out whether they need to or not because it is just so beautiful and the air is so fresh. The mother whale and her calf venturing into the empty harbor in February. Those moods had to be described in a compelling fashion—in a way that people would resonate.


To find the right words to describe those moods, there had to be emotion. To capture emotion, I had to probe all I loved most about this place. At the core, I realized that the way I’d been treated made me fall in love with Provincetown. At a time when men like me were being fired for who they were, I was welcomed with open arms. Recalling that grounded me in the continual devotion I feel, even when summer’s madness rattles my last nerve.

Then there so many memories: Picnics on Long Point with friends who eventually succumbed to AIDS. (I always think of them every time I sail by.) An incongruous visit to the Unitarian Church on a lazy Sunday morning after a passionate night of love-making with someone I’d just met the night before. Sunrise over the harbor. Sunset at Herring Cove. Watching my dog, Dori, run joyously on the flats at low tide. The dinner party that lasted until 5 in the morning. The annual rituals of Fourth of July Fireworks, Carnival, and (I’m so ready for it right now I can taste it…) the decompression and return to normality after Labor Day.

Somehow, without really ever having previously considered it, I’d accrued a vast trove of Provincetown specific memories and emotions. Through revisiting them, I found the means to flesh out Provincetown’s character. In the end, writing about the town I live in was about the unpacking and revisiting of memories and impressions. For the most part, an enjoyable activity that taught me that the P’Town is as much a part of me as I am of it.

Consider writing about the town you live in. You may find a lot more to work with than you might have thought.

~A.C. Burch


Title: The HomePort Journals
Author: A.C. Burch
Publisher: Wilde City
Publication Date: 03/27/2015
Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas
Genre: M/M Romance


Fleeing New York City and an abusive partner, would-be writer Marc Nugent finds work at HomePort, the Provincetown mansion of Lola Staunton, a fabulously wealthy recluse. Aided by an attractive-but-unattainable artist and an all-too-available cross-dresser, Marc investigates accusations of rape and murder that have estranged Lola from a childhood friend for more than sixty years. Past and present converge when a long-lost journal reveals tales of infidelity, adultery, and passion that mirror the life Marc has recently abandoned. When his ex-lover arrives in search of revenge, Marc must confront his past, his notions of family, and his capacity for love.


Chapter 1 – Kismet

November 13th, 2008 – Provincetown
You never really know a place unless you live there. Until last night, Provincetown was a state of mind—a place that spoke to my heart. Now I’m actually here, I’m not so sure….
Setting down his pen, the young man cradles a cup of hot chocolate, then scans the near-empty café. His light blue eyes reveal exhaustion and disillusion. When the theme from Mission: Impossible shatters the midmorning stillness, he snaps shut a leather-bound journal and rejects the call.
Right on schedule. Brandon’s never up before eleven after a night of party’n play. What could he think we have to say to each other?
Offshore, a nor’easter closes in on the back beach. Ominous clouds darken the dunes of East Harbor, then the East End. Raw, heavy mist bathes trees and buildings in a prelude to the pelting rain to come. As the storm moves ashore, Long Point recedes into a murky, gray infinity.
When the phone rings a second time, the young man mutes it, eyes the screen until the name fades, then stares out at Commercial Street in search of distraction. There isn’t much to be found. Provincetown has entered its dormant phase. Worn, tawdry, and forlorn, the scene before him shows no trace of the vibrant mecca that captured his imagination just weeks before. It had been Carnival then; thousands of revelers, raucous laughter, outrageous costumes, and general goodwill had crowded Commercial Street in a euphoric celebration of summer, sun, and sex.
In the muted November light, the bleak streetscape retains few traces of those frenetic days. Cockeyed, scruffy buildings with peeling paint, faded fliers tacked to telephone poles—their events long forgotten—boarded windows with hastily scrawled thanks for “another great season,” all contribute to a petulant air, as if the town begrudged those who decamped at summer’s end.
The only person in sight, a stooped old woman with a large paper bag in each arm, shuffles along the sidewalk. She’s tiny, even elfin. Her face is furrowed; her back hunched under a thick wool coat laden with damp. When the downpour starts, she seeks refuge in the café. As she tugs the door open, a gust of wind rips it from her grasp. Before the young man can come to her aid, the bags give way. Cans, bottles, and packages roll down the steps and into the street.
“Goddamn son’s a bitches,” she mutters, hands on hips.
When he sprints past her to save a large can of beef stew from an oncoming car, she yells into the quickening gale, her shrill voice rising high above the wind.
“Thanks, dahlin’. You’re my knight in shinin’ ahmah.”
While her knight scavenges the flooding gutter, she seats herself at his table. Her dark, penetrating eyes never leave him, watching his every move with amusement and subtle assessment. By the time he’s salvaged everything in a pile by the door, she’s ensconced like royalty, greedily downing his hot chocolate.
“Hey kid, your phone’s lightin’ up. Oops, you missed the call—some Brandon fellow. ”
Incredulous, the young man stares at her, his blond hair plastered to his head, his sopping clothes glued to his pale skin. Her eyes twinkle, and the corner of her mouth starts to curl as if she’s losing the battle to suppress a smile.
“I didn’t answer, in case he was a trick. Didn’t want him thinkin’ your grandmother was nosin’ ’round your love life.”
She chuckles lasciviously, then extends a gnarled hand.
“He’ll call back, no doubt. Dorrie Machado.”
“Marcus Nugent,” he responds, dazed by a dose of frigid rainwater, the loss of his hot chocolate, and a strong sense of déjà vu.
“Well, Marcus Nugent, thank you for savin’ those goddamn groceries. Most folks wouldn’t do such a good turn for an old lady they didn’t know from Eve. Somebody brung you up right, that’s for damn sure.”
Marc studies her wrinkled face. She’s eighty if a day, with close-cropped white hair, a little flap of skin under the chin, and leathery, wind-burned skin. There’s something mischievous in this woman’s bearing—a smug sense of knowing—as if she’s watching an opening act with full awareness of the final outcome.
“You’re new here, Marcus. I ain’t seen you ’round.”
“Just got here early this morning. Please call me Marc. I’ve never liked Marcus. It sounds too much like a character from ancient Rome.”
“If that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get. Now tell me, Marc. Are you running from somethin’, or did you come here to find love?”
“Excuse me?”
“You heard me. Don’t go gettin’ all bitchy-queenie with me. I’m askin’ are you runnin’ or searchin’? There’s only two things that bring you boys to town this time of year. I know that much after more than eighty years of livin’.”
“I’m not sure that’s any of your business.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha.”
Dorrie’s brittle cackle fills the room, coaxing a grin from the man behind the counter as well as two men at an adjacent table who’ve been surreptitiously studying Marc’s physique, his sodden clothing having left little to the imagination.
“If you’re gonna live in this town, dahlin’, everybody’s gonna know your business whether you want them to or not. There are busybodies at every corner, just waitin’ to get the goods on you, and not all of them are old bags like me.”
Dorrie glares at the two interlopers to drive her point home.
“Better get used to that sorta bullshit from the get-go!”
As the two men rapidly split a newspaper between them and dive for cover behind its pages, the counterman produces a large cardboard box for the groceries. A wide, self-satisfied smile softens Dorrie’s rough-hewn features, showing decades of cigarette stain. Marc smiles back despite himself.
“You got a cah?” she asks, looking up at him with a slight tilt of her head, like an inquisitive fowl.
“A place to live?”
“Not yet.”
“Tell you what. You get me anotha one of these here,” Dorrie says, holding up his empty cup, “and a ride home, and I’ll do somethin’ ’bout that.”
His phone vibrates. Dorrie nods in satisfaction.
“Ah! Brandon! Him again. I figured as much. You’re a runnah!”
Marc shrugs, orders two hot chocolates, and throws in two pieces of chocolate cake for good measure.
The rain stops as suddenly as it had begun.


The HomePort Journals on Goodreads
Wilde City
Amazon US
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About A.C. Burch

Art Mahoney

A.C. Burch is a long-time Provincetown resident who spent his early summers on Cape Cod and since then, the sand has never left his shoes. His first visit to Provincetown sparked a romance with the town and forged a love of the sea that continues to this day—most summer days will find him sailing on Cape Cod Bay. A.C. trained as a classical musician, but his passion for the arts extends to photography, the art scene in Provincetown and Miami, as well as the written word. His literary icons run the gamut from Jane Austen to Agatha Christie by way of Walter Mosely and Patrick Dennis.

You can contact A. C. on Facebook or Twitter or visit his author’s site at ACBurch.com.

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I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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