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Continually trying to answer the question...can a man of few words write a successful novel?

I'm a Mystery/Thriller/Suspense writer from small town USA who struggles everyday to balance my passion for prose against the need to be a full-time bread winner. Finding ways to devote more time to my writing is the challenge, but for now all I can do is follow this tug at my heart to wherever it leads. I'm here primarily to soak up all the knowledge I can from the writing-centric blogosphere, but I'll do my best to contribute by thinking of new and innovative ways to churn the writing pot.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

God Bless You

Hey everyone! I’ve missed all of you more than you can imagine, but I can definitely say my blog hiatus has been well worth it. So what brings me back today? Over the last year or so my dad’s health has slowly deteriorated and he finally ran out of fight early in the morning, January 22nd. We held the funeral services this past Monday and I have to say it was wonderful ceremony. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law both stood up to share some beautiful words of remembrance, and I offered a few thoughts myself. I wanted to share them with you here today so you might help me in honoring what was both a wonderful man…and father. I hope to be back amongst you soon. Until then, be safe and secure. 


I want to start off by thanking everyone for coming out today.  I know that Dad…as modest as he was…would be surprised to see this kind of turn out. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m one the quiet one in the family - but somehow I keep finding myself up here.  After our mom passed dad came to me and asked if I wouldn’t mind saying a few words for her at the funeral.  As strong as he was, I guess he knew he wouldn’t be able to remain composed enough to do it, but somehow he thought I could.  So here we are again, but this time he’s not around to ask me…but it seems right.  Hopefully I won’t disappoint him too much.
What’s been great over the last several days, especially last night, was hearing all of the stories about dad and how much he genuinely affected the people he came in contact with.  As I listened to everyone, two distinct themes kept recurring over and over.  One was CARS…and the other was how people’s impression of him changed once they got to know him better.  Dad could be quite an imposing figure…downright scary when it comes down to it…but all it took was just a little time with him to discover the teddy bear just below the surface.  Don’t get me wrong…dad could be dominating force when he needed to be.  As one of three boys growing up…believe me…I can attest to that.  But once you got by that gruff exterior you couldn’t ask for a better brother, father, son, and friend.    

I think it was fifteen years ago…Mom and Dad were living in Georgia at the time…I wrote them both a letter.  I sent it for no other reason than to thank them for being such wonderful parents.  I couldn’t say it to them in person because I knew I would choke and mess up half of what I was trying to say.  You know what it was?  Have you ever had one of those moments when you figure something out that’s been right there in front of your face the whole time, but for whatever reason it’s alluded you until it finally crystalizes in your mind?  Something that makes you go…HUH.  I had one of those when I realized that you can’t really understand your parents until you have children of your own.  You get part way there when you get married, but you don’t really fully appreciate them until you’ve experienced parenthood for yourself.  My wife Kim was expecting our third child at the time and I was seeing my parents in a whole new light, so I needed to tell them thank you.  At the same time I was beginning to understand something else about Dad.  He had a way of teaching, influencing, giving direction without you knowing that’s what he was doing.  He was the master of subtlety and making you believe you’ve figured something out for yourself.        
Let me give you an example.  We’ve already mentioned cars, so let’s use that.  I can remember vividly being with dad underneath one his cars parked in front of our house in cherry Point.  It was cold outside, a light rain was falling, there were pea-sized gravel boring holes into the back of my head and I wanted to be anywhere but there.  We were trying to remove a starter or alternator and there was this one obstinate bolt that was impossible to get to and we couldn’t get a ratchet on it.  We worked for hours and hours trying to get that bolt off…me getting angrier and angrier as time went on…when suddenly it came loose and the part was free.  I learned two things that day, the first, there was NO WAY I wanted to have anything to do with repairing cars when I grew up.  But the second thing I learned about…without dad saying a word…was determination.  Tenacity.  Sticking with things to the end.  HUH 

I also learned from him that sometimes it’s what you DON’T say that really matters.  I can’t ever recall dad voicing derogatory remarks about anyone.  I’m sure he had some…don’t we all…but he mostly kept them to himself.  Sometimes I would even try to bait him…ask him a leading question about someone I knew was ripe for ridicule, but he’d just ignore me or change the subject.  HUH  
He showed me that commitment wasn’t just a goal or something to strive for.  It was a duty.  Twenty-four years in the military.  Twenty years at AT&T.  Married for Fifty years.  The man was a constant…for everybody, but he never once bragged about it or hinted that was what a successful career was all about.  HUH.

I told a story at mom’s funeral about how I came home from college one day…heartbroken from a breakup with a girl…and poured my eyes out to mom who just calmly stroked my head and told me everything would be alright, then after a while she said she needed to go to the grocery store and she drove to the nearest gas station and poured her eyes out over the phone to dad.  What I didn’t say then was that there’s a part two to that story.  It wasn’t much longer after mom returned that dad showed up at the house.  I asked him what he was doing home so early and he told me that he had this van he had been tinkering around with and since he heard I was home he’d like to take advantage of that and get me to help him with it.  I said sure…still kind of numb…so he changed his clothes and we set about tearing into the engine.  After a while mom brought us sandwiches and drinks and we ate in silence. When it turned dark and he brought out the flood lamps so we could keep going even longer.  We must have worked on that car until past midnight…and you know what…to this day I have no idea what we did to it.  But during that time dad never said a word about my break up, or asked me probing questions like “so, how’s everything going?”  It wasn’t until years later that I discovered mom had told him, but that night when I finally climbed into bed, I fell right asleep and rested peacefully.  HUH. 
The last few weeks of dad’s life you could tell he was doing his best to put on a brave face, though he was struggling and deeply discouraged.  We all were doing our best to encourage him …convince him that all he needed was to have just a couple good days in a row, that’s all it would take for him to turn the corner and he would eventually be on his way to coming home again.  But we were wrong…and once again dad found a way to show me what was right.  I was with him that last night.  He was having a relatively peaceful evening.  His nurse and I were reconnecting some leads he had pulled loose in his sleep when suddenly he sat up in his bed and sneezed hard, four times.  Instinctively three words popped into my head and before I could say them out loud he was gone.  Later on I was trying to make sense out of what had happened…that he could be gone…experiencing a variety of emotions all at once.  Then I thought of how weird it was he sneezed like that…four times…once for my older brother, once for my younger brother, once for my little sister, and once for me.  And those words that were on the tip of my tongue that I never got to say…God Bless You.  HUH. 

Sometimes we tend to associate meaning to things for reasons that make no sense, and I may be guilty of that here, but in my mind dad found a way to put my mind at ease with a little bit of help. 
I love you dad…we all do…and we’ll miss you terribly. Give mom a hug for us.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Interview - Crystal Collier





Hey everyone!  I've come out of blog-seclusion today for a very special treat because Crystal Collier is in the house talking about the release of her new book MOONLESS!  


Welcome to my humble digital-abode, Crystal.  First off, let me put on my charming host hat ...can I offer you some coffee, a croissant, a piece of cheese?

Thanks so much for having me! (And like I’m going to say no to cheese!) 

Who can…right?  Let’s get right to it shall we? And you needn’t worry about responding while you’re chewing, I’ll edit that out in the post process.

Um…okay.

A lot of aspiring writers find it interesting to peek behind the curtain and see what other writers processes are like.  For instance...are you a pantser or plotter?  Laptop or Desktop?  Prefer AM or PM writing sessions? 

I eat cheese, dream strange dreams, then write. Kidding! Well, partially anyway. My writing originates from “story dreams,” complete with characters, plot and setting. But like a good movie, you can only cram so much into a couple hours.

Unless you’re Peter Jackson, then it might go on forever.  How many different revisions did MOONLESS go through before you felt it was ready?


Wow. Um, we’re talking in the ballpark of two hundred?

In 2002, MOONLESS bloomed as a novella. It wrote itself in a matter of days. But then, (as with all first drafts,) it went straight into the folder labeled “never to see the light of day.” Still, I loved it, and it kept demanding attention.

In 2006 I sent out a couple queries, just for fun, and the response was awesome. Agents loved my concept. The writing? Not so much. A very kind agent friend gave me some pointers and set me free.

Fast forward several years. I hosted a major beta reading (30+ readers) and people actually liked my writing! They liked the story! They wanted me to publish it!

*gulp*

Welcome back to querying, and the revisions of madness.

You also operate a pretty successful blog.  Do you find it a help or hindrance after publication? 

I might be (AM) addicted to blogging. 60% of what I know about writing came from the blogosphere—so while I won’t call it a hindrance, I do struggle to find the balance between writing, revisions, hanging with my bloggies, and other promotions.

What would you say was your biggest setback along this path to publication?  How did you overcome it?

Kids. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
  
What's on the horizon for you?

MOONLESS is the first book in a tri-series. That’s right, TRI-series. (Major plotting here.) With ten books (and three separate protagonists) in varying stages of completion, the real question is, how quickly should I publish them?
 




I want to thank Crystal for taking the time to drop by and answer a few questions for us.  Below is a listing of the remaining stops on Crystal's blog tour, as well as an all-important Rafflecopter.  Above all else, check out MOONLESS...you won't be sorry!


November 14
            Libby Heily: Author Interview & Excerpt #3
            Cathrina Constantine: Excerpt #4
            T.W. Fendley: Author Interview About my Current Work
            DL Hammons: Author Interview
November 15
            Ashley Chappell: Top Ten Fantasy Novels that Inspired Crystal
            Laura Clipson: Character Interview with Kiren
 
Words of Wisdom
            Kimberly @ Meetings with my Muse: Top Ten Ways to Send a Boy Running
            Robyn Campbell: Review & Author Interview
November 18
            Laurel Garver: How Crystal develops Characters
Gwen Gardner: Truth or Lie
Carrie Butler: Truth or Lie
Natalie Aguirre: Author Interview & Giveaway
November 19
            Christine Rains: Excerpt #4
Mary Waibel: Character Interview with Kiren
Bethany Kaczmarek: Character Interview with Miles
November 20
Scribbleweed: Showing VS Telling 
            Ellie Garratt: Character Interview with Kiren
            Aldrea Alien: Top Ten Reasons to Eat Cheese
November 21
            Meradeth Houston: Character Interview with Kiren
Mary Pax: Guest Post
C. Lee McKenzie: Truth or Lie
Ashley Nixon: Excerpt #6
November 22
Elizabeth Seckman: Truth or Lie
Melanie Crouse: Review
Medeia Sharif: Excerpt #5
Nicole Zoltack: Truth or Lie
November 23
            Jessie Harrell: Excerpt #6
Hart Johnson: The Naked Cheese
November 24
TC Mckee: Review
November 25
Michelle Wallace: Excerpt #2
Clare Dugmore: Excerpt #7 & Truth or Lie
November 26
Elise Fallson: Excerpt #7
Larissa Hardesty: Top Ten—You Know You Live in Florida When
November 27
            Julie Musil: Author Interview
November 28
            Suzanne Furness: Excerpt #8
Sharon Johnston: Review
November 29
            Julie Flanders: Excerpt #5
Misha Gericke: Where Moonless Came From
November 30
            Sherry Auger: Review
            Chrys Fey: Excerpt #8





a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

WRiTE CLUB 2013 – Wrap Up



I’d love to report that the third year of WRiTE CLUB was another rousing success, but that would be only partially true.  Although I believe everyone agrees that the level of competition was definitely higher this year, the number of people who participated didn’t reflect that.  There were a number of changes to the contest that could have influenced involvement, combined with the fact that I was unable to spend as much time promoting the contest on Twitter and Facebook, but it is what it is.  Here are some numbers:

Average number of votes during the preliminary rounds over the last three years:

2011 = 32.75
2012 = 63.75
2013 = 46.12

The number of people voting can be deceiving, so I looked into site hits during comparable times and those were down 15% in 2013 as well. 

Obviously my plan to offer a random draw gift certificate to anyone who voted didn’t do much to drive up participation, but you’ll never know success unless you experiment every now and then.  During the preliminary rounds we had 98 different people cast at least one vote.  Round one of the play-offs saw that number cut in half to 49.  Round two dropped even further to 38, and then the quarterfinals and semi-finals came in at 37 and 35 respectively.  Unfortunately, 36 voters failed to sign up on the Linky List, rendering them null & void.  Overall, there were 1178 name/vote combinations thrown into the proverbial hat for the gift certificate drawing.

*Note – Because they were celebrity judges I excluded Tiana Smith and Alex J. Cavanaugh from the contest.  Sorry guys.

The random number generator spit out the number 735, which it turns out was associated with the name R.T.Freeman.  Congratulations on winning the $75 Amazon gift card!

As I close things out this year, I must let you know that the future of WRiTE CLUB is tenuous.  Most of you are aware that I’m shutting down my blog to concentrate on writing and publishing pursuits and my return date is open-ended based upon the outcome of those efforts.  There is a chance I won’t be around when WRiTE CLUB is due to return in 2014…but I remain optimistic.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Hope to see you again next year!