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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

11
Feb

Thank You, 8413494 and 3485761!

   Posted by: admin    in Musings

I’m not all me. Haven’t been since May of last year. Part of me is from an organ donor. I’m grateful more than I can express, and I’ve been thinking about it this week.

I witnessed a car accident a few days ago on my way home from the day job. A small sedan (nobody has ever accused me of being a gearhead, and I was moving along at 45 MPH, so “sedan” is the best I’ve got) decided to slow nearly to a stop. This isn’t uncommon on that stretch of road, where there’s no left turn lane but many businesses and cross streets. In the left lane, rush hour traffic can be a game of Red Light, Green Light (you may have to search childhood memories for that one). The SUV behind the sedan reacted quickly and stopped a few feet short of hitting the sedan. The pickup truck behind the SUV was not so fast to the brake pedal. Honestly, I’m not sure the pickup hit the brakes at all.

I think the SUV then bumped the sedan, but I can’t be sure. I was busy ducking small chunks of plastic bouncing off my window. The back bumper of the SUV ceased to exist, and I saw the crumpled front end of the pickup in my rear view mirror as I passed by. I thought of stopping to make sure everyone was okay, but that would’ve only caused congestion in the right lane and, I admit, there’s always that inkling that someone else is already on top of it.

Besides, there are seatbelt laws, so everyone was probably fine even though it was a pretty good hit.

Then I got home and wondered how I could know that for sure. Which, perhaps being self-absorbed, made me think, “What if that had been me instead of the SUV?” I had been ahead of that pickup truck earlier but having driven that stretch of road every day for the last five years, I knew to switch to the right lane. Sometimes, traffic doesn’t allow the switch, and I’m stuck with Red Light, Green Light. What if yesterday had been one of those days? I drive a Subaru Impreza Outback Sport (we now reach the limit of my vast car knowledge). It’s hardly a large automobile, and I can only imagine the damage that it would’ve sustained. I’d probably have been launched over the sedan instead of into it. Or maybe that’s just the writer in me being overly dramatic.

I’m really not one for what ifs, and I’m not all that concerned about damage to my car, but I did feel lucky as I heard the crack of plastic and the crunch of metal. My mind’s ear immediately heard the spinal surgeon I’d met a little under a year ago.

“If you are in a rear-end car accident, you’ll probably be paralyzed.”

At the time, I had bone spurs on some vertebrae, a bulging disk (between C6 and C7, if that means anything to you), and severe degeneration due to arthritis in my neck. The disk pinched the nerve that runs down my left arm, sometimes giving false tightness to the muscles as if I’d worked out too hard, and sometimes shooting sharp pains that were so intense I couldn’t concentrate on simple conversations.

The bone spurs needed to be filed down and the bulging disk had to go. But the arthritis was so bad that replacing just one disk would put an unbearable strain on the disk above. Yikes! I was a mess!

On May 9, 2011, I had a double cervical spinal fusion (I was asked to repeat that three times after coming out of surgery—apparently, it’s a better indication that you’re doing fine than answering “Who’s the current President?”). I’m told artificial disks last about 15 years, so at my age (forty-three and three-quarters at the time), I would be guaranteed another spinal surgery before turning sixty. I chose the donor option instead.

Two separate donors supplied bone (from the pelvis, I think, but don’t quote me on it). I don’t know their names, where they are from, why they chose to donate, or how they enriched the lives around them. I only know the lot numbers for the bone grafts. And I know that they were good people who have changed at least one life for the better. They did so in death, and I suspect that they’ve improve more than just my life. And while alive, I’d like to believe that they constantly made others’ days brighter.

I’ve had the dream of being a novelist since the eighth grade. I finally saw that dream fulfilled last August when Good Deeds became available as an eBook. The novella The Evolution of Mortality followed. I’m currently working on two more novels and another novella, and I have a dozen other stories battling inside my head to be next, with new ones joining the fray all the time. Like I said, I’m not much of a what if guy, but what if I hadn’t changed lanes that day?

I’ll tell you what if—I’d still be pursuing my dreams because two people gave of themselves so that I could be stronger. I wish I could thank them in person.

Your personal beliefs might not agree with organ donation. That’s perfectly fine with me. You should follow your heart. But if your heart says that being a donor is okay, and you haven’t registered, I urge you to do so. It’s easy. And you might give someone a chance to follow his or her dream.

You can register to be a donor at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services here.

If you’d care to share in my dream, both Good Deeds and The Evolution of Mortality can be found here.

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29
Nov

Making a Difference in 10 (Easy?) Steps

   Posted by: admin    in Musings

Many may find the life of an indie author very tedious. Trying to break into the business is a long process of dedication and hard work. You have to absolutely love storytelling. Remember your senior year English term paper? It’s like that, but on steroids. It goes like this:

  1. Draft your novel. This can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to a few years.
  2. Sit on it for a while and start another novel, novella, or short story. This gets you away from the first story so you can return to it with a fresh set of eyes.
  3. Return to it. Read it. Revise it. It’s not reading for pleasure or to pat yourself on the back. It’s a slow, laborious task of finding flaws in grammar, spelling, and the fact that maybe one of your characters put a rifle in the trunk of his car on page 57 but it’s never mentioned again. So, you fix those problems to help the story ring true.
  4. Revise it again because you know that there’s always something to improve upon.
  5. Again! There’s a scene or two that still doesn’t ring true, and you know it. But it’s getting harder to find the mistakes because you’re now so familiar with the words that you’re not sure you’re even reading them anymore.
  6. Send it to a few trusted friends for their feedback. These have to be people that love you enough to tell you when you’re wrong. Even then, they are your friends, so you have to take what they say with a grain of salt.
  7. Consider what you were told to fix, understanding that some of the feedback may go against your vision but is also coming from a subset of your market, so maybe there’s more validity in the criticism than you’d like. Revise again.
  8. Send the manuscript to an editor to find all the mistakes you and your loved ones didn’t notice. There will be some, I promise.
  9. Search for a publisher. Or you may self-publish like many new authors these days. Whatever avenue you’re comfortable with that gets your words to prospective fans.
  10. Wait, wait, wait for sales so that you can finally quit your day job and only write, write, write.

I’m being a little over-disparaging here on purpose. I’m not complaining or looking for sympathy. Nor am I trying to speak for other authors. But I do want to illustrate what goes into writing a novel so that I can talk about a specific author and the sacrifices he’s made in the midst of all that hard work.

If you purchase an R.S. Guthrie book, he’ll donate at least 50% to the tuition of a young man with autism and Down Syndrome. Special needs schools like The Joshua School are expensive, and Rob Guthrie has found a way to help his friends and their son. If you purchase from his website, he’ll also send you a signed copy of the book and the donation percentage increases! This is a man who loves storytelling. If he could, I believe that Rob would sit all day in his Colorado home and type, type, type, until he had a bookshelf full of stories to offer.

He loves writing and the process. He has a blog about it. He’d make a living at it if he could. But he has willingly put a clamp on his ability to earn money from his work. He does this because helping others is more important to him.

He also started Read a Book, Make a Difference to encourage fellow authors to give back. Each author chooses a charity, whatever pulls at his or her heartstrings, and gives a portion of sales to those who need it. As of this writing, I count 38 authors that are part of RABMAD. That’s 37 additional donations around the world that are larger than they might have been because R.S. Guthrie decided that giving back is important, and inspiring others to give back is almost as important as giving back yourself.

RABMAD isn’t an organization with accountants and receptionists and web designers. It’s one man taking the time to pull it all together. You want to be on the list of authors—he does it. You want a new profile pic—he does it. You need to update the links—he does it. He’s writing new novels. He’s keeping up with his blog. He’s tweeting. And he’s finding time to help others.

Being an inspiration while doing what you love—I can’t think of anything better. Rob Guthrie is an amazing man.

I believe that there will come a day when you’ll hear the name R.S. Guthrie again. Good things happen to good people, and when those people are also dedicated to hard work, they succeed at what they do. So, don’t be surprised if you’re be on the phone with a family member and at that inevitable lull in the conversation when you ask, “So, whatcha reading?” the excited answer comes back that the new Clan MacAulay novel came out last week and it’s the best one yet.

I won’t repeat all his information here, but I urge you to visit the R.S. Guthrie website. I think you’ll be glad you did. I was.

You can find R.S. Guthrie’s website, with links to his first novel and two shorter works, here.
His blog, Rob on Writing, can be found here.
Click here for information about The Joshua School, where Rob is helping pay tuition for Ben F.

After you purchase an R.S. Guthrie book, please consider helping other authors participating in RABMAD here.

And when you’re done reading those, check out my RABMAD books, Good Deeds and The Evolution of Mortality.

 

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2
Aug

Mickey Spillane Did It Better

   Posted by: admin    in Musings

I’m asked the same question over and over: Why horror?

I’ve been creating stories for as long as I can remember.  I wrote my first story in the 4th grade for a sort of yearbook of creative writing.  My own story!  Using my own idea!  And in print!  I was thrilled!  A huge fan of Scooby-Doo at 9 years old, I knew right away that I’d be crafting the very best man-in-a-monster-suit mystery ever written.

The crime was solved after two pages of action, humor, and suspense, and my love of storytelling was born.  My next story took five pages to unmask the killer at the local Seven Eleven.  I’d set the scene, dropped the clues, and even thrown in a little bit of character development.  I bound it in a cardboard cover and drew a few illustrations.  I was a published author once more!  Mysteries were my ticket.

Middle school saw two more puzzlers, with a trio of pals for my detectives.  These were significantly longer at 50 pages or so.  Then high school brought a hard-boiled murder mystery influenced by the works of Mickey Spillane (my favorite author at the time, and still a fun read when I’m in the mood for some good booze, broads, and bullets.)  The cross-over to grownup fiction pushed my junior detectives aside.  I was now working toward a new detective series.  But the follow-up stories would get penciled cover art and nothing more.  Freshman year of college would take my writing in a new direction, and my tough-guy gumshoe would be forgotten.  Which is probably for the best.  Mickey Spillane did it better, anyway.

One Saturday night, some friends and I were driving aimlessly, as teenagers will often do, when someone mentioned the local legend of a glowing tombstone.  I’d never heard the tale, but according to our friend, a small cemetery stood on a secluded hill off one of the back roads just outside town.  If you stood on the road and looked up the hill, you would see one of the headstones glowing an eerie blue.  But when wandering between the graves, the glow disappeared, luring the curious to the graveyard but keeping the trickster hidden.

I was skeptical, but the calendar was nearing Halloween and we were 18 years old.  Any excuse to traipse through a cemetery in the dark of night sounded like a good idea.  We drove to the back of the old graveyard and damn if he wasn’t right!  A blue glow hovered at the top of the hill like a summoning beacon, but by the time we’d trudged up the long slope, the light had faded.

We thought we could figure out which stone was haunted by playing “warmer/colder,” but this was before everyone had a cell phone tucked into a pocket, and we couldn’t hear or see clearly enough from the bottom of the hill.  We never did figure out which of the dead was calling out to us.  But, of course, that was what made it a legend.

That night left me with the seed of a thought.  The seed grew over the next few days and became an idea: I could write a story about a glowing tombstone.  The action would start with a group of kids seeking out the local legend, except their search would uncover the proper stone…because this stone wanted to be found.  I sat down and wrote the first chapter.  Then another the next day.  And a third.  Soon I had nearly 50 pages of what would certainly become my first full-length novel.

That’s when it struck me.  I was more excited writing this story than I had been writing any of the mysteries.  I love reading mysteries and have a great respect for those who write them, but the plotting, the suspects, the placement of clues and red herrings…it was all so tedious.  I’d already had all the fun creating the story with my notes.  Not this time, though.  This time I didn’t know exactly where the story was headed.  I didn’t have a set cast of characters and I didn’t know who might live or die.  This story could take any turn I wanted.

Sure, it needed to follow some rules.  I couldn’t have demons pop out of cinnamon buns at the church bake sale.  But you see where I’m going with this, right?  I’d stumbled upon a different way of storytelling where I could have the excitement of inventing the story while I was writing it instead of before I wrote it.  The only limit was my imagination, and I’m a fairly odd duck so that wasn’t an issue.  For me, discovering the story is where the fun lies.  Mystery was out and horror was in.

That moonlit drive down a country road literally changed my life.  If I’d never made the switch from mysteries, the truth is I may not have continued to write.  The pages of that first unfinished novel are long gone, and I’m okay with that.  I was just finding my style.  The characters were clichéd, the prose was simplistic, the dialogue was laughable, and the setting was trite.

But the story is still a part of me.  And while I’m curious to see just what is buried in that grave, I don’t know that I’ll ever attempt to put the words back on paper.

When you find something and it’s flawed, but it shapes you for the better, should you go back and fix it?

 

If you also dig the occasional booze, broads, and bullets story, I invite you to check out Mickey Spillane if you haven’t already.

Or, you prefer a creepier tale, check out my new novel Good Deeds.

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