Thursday, March 31, 2011

Congratulations, Jamie Manning! (And A Brief Update On Me, Too)

Before I begin, please join me in congratulating the talented Mr. Jamie Manning, who learned yesterday his YA Paranormal series will be released by Pendrell Publishing beginning Spring 2012.  Three cheers for Jamie, who is nice and cool and awesome, just to be clear.  I'm hoping to host a celebratory event in Jamie's honor as early as May.  I'll keep you posted!

Now me.  (Remember, the 'X' is located in the upper right-hand corner.)

It was a productive weekend.  I sat down with the intention writing what I thought was the end of chapter 23.  As the dialogue progressed, a supporting character grabbed the protagonist and said three words: come with me.

Holy epiphany, Batman!

That statement changed everything.  For one, I realized I was actually writing the beginning of chapter 24 - which means I now have a blasted hole to fill in, but whatever - I'll deal with that later. 

But, even better, those words dramatically altered the climax of the story.  What I thought happened is entirely different from what did happen.  The story evolved on its own; it's what needed to happen.  The characters have moved in the most appropriate direction, and at this point, I'm simply along for the ride.

I've put myself on a strict schedule, one that begins around 6:30 AM and goes until my body collapses wherever I happen to be.  Last night, it was at the local Borders.  True story.  Thankfully, it was in one of those comfy leather chairs.  (Yesterday, I pulled a doubleheader...)

Today, I took the the morning off, seeing as I'm plagued by exhaustion, a tad hungry, and in desperate need of a shave.  Believe me, if I think so, it's pretty bad.  My new routine is working, but it's tiring nevertheless. 

And so, I should apologize for my fading online presence.  I have not disappeared, nor am I ignoring my awesome writing companions.  I just want to get this thing finished - it's been a long eighteen months.  Throughout April, I imagine you will see less of me in the Twitter stream and blogosphere.  That's a good thing; it means I'm focused.  It's also a good thing because you will not have to bypass my tweets for important updates on @charliesheen or the @bronxzooscobra.  Your timeline will be clutter free!

I'm planning to keep up with my personal posts (seeing as I signed up for the A-Z Blogging Challenge, I really have no choice, though don't be surprised if I miss a day or three each week.  You can snark at me, or you can recognize I'm aware I failed miserably and simply move to the next blog.  I understand.)  But, I may not get around to visiting other blogs as often as I normally do.  I will try my best, but please understand I'm really determined to finish this manuscript.

So, my friends, please be patient as I crank out these last few chapters.  I'll be back soon enough!

And good luck to my fellow challenge participants.  I do look forward to reading as many of your posts as possible when time permits.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bullies Turned My Blood Blue

I donated blood this morning.  When I was finished, I glanced at my bag.  It looked like this:


SHOULD I BE WORRIED?!

April 1, 1996:  In seventh grade, I sat on my bedroom floor and watched the Kentucky Wildcats (1) defeat Syracuse (4) in a 76-67 victory, winning their sixth NCAA championship.  They were coached by the Rick Pitino.

March 31, 1997: In eighth grade, I watched the Kentucky Wildcats (1) give the NCAA title to Arizona (4) in a close 84-79 loss.  Regardless, they had made it to the championship game for the second consecutive year.  It was Rick Pitino's last season coaching.

March 30, 1998: In ninth grade, I watched the Cats (2), now coached by Tubby Smith, defeat Utah (3) in a 78-69 victory, claiming their seventh NCAA title.  It was the last time I'd watch the Wildcats from my old Kentucky home.

It was an exciting weekend.  Watching Kentucky take out Ohio State was both exhilarating and unexpected.  Watching them take out UNC and advance to their first final four in thirteen years was rather nostalgic. 

Many wonder how a former Louisville resident becomes a Wildcats fan.  Well, the simple answer is the Cardinals are just not good.  At least they've never been in my lifetime.  Even when I give them a smidgen of credit and slate them to win a game or two in my bracket, they disappoint.  For two consecutive years, they failed to push beyond round one.  Last year, I was angry, but his year, I could only blame myself.  Because regardless of seed or coach or record or performance, the Louisville Cardinals fall short come tournament time.  I should have executed better judgment.

But my allegiance to Kentucky is deeper than which team performs better.  Before moving to Pennsylvania, the summer before tenth grade, I assumed that was where I'd attend college.  I had no interest in going anywhere else.  Of course, I would be hiding something if I failed to mention much of this is rooted in spite.

Aside from a handful, the majority of my private parochial school classmates were Cardinals fans.  And, aside from less than a handful, I didn't care for any of them.  Sitting in classrooms with spoiled, enabled, and pompous rich kids - each filled with the Holy Spirit and blood of Christ, of course - was not my cup of tea.  The degree of phoniness was infuriating. 

I think the majority believed that, as long as they attended Wednesday night youth group, were present for Thursday morning chapel, and made it to Sunday school before prayer requests, it was okay to treat people like crap. 

It was okay to invite losers to birthday parties that never existed.  It was okay to ask others to hang out and never show up.  It was okay to call up rejects during your slumber parties and harass them via speakerphone.  It was okay to analyze those under par, pointing out every physical flaw at lunch.  It was okay to put brownies on their chair so they could walk around looking like they defecated themselves.  It was okay to type up love notes during keyboarding and sign a different name.  It was okay to trash lockers and steal homework and destroy projects someone else created. 

I mean, after all, you didn't like them.  They were inferior.  It's exactly what Jesus would have done.

So, in a way, my allegiance evolved from resentment.  That has since changed, but originally, the internal satisfaction of knowing my team was outperforming their team - well, it was intoxicating.  Unless you are from Kentucky, you don't understand the significance of the rivalry I'm referencing.  Watching the Cats advance those three years crushed their spirits, but lifted mine.  For a brief moment, I had a seat on top.  I could beam with pride while they drowned with depression.  In those days, I took whatever I could.

Of course, that is in the past.  My relationship with the Wildcats has evolved into something more meaningful.  Today, it brings me back to a time in my life when, although things were difficult in many areas, they were far less complex in others.  It allows me to remember and keeps my memories in tact.  It keeps me connected with childhood friends and shares a part of me with my new companions. 

In 2011, my loyalty to the Wildcats symbolizes my affection for the state of Kentucky.  Having lived there for seven years - seven critical years of childhood - it had a significant impact on the person I became.  Despite misconceptions, I participated in a remarkable culture unlike any other.  Yes, it goes far beyond a ninety second horse race, and my life would be different without those experiences. 

Writing this post taught me something.  As silly as it sounds, this team pulled me through some difficult times.  They were not only my entertainment, but also my escape.  Their wins sent me to bed happy, even though that happiness dissolved the next day at school.

They kept me unique.  Nobody coasts through life without getting cut, though in most cases, our wounds eject red.  Well not me.  These pores bleed blue, and I find it a much cheerier color.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Every Book You Hate Is Loved By An Agent Somewhere

I was chatting with Luke Raftl earlier.  It isn't often I find myself participating in a live conversation with a fellow writer, but when it happens, it's always rewarding.

We discussed a number of things: genres, doubt, fear, our anticipation for J.M. Tohline's THE GREAT LENORE, which is now available for pre-order, by the way.

Amid our conversation, I made a comment.  It was a casual comment, one that transferred from my mind to the computer screen as a natural progression of our conversation.  But hours later, I was still contemplating the statement, realizing I learned something through my own thoughts.  It tends to happen on occasion.

As we typed about the latest trends in writing and publishing, I shared this:

Every book you've ever hated is loved by an agent somewhere.
Every book you can't put down was rejected by twenty agents.

Despite being a generalization that varies from case to case, it put a number of things in perspective.  When it comes to books, we all have different tastes - readers, writers, and agents alike.  As much as every writer dreams of writing the book that will take the world by storm, it isn't realistic.  Even bestsellers are not liked by everyone.

Since starting my project, I have always used myself as a frame of reference.  As a teenager, I was a reluctant reader.  That wasn't always the case; it started in seventh grade when my private parochial school forbid me from reading classics like The Giver or The Outsiders because administration did not approve of the themes addressed.

Over time, it got worse.

As a freshman, I returned to the Kentucky Public School System, much to my parent's dismay.  My ninth grade English teacher didn't teach novels; it was one of those classes where, three times a week, we were assigned a story from the anthology textbook and told to answer the questions at the end.  I can count the number of times I actually did that assignment on one hand.

After moving to Pennsylvania, the reading requirements became extensive.  As an Honors student, we read two novels each summer and at least three during the semester.  Unfortunately, in the three years I spent at that school, I liked one book.  Naturally, it was the only one I read. 

(Man, am I glad I never taught me!)

Even as a teacher, I found myself advocating for titles that would be more appealing to kids.  The only book in our seventh grade curriculum was detested by 95% of the student body.  Let's just say it was about a girl named Catherine, but they called her Birdie.

The book did not not capture the majority's interest - and it certainly did not hook the boys.  As an adult, I could acknowledge it's literary merit, but still hated it myself.  I was given a copy to read over the summer.  We agreed that, as the history teacher, I could refer to what the kids were reading and incorporate the content in my own class.  It sounded like a great idea until I sat down at my pool and read the first page.  For the rest of the summer, the book was used to kill bees.  True story.

By the time I was twenty-five, I discovered a world of YA literature I never knew existed.  Authors like Laurie Halse Anderson, John Green, Todd Strasser, and Jordan Sonnenblick write contemporary stories grounded in the real world.  And with characters who send each other text messages and update their facebook status regularly, they are relatable to today's teens.

But that is my preference.  Anyone who walks into a bookstore this weekend will see the phenomenon of paranormal romance and urban fantasy.  Vampires, zombies, and werewolves are huge.  And their is a growing demand for witchcraft, magic, and sorcery.  There is something for everyone, and whatever gets people reading more is okay in my book.

Taste varies.  As writers, we must keep in mind our stories will not appeal to everyone.  Much of my W.I.P. has been designed with the reluctant reader in mind.  I think back to what I wanted to read in school, and evaluated why what I did read was of no interest.  Essentially, I am writing the book I wouldn't be able to put down.  By doing so, those with similar tastes should, in theory, enjoy what I'm creating.  And if there are people out there who will be enticed to read my concoction, then someday, an agent, who also has similar tastes, will hopefully see that.  The same holds true for you.

This makes me feel a little better about things.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Flashback Post #2: It's A Typical Day (For My Foot)

Last week, I posted a journal entry I had written EXACTLY ten years earlier.  It was rather nostalgic - so much that I marked my calendar with all the dates an entry had been written.  Lucky for you, it's one of those days!

I am sharing a second entry from my Senior English course, which was once again written exactly ten years ago.  It's interesting to see how my writing has (or has not) evolved in a decade.  Unlike my last post, this one has more of a creative edge.  Like the last post, I got an A!  Just sayin'...

I am typing this exactly as it appears in my notebook; no adjustments or corrections are being made.  And just to clarify, we were given bonus points for correctly using words from the corresponding vocabulary unit the week each entry was assigned - in case you were wondering where some of these words came from.

Oh!  And remember, I was SEVENTEEN when I wrote this.  Adjust your standards accordingly.

Date: March 22, 2001

Prompt: Describe a typical day in your life from sun up until bedtime from the point of view of your foot.

     Every day I am forced to go through the same redundant routine.  An obnoxious blaring sound signals the rest of me to awake.  There are a few minutes of solitude before the blaring sound repeats.  Some days, this occurs only twice.  Other days, it can be as many as five times.  I don't get it.
     Eventually, I am dragged by a dark, hairy pole - a rather attractive pole, if I do say so myself - from the comfort and seclusion of a warm fleece blanket where I was resting comfortably.  Seriously?!  I'm plunged at full speed to some furry gray surface that tickles me beyond belief.  The itching, combined with the nausea from the rapid drop, is never a pleasant way to start my morning.
     I'm taken to a room where I slide across a series of white ice cubes.  Once I reach the other side of the room, I'm hoisted into a large porcelain carton where it is always raining.  The rain eventually stops and I'm dragged back on the ice.  Surprisingly, the ice is never as cold as it was before.  Perhaps it melts during the rain storm.  That would explain the puddle of water I'm usually standing in.
     Once out of the container, a fluffy animal comes and tickles me to death, though sometimes, it gets a bit rough and I feel like I'm burning.  It seems to depend on the day.  Afterwards, I'm dragged back to the gray surface and locked inside a room of white cotton.  I remain in this room a good twenty minutes or so - sensing a lot of commotion up above - before the entire room is shoved inside a moist environment with a rather unpleasant stench.  This is where I spend the bulk of my monotonous day.
    As for what happens over the next several hours, I'm really not sure.  I stay in this room for a long time before I'm set free.  Early in the day, I sense being pressed firmly against a black rubber pad, where every so often, I'm jerked slightly to the right.  My hearing is not the greatest, but I know I arrive at a school.  The attractive pole I'm attached to does an awful lot of climbing at this school, but once arriving at something called a class, I usually get to just hang around for a good hour or so.  Of course, I'm usually jerked around quite a bit - and knocked against a metal bracket far more often than I care to be.
     Thankfully, when I get out of this school environment, I'm quickly set free from the dark, moist environment where I spend most of my day.  My toes take a while to adjust, but the rest of me adapts quickly.  If I'm being honest, I much prefer to spend my days naked.  Does that make me an exhibitionist?  I guess it does.  But I hate being stuffed inside all these rooms, unable to breathe.  I want to get out there and see the world.  The interesting thing is, there are about three months a year where I hardly ever get locked away.  I can't quite figure out why, but whatever I do to earn that, I need to be doing more.  Hmmm, maybe I can try perspiring more.  That might work.  Besides, I think I look dead sexy with a tan, and you can't get a tan being stuck inside all day. 
     My days are pretty much the same.  It's not a comfortable lifestyle.  There's a lot of pain in my line of work.  But, every so often, if I'm itching really bad, something swipes down and massages my body.  It's those moments that I live for.  Sadly, there isn't much else to live for - at least nothing I can speak openly about here.  
     Okay, fine.  You twisted my heel. Here goes....I have a fetish for skinny-dipping.  Don't judge me!   

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Prologue Predicament

I like prologues.

There, I said it.  I feel like I just confessed a decade long drug addiction, and I know many will view my proclamation in the same light.  But I'm being honest. 

I'm not saying every book needs one, nor do I feel they should be wedged inside the spine for the sake of being included.  Yet where not having a prologue is acceptable and never disputed, many criticize their inclusion, categorizing them as a major faux pas. 

I had written about five first chapters before uncovering where my W.I.P. began.  When it finally revealed itself, I found it perfect.  From there, I progressed at a consistent pace.  The foundation had settled and I could begin building the subsequent levels of my project.  But the further I got in the story, the more I sensed something was missing.  Something critical; one tiny piece that needed to be revealed earlier. 

So, I wrote a prologue.

At the time, I thought nothing of it.  The majority of the books on my shelf have a prologue.  As a reader, I appreciate prologues that leave me feeling teased by the author.  As a teacher, I relied on prologues to help me 'sell' a book to students.  Imagine my surprise when, months after beginning a novel of my own, I learned prologues are a highly debated topic in contemporary literature.

I have since spent a lot of time - too much, in my opinion - reading the arguments for and against prologues.  I can tell you mine is less than 350 words.  I can also tell you I believe the last line is flawless.  That sentence motivated the entire piece; I started there and worked my way backwards.

I want the reader to have that statement before beginning the story.  I feel it is the perfect hook to segue into the novel.  Yes, I have tried moving the hook to the opening of chapter one, but it doesn't fit correctly.  I've spent days playing with the wording to make it fit, but my efforts continue to fail.  The bottom line is, without the proper progression, the pizazz disappears.  And I want readers to feel the same pizazz I felt when I read it for the first time.

My prologue has been shared with a handful of people.  I ask each reader to comment on whether or not the writing builds suspense, whether the facts are intriguing, and most importantly, whether the prologue motivates them to dive into this story at full speed.  The responses have been unanimously favorable, and the feedback convinces me my purpose has been accomplished.

I want to keep it.  At the same time, I'm not comfortable keeping something so controversial, especially if it could turn people away from ever reading the first chapter.  The easiest thing would be to chuck it - I can't worry about something that doesn't exist, right?

Wrong.

I feel it.  I feel the significance of those words and recognize the purpose they have in the overall book.  If it is removed, I will miss it.  I'll have no choice but to throw on black and mourn it's loss for days months years the remainder of my life.  That's how important it is to me.

Of course, if it causes others to detest my writing - or blog about how they refused to give the book a chance because they despise prologues more than chronic illness and acts of terrorism - I still lose.

Sigh.  What's a brother to do?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gas Humor

This is one of my 'Just For Fun' posts.  If you've come looking for substance, you are in the wrong place.  Actually, you are always in the wrong place, but this time, more so than usual.

Two days ago, I headed to the gas pump where I was charged $3.779/gallon, a rather steep hike from the $3.289 I paid during my last fill up.  I'll admit, I don't fill my tank as often as I once did, so it could have been that high for longer than I realize.  But, regardless, I was unprepared.  And as my palpitations escalated to an uncomfortable level, I was reminded of an e-mail a co-worker sent back in 2008.

Lucky for you, I saved it.  So today, in honor of my recent gas-attack, I'm sharing a little something to make light of the situation.  Perhaps you've seen it before.  If not, I say it's worth a glance.  I'm a fan of using humor to get through the tough times, especially those we cannot control.






On that note, I believe I'll be turning in early tonight.  I have ambitious plans for the next two days.  I'll be hitting the gym around 6 AM so I can get home and still commit a solid four hours to the manuscript before the March Madness games begin.  Last year, I didn't write a word for the duration of the tournament.  If I stick to my plan, it will be nice having the afternoons free, and not having the guilt of avoiding my writing.

My blood runs blue this weekend!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ten Years Earlier

For the past few weeks, I've spent a lot of time sorting through and organizing the accumulated clutter of the past twenty-seven years.  For whatever reason, I kept every single college notebook.  Heck, for the most part, I kept every single high school notebook.  My spring cleaning endeavors were long overdue.

A lot of junk has been chucked.  I condensed twelve boxes from my classroom into two, keeping only items that may yield some value in my new life as a non-teacher.  Personally, I think I deserve a tax credit for the hundreds of dollars of school supplies I donated.  I'm just throwing that out there....

Last weekend, I stumbled across the journal from my Senior English class.  I had kept it in my classroom, and every so often, would randomly open to an entry and read it to the kids.  They enjoyed it, especially since I was adamant about reading it as written.  Apparently, seventh graders are very happy pointing out their teacher's writing errors.

Coincidentally, J.M. Tohline's latest post discusses journaling.  I've always kept a journal of some sort, whether it be a course requirement for Senior English or personal rants stored in a computer folder.  I enjoy writing pieces that let me hear myself thinking.  I enjoy writing something that teaches me in the process.  I enjoy that that feeling I get when I finish a piece and realize that, over the course of writing it, I learned something between that first and last sentence.

Jordan's post ignited some desire to dig out my old journal, one of the few artifacts that made the cut and avoided a field trip to the nearest landmine.  This afternoon, I took a closer look at my thoughts during that time in my life.  It had been at least two years since I actually read an entry, and interestingly enough, I discovered one was written on March 15, 2001 - exactly ten years ago today. 

Reading over my thoughts - thoughts that scream they were written the last second before class - I decided my teacher must have really liked me to give this piece an A.  And although ten years may not have brought me as far as I once hoped, at least I have tangible evidence of some growth. 

So, just for kicks, I thought I'd share the words I handed in on March 15, 2001.  After all, I've done much worse to embarrass myself before.  I'm posting it the exact way it was written - mistakes and all.  Remember, I was seventeen when I wrote this.  And no, I have no idea what I was babbling about either.  Most likely, I just needed to get it done.

Prompt: If you could teach the entire world one skill, what would it be and why?  The skill may not be one of talent (i.e. singing, sports, dancing, etc.).  It must be a skill linked to our personality and/or character development.

     If I were given the ability to teach the world one beneficial skill, I would teach everyone to maintain a high level of self-confidence.  Over the past several years, I have reached the conclusion that self-confidence is a trait that does not exist within the lives of many individuals.  Since this is the case, my choice would be to teach everyone to believe in themselves and their abilities.
     Self-confidence appears to be an esoteric concept that is only understood by a minimum number of people, especially when considering the teenage population.  Lack of self-confidence causes people to become emotionally unstable.  This feeling often turns people in the wrong direction, as many look for alternative ways to compensate for this lacking characteristic.  Everyone wants to feel good about themselves, but sadly, too many people require assistance to achieve this mental state.
     Lack of self-confidence is often caused by feelings of inferiority.  Verdant people make rude and negative comments to boost their own egos.  Unfortunately, too many people choose to believe comments made by others rather than simply ignoring them.  They allow others to make them feel worthless because they feel worthless themselves.  It is so depressing that people are unable to believe in themselves.  Because they are feckless, they allow their lives to go down hill.
     Self-confidence is an area that I would definitely choose to teach everyone in the world.  I believe it would offer a positive impact on society and people would become better individuals making better decisions.  I have always believed that every person has a gift, and that gift correlates to their purpose on this earth.  Therefore, I would like to see everyone have the confidence to unlock their potential, discover their purpose, and go out and make things happen.  In order to do so, we must first believe in ourselves.

Interestingly enough, my piece focused on teaching the world a skill I have yet to master ten years later.  I can't remember much about what you see above, but I can tell you I'm sure I picked that skill for a specific reason.  And I'm sure, knowing me, it was some pathetic attempt to tell the teacher I thought I was a big dud.

Gees.  Ten years later, and I still feel like a dud most days.  I guess I better work on that, huh?  I'm on it!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

You Learn A Lot From A Person's Playlist

I must apologize.  I was unable to crank out a Wednesday feature this week, and sadly, it may be a few weeks before I get back in the swing of that tradition.  Please know I did not randomly decide to axe my features, nor am I tired of doing them.  It's just that, as the weeks progress, they take more and more time away from the manuscript.  Likewise, I would never forgive myself for writing something less than the individual deserves.  So for now, I'm curtailing the weekly spotlight, but promise they shall return - just as soon as draft one becomes a thing of the past.

Michael, the protagonist in my novel, stopped in for a visit last night.  Well, he didn't "stop in", but you know what I mean.  Anyway, we were amid an intense conversation when, accidentally, I hit play on my iPod.  For a second, I felt bad.  I mean, Michael doesn't really get to listen to music where he is.  He earns "electronic time" for good behavior, but I'm told that only entitles him to, at most, two hours per week of uninterrupted listening time.  And Michael loves music.

You learn a lot about a person by the songs on their playlist.  If there was ever any doubt of the strange, abnormal DNA pumping through my veins, just shuffle my music collection for confirmation.  But Michael and I have not discussed music to the extent I would like.  So, knowing today was the tenth, and knowing I post a monthly top ten list of some sort on this day, I asked him what ten songs were at the top of his playlist.  I also asked if I could share them as an opportunity for my readers to get to know him a bit.  Because as I said, you learn a great deal about a person from the music on their playlist.

The Top Ten Songs From The Playlist of Michael Ryan Kearns:

1.  All By Myself (Celine Dion)

2.  Fix You (Coldplay)

3.  Lithium (Evanescence)

4.  Speechless (Lady Gaga)

5.  Broken (Seether ft. Amy Lee)

6.  Love Song (311)

7.  I Need A Doctor (Eminem ft. Dr. Dre & Skylar Grey)

8.  Effin' Perfect (P!nk)

9.  Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)

10.  Sing (My Chemical Romance)

Kidding aside, this was a cool writing exercise.  The songs, the lyrics, and the artists singing them all helped me get to know my character better.  Each song represents a stage in Michael's journey. I attempted to list them in an order that, if listened to chronologically, takes one through that journey. 

Music is perhaps my favorite tool for getting inside a character's head.  You can listen to it just about anywhere - before, during, and after writing.  In the car.  At the gym.  While you're eating.  And the best part for me is, I never get tired of my writing playlist.  It isn't about the song; it's about the mood and creativity unleashed through the song.  Of course, it always helps when the song is enjoyable for the writer as well.

If anyone finds themselves 'stuck' in the creative process, I recommend this or a similar exercise to get you back in the game.  And if you attempt it, I'd love to hear your thoughts on how it worked out.  I'll be listening to the above songs, along with a few others, until my project is complete.  They are spot-on for my character, and I've never felt more 'in his head' than I do right now.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

For Entertainment Purposes Only

I've stopped explaining to people what I'm working on.  The fact is, unless you have attempted to write your own novel, you simply are not wired to understand what it entails.  It isn't my fault, nor is it your own. 

Sure, people still ask, but the majority are just being polite.  They don't really care about my book, nor are they interested in it's progress.  Which, to be perfectly honest, makes me not care a whole lot about them.  This must be why, with the exception of a handful, I have little desire to interact with non-writers.  I can't shake the vibe that certain people are waiting for me to fail.

Too many people try counseling me.  Paul, it's March.  Get your teaching applications ready!!  No.  Paul, it's great you are playing this little writing game, but you really need to think about how to make money.  What's money?  Paul, I have to tell you that I'm concerned.  I really think you should look into a stable career -  something with benefits.  Thank you; nobody ever pointed that out before.  Paul, what will you do if you fail?  Wait, I could fail?  Crap!  I have never failed at anything.  Teaching worked out perfectly, didn't it?!

Sheesh!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have people who are genuinely supportive - but, bless their souls, don't understand at all.

Case in point: my parents.  I love my parents, but they are really in the dark on this one.  I give you the abridged version of our latest conversation.  Drum roll please....

Dad: Off to write your book?

Me: Yes.

Dad: Are your mom and I in the book?

Me: No.

Mom: Yea.  I bet.....

Me: No offense, but neither of you are that interesting.  I don't think it would appeal to a very large audience.

Mom:  Aren't you writing about yourself?

Me: No.  Even I wouldn't read that.  I'm definitely not interesting.

Dad: Is the dog in the book?

Me: Nooooo.

Dad: You said there was a dog in the book!

Me: A dog.  There is a dog in the book - not my dog.  It's fiction! 

Dad: You're writing fiction?  I thought you were writing about Louisville.

Me: Holy [cow]! It takes place in Louisville.  It is not about Louisville.

Dad: But Louisville's a real place.  That isn't fiction.

Me: Sometimes, as odd as this may sound, fiction stories take place in real locations.  Don't you watch CSI?

Dad: So when do I get to read it?

Me: When it's published, which may very well mean never.

Dad: Your mom and I could help edit.  We could give you suggestions.

Me: Dad, you don't read.

Dad: I read the paper.

Me:  Oh, okay then.  But family members should not critique your work.

Dad: Says who?

Me: Says everyone.

Mom: Isn't it almost done?  It's been two years.

Me: No.  The first draft is almost done.

Mom: It took you two years and all you have is the first draft?

Me: Yes.  And I don't have it yet.  I said almost done.  I still have a few chapters left.

Mom: How can that be?  You write every single day!

Me:  Yes.  I do.  Some days I write lots and lots of words.  Other days I write very few words.  And some days, I write zero words.

Mom:  Is that normal?

Me: No.  Not at all.  I obviously suck.  There is something wrong with me.  Maybe I should be evaluated.

Dad: I've been saying that for years.

-The End-

See what I mean?????

Friday, March 4, 2011

And The Winner Is.....

Congratulations to BethAnn Bennett who will be receiving a free copy of J.M. Tohline's The Great Lenore.  On behalf of Jordan and myself, thanks to all who entered and helped promote this contest.

And.....

Mark your calendars!  This giveaway returns Monday, April 4.  To those contestants who did not win today, your entries will stay in tact for the next drawing.  Plus, you are eligible to reenter in April.  In other words, your new entry each month will be added to any old entries you already have, bettering your chances at winning. 

I know; I am awesome.  No need to say anything further....

If you have not yet had a chance to do so, please check out my recent interview with J.M. Tohline, where he shares his background, process, and what we can expect from him next.

You can also find Jordan's guest post on the Writer's Digest Guide To Literary Agents blog; it's called How Do We Know When It's Time To Quit Being A Writer?  Or read his latest interview on Write It Sideways.  Or hop over to his blog and join us for this week's Weekend Writing Discussion, where I am headed now.

Have a great weekend,
Paul

Thursday, March 3, 2011

4 Things To Do Today If Your Pockets Are Not Filled With Shrimp Parmesan

Adapted from J.M. Tohline's latest post, which you can read here.

4.  Enter my contest to win a free copy of J.M. Tohline's The Great Lenore, which is now available for pre-order.  Entries must be received by midnight tonight.  It is the easiest thing you will do today; the winner will be announced tomorrow.

3.  Read Jordan's guest article on the Writer's Digest Guide To Literary Agents blog; it's called How Do We Know When It's Time To Quit Being A Writer?  It's a fascinating read.  At the end of the article, leave a comment; commenting enters you for a free copy of The Great Lenore

2.  Take a gander at the short sample of The Great Lenore and the synopsis of The Great Lenore.  Then, once you are as hooked as I am, you can immediately pre-order your own personal copy, which will be available on June 15, by clicking here.

1.  Check out my recent interview with J.M. Tohline here.

For those of you who don't know (or don't remember): the first Thursday of each month is currently TGL Awareness Day, a day dedicated to making people aware of The Great Lenore.  On behalf of Jordan, please take a few seconds to post a tweet or a facebook update that says this:


"4 things you should do today if your pockets are not filled with [insert your favorite food here] - http://bit.ly/f3Cm15"


Wishing you all a productive, prosperous Thursday.

All the best,
Paul

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Interview With J.M. Tohline


Today is a big day, folks.  Aside from posting my first interview, I have the honor of hosting it with a published author...who just so happens to be my greatest role model to date.  It's a pretty humbling moment for me.

J.M. Tohline is a name to remember.  His debut novel, The Great Lenore, is officially available for pre-order.  And he is, without a doubt, launching a career bound to take the world by storm.  Trust me. 

Among his crazy schedule, Jordan was kind enough to set time aside and share some thoughts with me.  He has taken an impressive journey, one that is different from the path most writers take.  And he is his own person - a talented, genuine soul who remains true to himself and refuses to compromise his mission.  This is, perhaps, what I admire most of all. 

And now, without any further babbling on my end, I present J.M. Tohline.

Hello, Jordan.  Thank you for donating your time and energy, especially during such a hectic week.  To start, when did you first decide to pursue writing and what led you to that decision?

I was fifteen when I decided; in fact, I never felt like I “decided” so much as I felt like the decision found me. That sounds cheesy, huh? But really, it was a random thought I had one Sunday afternoon while sitting in my parents’ van, waiting for them to come out of church. That night, I closed myself in my room and wrote a short story that centered around the Revolutionary War. After that night, I started telling people I wanted to be a novelist, and I started writing all the time.

Have you studied writing professionally?  How has your education influenced your writing career?

I studied formally for a bit. And then I quit. I felt like it wasn’t for me. Not to say that it is not right for some people, but I felt that everyone was being taught the same things about writing—being told what to read, how to read it, what to think about it, etc.—and none of it was conducive to original thought. I was double-majoring at the time (Writing and Finance), and I dropped the Writing major. I used that extra time to study writing on my own, and in time I dropped the Finance major as well…and continued to study writing on my own. It’s like when people ask Quentin Tarantino if he went to film school, and he tells them, “No, I went to films.” That’s how I feel my path for writing had to be: I couldn’t learn from the instructions of others; I had to read as many books as possible and study with all my free time and learn on my own.

Well said!  I'm completely with you there.  What is your favorite part of the writing process?

I have been sitting here watching my cat (while she watches the birds), trying to uncover my answer to this question. Honestly, I believe my favorite part of writing is when I finish for the morning, and I turn off my music and close my notebook (or Word document) and realize that it feels like I am pulling myself out of a movie. Not even a movie—more like one of those “participate in it yourself” plays, where you are right in the middle of everything that is happening. It is a great feeling to finish for the morning and realize that you have truly been inside that other world the whole time.

What is the hardest aspect of writing for you?

Right now, the hardest aspect has been switching back and forth between The Great Lenore and Blue The Person (the story about a man who conquered life—which is the novel I am currently working on). I don’t do well swinging from one story to the other; now that The Great Lenore is on autopilot for a while, I am finally being able to truly fly with Blue The Person. It makes a big difference.

Do you outline your novels, or do you allow the ideas to naturally unfold?

I allow a story to unfold of its own accord. The beginning of a story usually takes much longer than the end, because I am doing everything I can to get to know the characters as well as I know myself—writing and rewriting small parts and even huge sections, getting my feet under me for the story. During this time, the story usually begins to unfold before me, and I will keep notes regarding the story in various, unorganized hiding spots. In this way, I generally know where a story is going before I reach the part I am writing, but this is not always the case, and even when it is the case, it often changes as I enter that portion of the story myself.
 
What was the inspiration behind Lenore?  How did the initial idea strike?
 
I am always jotting down story ideas. I probably have about my next 20 novels planned out…and by the time I finish writing Blue The Person, the entire list will have changed. The seed of The Great Lenore was just another idea—the story of a woman who was presumed to be dead, and who used this presumption as an opportunity to begin a new life. And I hit a point where it was like, “Hey, this is the book I need to work on next.” And the idea spawned characters, and these characters grew and developed, and from these characters the story evolved.
 
From start to finish, what did your timeline look like?  Where was the bulk of your time spent?

I spent about six months writing The Great Lenore. I spent over two years editing it. It was my fourth completed manuscript at the time, and I had already marked the other three as “learning experiences” and chucked them in the trash. But there was something about Lenore that forced me to stick with it. And I edited for so long, partially, because it takes something extra for a “manuscript” to become a “novel.” And for an unpublished novelist, they are still trying to learn and understand exactly what that “something extra” is.
 
At what point did you assign the novel a title?  Was TGL the only title considered?

That’s a really interesting question…and I haven’t thought about that in a while. Actually, the original title was “Between Death and Put to Rest.” I still think that’s a cool title—would even be a cool title for this novel—but “The Great Lenore” kind of emerged from nowhere and became a serious contender, knocking “Between Death” out of the ring.

What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

I hope readers will read this novel and it will make them fly.

If writing did not exist, what would be your career path?

I would be a hunter-gatherer. No, really—I would. But that’s only because…if writing did not exist, a lot of other things would not exist either. My options would be severely limited. I would be a hunter-gatherer…and I would be the community storyteller.

I guess I deserved that answer, didn't I?  I should know to choose my words carefully when talking with a genius.  Moving on....

I'm in love with my book collection and I fear a world where literature becomes entirely digitalized.  Do you have any thoughts on this movement?  Are you an e-reader kind of guy?

I feel the same way about my own book collection. Actually, I think books will remain “in print” for a long, long time. I think those of us who love to hold a book in our hands will continue to be able to do so. But I also think the option of e-books is fantastic, because it makes books more accessible and affordable, and it opens up new avenues of reading. I believe that anything that gets people to read (whether it’s Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, a Kindle, or even Stephanie Meyer) is a good thing. And I feel that, since the introduction of e-book readers, more people are reading than before. I won’t go e-book myself, but I have no problem with them.

How did you select the setting for TGL?  Did your Boston roots influence this decision?

I am sure my Boston roots had an influence—after all, it helps to write a place you know. But I travel often enough (and make an effort to “get to know” enough places) that I can write a number of places very well. I think it was more that Nantucket, specifically (and New England, in general), was where this story belonged. It would not have worked anywhere else. Nantucket is such a throwback—no McDonald’s on the island, no Starbucks, no anything-else-super-corporate—and this novel required such an enclosed, pristine setting in order to flourish.

If your novel were to become a film and you could cast anyone in the world, who is playing the lead?

Like any writer, I have entertained this thought before (at least in the back of my mind). But I will choose to not say which actresses or actors (if any) I could envision playing any particular characters in the book, lest I lock a picture in the minds of readers of what a character looks like, rather than allowing readers to decide for themselves!

Any exciting plans for the launch of Lenore?

I have tried to be creative with all my marketing and promotional stuff—have tried to have fun with everything. Of course, many readers probably know already that they can request index cards from me to “strategically litter,” in order to send people to my site. I am not sure how effective this idea has been, but I know people have enjoyed sprinkling the cards around town, so…even if it is not working, at least people are having fun! I also plan to have another post up within the next couple months similar to my “Biggest Mistakes Writers Make When Querying Agents” post, plan to host another community storytelling event on the page soon, and am planning an East Coast book tour for the summer and a West Coast book tour for the fall. There are a bunch of other things I am working on right now, but that’s a pretty good idea of how my mind is working with all this. Oh!—and keep an eye on Writer’s Digest’s Guide to Literary Agents blog; within the next week or two, I will have a guest post up on there. It’s called “How Do I Know When It Is Time To Quit Trying To Be A Writer?”

I think you have been exceptionally creative in promoting your novel.  The #6WordStory contest was a blast, and I'm rather pumped to do some classy littering.  What can your readers expect from you next?

A few things, actually. Of course, there is Blue The Person. But in the meantime, I am also working on an interesting little short story project at nighttime, and in a couple months, The Shutterbug and I are going to start posting a Saturday Morning Story each Saturday morning, with one of her photographs, and with a short story inspired by that photograph. It might be a little while until Blue The Person is in anyone’s hands, but until then, there will be plenty to hold readers over!

For fun - if you're not writing, what are you doing?

Reading. Hanging out with The Shutterbug. Hanging out with family. Hanging out in public with a cup of coffee, watching people interact with each other and with the world. Taking road trips. Rock climbing. Picnicking. Hiking. Cuddling with my cat. Oh, and spending far too much time following and watching the Red Sox.

Favorite non-writing topics of conversation?  Anything off limits?

As long as I can avoid debates, I am happy to talk about anything. I despise debates, because neither side plans to change their stance, and so the debate becomes a relatively pointless experiment in socially hostile behavior. Other than that, I simply enjoy interacting with people, especially people I do not know. I love listening more than anything; I love hearing people’s thoughts and opinions on matters, understanding why they think the way they think and why they feel the way they feel.

You have first pick in your fantasy football draft next year - who do you take?

Sonofa…longtime readers will know that Paul did exceptionally well this last year in Fantasy Football, despite having never played before. I, on the other hand, had a near-flawless team in my league, and it fell apart at the end of the season. Thanks, Paul. Thanks…

Hmmm - is exceptionally well synonymous with first place? I'm just wondering.  And keep in mind, I didn't win a game until week four.

How do you unwind - particularly when your brain has been overworked?

My favorite way to unwind is to just simply get away. To fly somewhere. Or to take a road trip, whether it is a short one or a long one. It’s always nice to change things up and just take a break.

Absolutely.  I plan to do that once my draft is finished.  My dream is to pack some good books, comfy clothes, and hang out in an undisclosed location while my manuscript incubates. 

You're starving.  Food of choice?

Ice cream. It might not fix the fact that I am starving. But by God, is ice cream ever delicious!

It most certainly is.  And now, I have a craving - a craving I intend to satisfy any minute now.  I'm not even concerned I skipped the gym today.

I have to give a big, huge “Thank you” to Paul for all his efforts in helping to spread the word. Ready? Here it is: BIG, HUGE THANK YOU.

And to all of Paul’s readers, I hope you will continue to follow along on Paul’s journey, and I hope you will consider pitching in an appropriate amount yourself when his time comes!

Keep reading, Dear Reader.
Keep writing, Dear Writer.

Cheers.
~J


Likewise, I must give a big, huge "Thank you" to Jordan for taking the time to complete this interview, for being a huge inspiration, and for extending his friendship.

To learn more about J.M. Tohline and The Great Lenore, check out the links located at the bottom of the left sidebar.

AND DON'T FORGET to enter to win a FREE copy of Jordan's book.  Twenty seconds could make you a winner.  More details can be found here.  It's the easiest thing you will do today.

Thanks for joining us, my friends.  Wishing you all a productive Wednesday.

All the best,
Paul

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

JM Tohline's 'The Great Lenore' Is Available For Pre-Order Today

Good morning, friends!

Today is Tuesday, March 1, which means.....

The Great Lenore by J.M. Tohline is now available for pre-order!

You can read J.M.'s official pre-order announcement here.

You can visit J.M.'s distributor and pre-order his novel here.

You can visit J.M.'s publisher, Atticus Books, and read his press release here.

And finally, if you have not already done so, you should check out yesterday's post and learn how to enter for a free copy of The Great Lenore HERE.

The deadline to register for this giveaway is 11:59 PM Thursday (EST).

Heartfelt congrats to my dear friend Jordan on his big day!  And a special thank you to everyone helping support this talented guy.  Have a great day, folks!