What’s Going On

Apologies to Marvin Gaye and 4 Non-Blondes for stealing their title. Though, I guess in the case of the Non-Blondes the title is “What’s Up” and I’ve simply stolen the chorus. Hmm.

Here is an update.

Persy’s Song is finally in Jill’s hands. Digital hands, but hands nonetheless. Everything is going slow, and will continue to do so. The reasons:

  • I am working 60 Hour weeks. And have been for nearly a month. This will continue for the foreseeable future. No, writing is not my full-time gig.
  • I still need to do cover work. And it’s been awhile. I need to re-learn things that I have forgotten since the last time I’ve been through this process
  • I need to relearn much of the publishing process. More importantly, I must learn the ‘stuff’ that has happened and changed in the process over the last 3 years.
  • I am writing another book, and writing will always take priority over the two items above.

Most of these items are not difficult. Some are even fun. But they do take time, which is at a premium at the moment. See the first bullet point. I don’t have the luxury of being able to hire things out. My writing makes enough to take the family out to a nice meal on a good month. Some months enough to buy single cup of Joe for Jill. Many months absolutely nothing. This is only to illustrate that I cannot justify taking on the added expense of getting help with the above tasks. So, they will take time.

There is a lot of good right now, though.

Since late May, when I started writing in earnest again, I have only missed two or three days. Probably the best part of this is that I’ve learned to be OKAY with those missed days. Again see the first bullet point above. Missed days have had the tendency to spiral into missed weeks and months in the past. Even when they were justifiable, because y’know 60 hour weeks.

I’m writing a little slower now. I’m learning to be okay with this, too. Sometimes, I purposefully slow my start in the mornings to allow me to “tap into my characters.” It’s a fine line, and I have to be careful to not let critical voice creep into this process. There is a lot be said for just sitting down and getting the next sentence down, but I’ve also learned that I am a deep thinker. Very deep. And to not leverage this strength is doing a disservice to my stories (and the characters.) The writing of The Smallwood Harp is going well. I am somewhere north of 15,000 words. New words happen in the morning before work. Most evenings I get something done on the stuff needed to release Persy’s Song and other publishing business related items on my already released books that I’ve neglected for too long.

My son is starting his second year at the local Community College and will head off to a university next Fall. We’ve had a couple of campus visits this Summer. It’s been all good, and I’ve been grateful for the little time I can steal away from his studies and video game play.

Anyway, there you have it. An update. BTW, What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye is one of the best albums ever made. Not that I have a strong opinion on it.

Talk at you soon

Check out my books.

Everything is Broken

North Country Girl

–TD

On Working Titles

Maybe someone will find this interesting. I always start a story with a working title. There is always something that triggers a title idea and it usually informs something early in the story.

Then?

It gets changed at least once during the writing. Don’t ask me why but I can always count on it. The closest I’ve come to keeping a working title was North Country Girl, which was born as Girl of the North Country. Not sure why I decided to shuffle that around. It may have been easier to fit on a cover. (Not kidding).

Everything is Broken started out as Heaven Ain’t Bad. It changed after I wrote a beach scene mid book, where a small boy complains to his mother how he cannot find a seashell that isn’t broken. Somehow, I noticed a theme that ran through the book, and I changed the title. There also is a scene with Sample in the hospital that is a nod to the original Heaven Ain’t Bad title. I had been listening to a lot of Townes Van Zandt at the time. My favorite song by him is “You Are Not Need Now” and the line “Heaven ain’t bad but you don’t get nothing done” has always resonated with me. Sample must have liked that line, too.

Persy’s Song began life as God’s Golden Shores. I was always a little concerned that the title would come off as a religious fiction title. I still love the title but I write crime fiction filled with drug dealers, hookers, strippers, mobsters. You get the point. When a character showed up in the story with lines from Bob Dylan’s “Percy’s Song” tattooed on her forearm. I realized her name was Persephone Song, and a title was born.

As I mentioned in my last post, the day after finishing Persy, I started a new story. It is another Fuzzy Koella case. It’s working title is The Smallwood Harp. Only ten thousand words in and I’m already entertaining at least two replacement titles. So, stay tuned.

–TD

Done

The Rape of Proserpina (Rome)

Finally.

Finally.

I am done. I finished Persy’s Song this morning. For a long time, I was ashamed of how long this was taking. I was disappointed with myself for not “finishing what I started.” I don’t think I realized some of the baggage I carried around due to life events that have bombarded me during my short writing career. One in particular, that occurred just as I released my first novel, and was in the process of writing the climax of my second. I haven’t want to think or talk much about it because it just sounded like excuse making. And I was ashamed.

Today, I am proud.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in this process, and I suppose that is really the great thing about any creative endeavor. Maybe, if your lucky, the creation is happening to yourself and not just your piece.

Tomorrow, I’ll start a new story. Sometime in the next week I’ll turn on spellcheck and get the typos corrected. So I can get this to Jill for the first read of Persy’s Song.

The sculpture displayed here is The Rape of Persephone by Bernini. One of the inspirations for the story. If you’re interested in the other, you can do a You Tube search for Bob Dylan’s “Percy’s Song.” (with a ‘C’ not an ‘S’).

Talk to you soon.

Tony

Photo: Gian Lorenzo Bernini, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunshine DeCastro

This will not be a long post, but I am a writer. I deal with grief by writing about it. I’m pretty certain this will not be the last time I write about it.

A couple of weeks ago we were informed that the family dog Sunshine (Sunny for short) had terminal cancer, and that we would sometime in the near future be faced with making the humane decision. We concentrated these last couple of weeks on making Sunny’s remainder of life as joyful as possible. We learned that she really liked donuts. It has been difficult, of course, but it has been special, too. Love for the family pet can run deep, and so it was with Sunny.

Sunny had been pretty good these last weeks. She has been on some medication to ease her discomfort. For the most part, she had just acted like a nearly 12 year old large dog. But yesterday I had her out on her evening walk, and she was attacked by three large unleashed dogs. Sunny stepped in front of me…obviously to defend ME. It was a horrific experience to see your sick dog attacked. I was able to get her safely removed without taking any wounds.

Unfortunately, she had a very bad night. Would not eat. Would not drink. Did not really walk. Same this morning. These were all the things the vet had told us to look for in knowing it was time. We took her in. Dylan, Jill, and I. There was more discussion about the right thing to do.

We did the right thing.

And it hurts like hell.

Rest in Peace, Sweet Girl.

–Tony

My Challenge – 2022 (NaNoWriMo all year)

I’ve been reading a lot about Dean Wesley Smith’s (Insane) Challenge. Mostly interested in how he looks at a challenge, and his thoughts on making it a “challenge” as in pushing himself to go beyond what he has done before. Obviously, it got me thinking about my own journey, and deciding on a challenge for myself.

Many writers have heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Everyone has an opinion on it. Haha. I first participated in 2003. I cannot remember which November I first succeeded, but it was sometime way back yonder. I don’t often officially participate now, but I don’t have anything bad to say about it. (I could air some grievances, but that is in my opinion the nature of the beast with such successful endeavors…baggage comes along with the success).

For the purpose of my challenge, I got to thinking about the fact that I have completed that challenge a few times. I’ve had a year, maybe two, where I’ve written the 50 thousand words in a month multiple times. But I’ve never really sustained it. So, here is the deal. My challenge for 2022.

I will write 50,000 words (intended for commercial publication) every month of the year.

Where I stray from the NaNoWrimo rules

  1. 1. I won’t limit myself to novels. I will produce the words. However, they fall is fine by me. Short stories, Novels, Novellas, Poems (wouldn’t that be a surprise), even Essays or other non-fiction. What I won’t count is the nonsense I write on here or emails or mailing list stuff. I know many writers count pretty much anything they write in their production goals. And that’s fine for them, this is just my rule. (Note: I have no intention of collecting blog posts into a book or anything like that)
  2. 2. The monthly framework has nothing to do with the end result. It just sets and re-sets my monthly word quota. 50k that’s it. If the story I’m writing on Jan 31 leaks into February. Great. No big deal.
  3. 3. Everything I write must be put on the market. One way or the other. Or it doesn’t count. This doesn’t mean I can’t publish or submit late 2022 work in 2023. It just means for the work to count I can’t write it with the sole purpose of tossing it in a drawer and forgetting about it.

A couple of things about what all this means. The math, if you will.

In general, my particular writing “process” allows me to write about 750 – 1200 words per hour. That process consists of a lot of cycling back and writing as clean a first draft as possible. Most months, I’ll have to write between 1600-1700 words per day. February’s stupid 28 days being the exception. So, I need to find two hours per day. Every day. All year.

The challenge for me will really come down to sticking to it when the work schedule gets hairy. I write first thing in the a.m. before the rest of the house wakes up and before the workday can dig into my writing time… but, what scares me are those days when I need some early hours at work.

That fear (a silly word really, it’s not like I’m swimming in a pool of sharks) had me think about a fall back position. Dean has this in his challenge. I decided against it.

So, this is it. NaNoWriMo all year round. If I succeed, I have 600,000+ more words of commercial fiction (or some non-fiction) in my stable.

Wish me luck!

Tony

Merry Christmas – A Gift

Fellow Earthlings,

My first novel Everything is Broken is available free as a Kindle book on Amazon today and for four more days. (Apologies, I’m too lazy to figure out what date the free gift giveaway ends). Some things of note:

  1. This is truly a gift, and it is for a limited time. This book will not be listed permanently free.
  2. I would love to be able to give free paperbacks of my books away for readers who do not “do” eBooks. Sadly, I cannot go into debt to do this. BUT, if you are one of those readers, Contact Me, and I’ll be happy to provide the book at my cost (i.e. Author Copy rate).
  3. If you are a Kindle Unlimited reader you will see this book is available in KU. If you are really interested in reading my book but think you can get around to downloading it later because it’s in KU anyway. Forewarning, I am ending my KU experiment, and my book will no longer be available on KU on or after January 3rd. I’m costing myself money here, but my recommendation is to go ahead and download the Free copy.

I guess that’s about it. Have a joyous Holiday season and see you in the New Year. I will come bearing new stories. More on that in the coming weeks.

Happy Holidays,

Tony

What I am Reading – John Grisham

 Back before Harry Potter. Before Twilight. The release of a John Grisham novel was a book event. 

It’s true. In fact, the first book event I ever attended (and the last that involved me actually purchasing a book for myself) was a midnight release for John Grisham’s The Partner. I was struggling with insomnia, not an uncommon occurrence, and I recalled a mailer Books-a-Million had sent me about the event. So, I showed up, where I joined about twenty other men, roughly the age I am now, in searching the stacks of the store for a hidden free copy of Grisham’s new release. I don’t recall finding the book, so someone else must have won, and I must have parted with a double sawbuck and few extra Washingtons ($20+ ) and came home with Grisham’s latest legal thriller.

Years later, I attended several Potter and Twilight saga midnight events.  Sometimes with Jill, often by myself…but always to pick up the new book for her. I never got into Harry Potter or the sparkly vampires, but I’ve always loved how popular these books became.  They seemed to be the foil to the doom and gloom crowd, who always wanted to remind us that “nobody reads anymore.” The people, who say this, obviously never attended one of these events. When I think about waiting in line with all those kids and their parents, and the overall level excitement they had for getting a book it makes me smile. A whole generation of new readers were born with these books.

But enough about those books I’ve never read.  

I first read John Grisham when I was in college. The first three books were out, and everywhere. I read them back to back to back, and lost sleep and valuable study time to do so. I anxiously awaited the next release, The Client (and regularly complained that it wouldn’t be available in paper for at least a year after the hardcover release – $20+ for a college kid was too steep).  That annual anticipation of a new Grisham release continued through the release of The Partner (which I could actually afford in hardcover). Then, for whatever reason, I drifted away from Grisham.

Years ago, I heard or read, a fellow writer, mention something along the lines of “I’ve never read Grisham. I tried his first book, and gave up almost immediately because it was so poorly written.” I honestly cannot remember whether this was a face-to-face discussion or online communication, and I can’t recall who said it. I only recall roughly what was said, and my kick in the gut reaction.  Now, looking back on it, I chuckle and think, “Writers,” shaking my head.  A couple reasons for this:

1) This was Grisham’s first book. Of course, it’s going to have some offenses to the silly writer rules, and yes it probably has craft elements that hadn’t matured to the level of a later stage commercial fiction writer.

2) Grisham obviously did something right.  Millions upon millions of people (including myself) have read and loved that story.

It’s pretty common to use criticism as a way to bring someone down to the critics level in all facets of life. Writers are no exception. I’m sure I have been guilty of it, and sure I will continue to be. But I’m trying to see it for what it is, and stop this nonsense. 

One of the interesting results from watching all those JLB interviews was hearing some of the other authors talk about their work, and it has me interested in getting re-acquainted with some of them (no need with Connelly, I still check in on him). So, when I heard Grisham explain that he returned to the Jake Brigance character of his first novel, A Time to Kill, for  the novel Sycamore Row, I actually made it into a bookstore (with mask and socially distanced) for the first time since March and purchased a Grisham novel. It was like 1996 all over again.

I’ll just get it out of the way right now. I lost sleep reading this one, too! And to the person, who says Grisham cannot write, I’ll just offer that any author that can keep me turning the pages with anticipation for a story about probate court is a far better storyteller than me (and probably you). 

I read this book immediately after finishing JLB’s A Private Cathedral, and admittedly nobody is going to accuse Grisham of being a match for Burke as a prose stylist. But once I got over that, I was able to sit back and enjoy it for what it was, an incredibly satisfying read with plenty of suspense and twists and turns throughout the entire 600+ pages.  

People, 600 page books are not my thing. Grisham’s book was a breeze.

No deep philosophical themes. I won’t need to re-read this to see what I missed the first time. But it was a fine story.

A third book featuring Brigance is expected to come out later this fall.  I’m anxiously awaiting it. Like I did for Grisham releases in my twenties.

It’s good to be back.

–TD

What I am Listening to – Kathleen Edwards

 My wife knows me really well. So, it is no surprise that she gifted me Kathleen Edwards’s new record Total Freedom for our anniversary. Ms. Edwards is probably my favorite Canadian Singer-Songwriter not named Neil Young. 

I will not attempt to type out the story of Kathleen’s break from music. It can be found ad nauseum all over the world wide internets. Let’s just say that it has been a loooong wait for new music from her, and in a year that has featured some outstanding new releases, this is the one I’ve been most looking forward to.  (Yes, in a year that has featured new releases by Bob Dylan, Drive-by Truckers, and Jason Isbell).  

And it is great. I have not taken it off my turntable in days.  If you are not familiar with Kathleen’s work this is as good a place to start as any (and that is saying something).

She recently recorded a live Album Release event for NPR at her coffee shop, Quitters, and it features her playing the album in full.  I’m not sure who mixed the sound, but it’s pretty damn impressive…I can’t imaging a coffee shop being optimized for acoustics.  At any rate if you’re so inclined you can listen here:

Not that it really matters but my favorite songs are the 1st, “Glenfern,” and the 5th, “Options Open.”  And the other thing of note is how great it is to see the sheer joy on her face when they launch into the first song. It seems the face of someone who is creating her art on her terms.  

“Glenfern” seems to be about coming grips with one of life’s bad rolls, and  learning to look back on it seeing the good “stuff”, while still being cognizant of the life lesson.  “Options Open” resonates with me because it’s all about realizing that at some point doors need to be shut behind you… keeping your “Options Open” only works for so long. *  

I hope she’s back with us for good.

*I believe in any art, that once it is introduced to the listener, viewer, reader they take over the ownership. So, while these may not be the themes Kathleen was exploring. I am confident that this is what the songs are “about”, because it is how they move me, the listener.

–TD

The 20th Year

 Oh, ho, oh. What is this tom-foolery, you ask?

Yes, I did celebrate my 49th birthday earlier this month, as we have already established.  I am celebrating my 19th wedding anniversary, today.

As far as I’m concerned, this is more worthy of celebration. It certainly has been more challenging, than existing for 49 years.

My wife, Jill, of course, deserves most of the credit. In fact, she probably deserve a medal of honor, of some sort. I also don’t think I’m alone in this. I suspect many of the lesser gender acknowledge the real work is done by their better half.

One of the fascinating discoveries I made early on in my marriage was that I never truly knew my strengths and weaknesses until I looked into the mirror of my wife’s eyes.  And yes, something happened when we made it official. Those eyes were more telling. A truer reflection of my good and poor qualities cannot be found outside how my wife reacts to them.  The happiness, the pride, the humor.  The anger, the disappointment, and yes, sometimes, the embarrassment.

Marriage, seems to me, is a journey all about tilting the scales in one direction. And becoming a better person because of it.

Happy Anniversary Jill Marie DeCastro, with love.

Yesterday’s Post (Links)

 It occurred to me that I could have done all of you a solid by providing some links to the JLB interviews I mentioned. I have yet to watch the Stephen King interview. It aired last night, after my blog post. There is some repetition in the tales Burke tells.  Even I have to admit to getting a little tired of hearing about the middle of his career where he wasn’t able to publish The Lost Get Back Boogie.  But if you haven’t heard it, then it is well worth the listen! It is a tale of persistence to make Rocky Balboa blush.

I’m sure most of you won’t watch all of the videos.  Keeping in mind that I’ve yet to watch the King interview, which I’m sure will be stellar. How could it not be?  My recommendation would be the Lee Child conversation. Interestingly enough, I could never get into Reacher.  But Child’s conversation, I dunno? He seems able to keep up with JLB.  No slight to the others, especially considering I actually prefer the work of Connelly and Grisham (I’ve yet to read Koryta).

Grisham:

Child:

Koryta:

Connelly:

King:

I’ll probably watch the King interview sometime today, when I have finished my own writing for the day.  IF, big if, I can keep myself away from Burke’s latest A Private Cathedral long enough to put in the hour and a half to watch it. The novel is an interesting mix of crime novel and magical realism that I think would make the late-great Toni Morrison proud, and more proof that genre fiction (and certainly Burke’s work) can be literary in nature. Even ignoring Burke’s jaw dropping prose, he is exploring themes and the human condition WELL BEYOND a simple mystery novel. Then, of course, there is the prose…I’ve yet to find a better living composer of prose…perhaps Michael Chabon comes closest (?). 95 MPH fastballs…

–TD