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IWSG-June 2018

It’s the first Wednesday in June. You know the drill-InsecureWritersSupportGroupBadge-300x295.

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It has been a crazy month! My twins decided it was worth the effort to graduate from high school. It was down to the very end for one boy in a few classes, but he figured things out and got the grades.

I have to admit, I was more emotional than I expected. I had a few tears, watching my (seemingly suddenly) almost adult children cross that stage and get their diplomas. Of course the hardest part was realizing how fast time really flies. I’ve only spent ten years with these two, but from this vantage point, the years have slipped by in a blink.

As one might expect, writing has been on the back burner, simmering, sometimes bubbling over the rim, scalding the burner. I have every intent to stir that concoction a little more this month.

The optional question for IWSG Wednesday is-

What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character name?

Honestly, they are both hard for me, but titles are likely harder. In my first book, I had the MC name pretty early on. His daughters name came pretty easy as well, but the rest of the characters took their sweet time getting named. A few altered midway thorough. That first novel has had three different titles, and I’m finally satisfied with the one on the first page.

Funny enough, in the second book, the title was super easy. Names weren’t particularly difficult either, but in this case, harder than deciding what the book would be called.

In the third novel, again the MC came pretty fast, but the other names hid away for a few pages, maybe 50. The title eluded me until the third draft. For almost a year, the document was called Novel Three, and the first page of the document said, “Insert clever title here…soon.”

I think any difficulty i encounter in naming characters comes from wanting the names to stand out, be memorable, but not appear too outlandish or too common. The wrong character name can really make the rest of the writing difficult. Many times when I’ve felt I needed to change a name, it is because writing it nevert feel right. Is that a strange thing to say? I hope so.

Titles on the other hand, need to say something interesting about your book. They are often the first thing a potential reader encounters and the wrong title might lead to a book being skipped over. I hate to admit this, but I used to (and maybe still do) want my titles to be super clever. I know that is why my first book was so hard to name. Calling the second book, “The Reset” was not all that clever, but made sense for the book.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by. Leave me a comment and I’ll be sure to visit your blog as well.

Happy writing.

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City of Books

I’d been looking forward to the last week of April for about 6 months. A good friend of my wife’s was getting married and had invited us to the ceremony and weekend activities. The event was to take place at the Hotel Monaco in Portland, Oregon.

I’d only been to Portland once before (in the summer of 2003) and honestly didn’t enjoy most of that trip. We stayed in a cheap hotel on the southeast end of town, had to drive and fight for parking way too much…

But I really enjoyed my time exploring Powell’s Books. I vividly recall walking into the store, feeling overwhelmed by the massive shelves, the sheer number of books, the impossibility of ever seeing everything.

When I heard the wedding was in Portland, I knew I was going to return to Powell’s and that was an amazing feeling. I made my list of 1st printings I wanted to find (it’s a new passion for me, collecting certain books in 1st printings. I am more of a snob all the time) and tried to keep my anticipation at a minimum.

We picked our hotel (The Mark Spencer, a great place if you’re looking to stay in a great area of downtown Portland. The food options alone will blow your mind) from those near the Monaco and in close proximity to Powell’s. We couldn’t have done better. This is the view from our hotel window. IMG_0987.jpg

We arrived on Friday and planned to spend all day Monday at the bookstore, but when our dinner with the bride and groom ended earlier than we expected, we had several hours to spend exploring and shopping. IMG_0999.jpg

In my head, I was going to find all these amazingly clean copies of books I’d been looking for for quite a while. When I reached the halfway point of my list and hadn’t found a single 1st printing, I began to worry. In my memory, Powell’s was the place to find specific copies of books, not just any old mass market or trade copy, but that is all I was finding.

Then the flood gates opened. I found 80% from the second half of my list. So many that my basket was almost too full for me to effectively search for more. My arms grew tired.

I also learned how tricky the staff at Powell’s can be. After my success in the second half of the list (and finally noticing copies in the staff only section), I revisited the first half, checking the overflow shelves to see if I’d missed anything. Sure enough, just out of my reach was a hardbound edition of a Russell Banks book I was looking for. I had to get a staff member to retrieve it, which I hated doing, but it was worth my discomfort as I  found a signed 1st printing of Cloudsplitter ($6.95 people). This trend continued with other authors, multiple trade copies on lower shelves and editions I wanted up high. It makes sense- Leave the less valuable copies where the average buyer can see them, and place the collectible copies just out of reach.

My unexpected score was a 1st printing of Watership Down. Of course when I was showing it to a friend, some of the glue snapped. Luckily the binding is sewn as well as glued, so it isn’t a total disaster.

We visited the bookstore almost every day and I regret nothing.

All in all I spent way too much money, but when I look at my shelves, see some completed collections, it makes my heart glad. Of course there are still many books to buy, and I have to decide if I want to hope for the serendipity of a thrift store or independent bookstore find or give in and buy from online sites.

As for the wedding- It was incredible. I get very emotional at weddings, and I am unashamed to admit that I usually cry. There is something wonderful about two people finding each other in this crazy world that always warms my heart. It is especially poignant when the people are older and have had a rough go of things, been treated badly.

Yeah, I’m a romantic and that’s fine.

Here is one last photo- some cool art on a building near our hotel. IMG_0998.JPG

What is your favorite bookstore? What sort of things do you collect? Am I a total nutjob?

 

 

 

 

IWSG- February 2018

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Remember to check out our awesome Twitter and Facebook pages as well. The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is the best writers group out there.

I’ve had an interesting month on the writing front. As I mentioned before, the IWSG Twitter Pitch Party was very successful for me. Not only did it offer me a few agent/publisher opportunities, but it rekindled my hope for finding representation sooner than later. My query letter seems to hit the mark, and now I just play the waiting game.

Another interesting development- The manuscript drawing all the attention only contained 38,000 words, and apparently no one wants to touch novellas. I’ve been pondering ways to increase the word count without losing what I thought was a very good flow to the narrative. In the past, multiple attempts to do so have failed. Miserably, I should add.

But this time I was determined (nibbles people. Actual publishing folk wanted to see this book) to push this story to novel length.

Getting to 80,000 was not in the realm of possible outcomes, but if I focused and worked smart, I could reach 50 or 55. The day after the twitter pitch party, I sat down and got writing. I found a place in the first three pages that begged to be fleshed out. Two pages later, I found another. I wish I could better express how frustrating previous attempts and adding content had been, and how rewarding it felt to finally be able to succeed. It sounds cliche’ but like a light suddenly switched on, I could see through the darkness, understand where I could stretch things out, add story, take risks.

I still had hours of frustration and days where nothing worked, but in the end, I added 14,000 words over the course of a week and a half. I’m sure some of it will have to be reworked, cut, replaced, but regardless, I have a completed manuscript that I am confident querying.

Now, if only I could find that confidence for the other two amazing novels I have waiting in my file folder for some wonderful agent or publisher to love.

Inversion Week and Hey, Some Books.

Thanks to a lovely December temperature inversion, I’ve been spending most of the past week indoors. The air is so toxic and nasty, taking the dog for a 30 minute walk on Monday made my throat hurt for hours after. For both our health, we are putting walks on the shelf until this nastiness clears out.

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When too much gunk and moisture get trapped in the valley,  dense fog forms, and as it is super cold as well, these lovely layers of hoar frost form on everything. I’d find it beautiful if it hadn’t been created by toxic air.

I’ve lived in the Salt Lake Valley most of my life, and this is the one thing that makes me wish I lived somewhere else. Sometimes these inversions last weeks, and along with the health risks, winter depression settles in. The hours of light are already fewer, and when you add gray skies, bad air, below freezing temperatures, warmer, sunnier days can seem far away indeed.

I usually enjoy winter. And more often than not, it is spectacular here in Utah. DSC_0015

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I try to remember that beauty, but it is hard when I’m trapped indoors, experiencing the same day over and over.

So, in an attempt to keep my chin up and talk about more interesting things. I’m presenting this photo of five of my favorite reads from this past year, and—IMG_0176.jpg

hoping you fine readers will share your favorites with me.

I wouldn’t really call the following paragraphs reviews. Think of them as reasons I liked and recommend these titles.

I found it nearly impossible to pick a favorite this year, but My Absolute Darling came as close as any.  I almost hesitate to recommend it as the subject matter (emotional, physical and sexual abuse) are difficult topics for many, and this book does not shy away or hide the horror. That said, it is an important book, and Gabriel Tallent is a fantastic writer.

History of Wolves vexed me. It is a coming of age story that refuses to fit the mold. It took me several days of pondering to decide if liked the book. Months later I realized I loved it. I’m a sucker for flawed characters, and this book is full of them. The ending left many feeling confused and frustrated, but the ambiguity worked for me. I didn’t need to have everything explained, and the answers I was offered were satisfying.

Good Morning, Midnight is also atypical of its supposed genre. An post Apocalyptic novel that ignored many tropes. Themes of regret, loneliness, ambition, loss, redemption are beautifully explored. I highly recommend this one. Also, it made me cry three tears.

The Nix surprised me over and over. Nathan Hill weaves a very compelling story about a son trying to understand his estranged mother. I laughed out loud several times, felt disgust and sadness, and found myself completely wrapped up in events. Again, this book is filled with awesomely flawed characters who might get it right in the end, but maybe not.

American War offers a glimpse of a very likely future for the United States- A second civil war. Omar El Akkad gives striking insight into how someone becomes indoctrinated, and how quickly that indoctrination can lead to extremism and horrible acts of violence.

Don’t forget, I want to know your favorites as well.

 

 

Local Hang Out

A (mostly) Wordless Wednesday post.

Had some fun at my favorite bookstore today. The Printed Garden is such a fantastic place. I cannot say if Foot Solutions is also as great, but I’m betting no.

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It is always good to spend an hour (or more) talking with store owner, Aaron Cance about books, or listening to good music (or both, always both). I feel quite fortunate to have a place like this in my community, a store run by someone who is passionate about books, someone who creates a welcoming environment for all sorts of ideas, gatherings, conversations. Local people, you need to check it out. For the rest of you saps, there is online shopping for you (or a visit to Salt Lake, if you wanna hang with me).

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I’ve spend a good deal of money on signed books from the glass cases. IMG_8961

There are lots of fun books for kids and teens as well.

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Plus, you can take cool, artsy photos like this one (courtesy of the bookstore owner).IMG_6207

Admit it, you totally want to come hang out with me and buy books at this store.

Dermatology Wednesday

Lucky me! I just returned from the dermatologist, where I had a few unsightly blemishes frozen off of my face. Better to have them removed, even if it hurts and makes me all teary. An interesting part of aging is the sudden appearance of crazy skin issues. Couple that with the ongoing assault of random body hair, and my once youthful looks have been ravaged by time(a Jasper Beardly reference).

On the plus side, I’ve been having loads of fun writing daily paragraphs. I’ve yet to park my rear end in the chair for an extended amount of time, but the daily writings are coming nicely. I’m remembering not to force them, to enjoy the process. A few of them have potential to become longer works, and one will certainly be a fun story to write (and hopefully, read). I’m thrilled with the prospects, and excited about writing again.

Another exciting thing- My friend, J.H Moncrieff just released the first two books in her GhostWriters series. I’ve read City of Ghosts and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to reading The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts very soon. I recommend them for anyone who loves a good adventure, fun characters, a bit of a scare, and satisfying, shocking endings. Click HERE for more information, including where to get your own copy. All the smart people are doing it. You’re smart, right?

Advice Needed

I’ve another blog. It goes by the name Only One Shoe. The concept revolves around very short stories written about photographs I take of found items.

The rules for what gets photographed are simple-If I come across something that seems out of place or uniquely situated, I take photographs. I am not allowed to re-position the object or manipulate the surroundings in any way. I take several images, hoping to capture as much of the area around the object as possible, pick the best one, then write something (hopefully) clever about how the object ended up where I found it.

It has been suggested to me in the past that this would make a swell book. I rejected the idea at first, thinking that: My photography is far to amateurish for publishing- and I would need close to 150 to 200 images and stories to reach book length. It seemed daunting.

I’ve come to realize that I actually really like the idea and am gearing myself up to pursue it more aggressively. The blog has sort of languished over the last year, and I think part of the reason I’ve been hesitant to add to the collection is I want to save the ideas and images and include them in the book.

What I need is some feedback about the idea, the blog, the images, the stories. If you’re feeling up to the effort, take a look, then tell me what you think about what is already up there. If this is not something you as a reader would be interested in seeing in print, odds are others feel similarly. On the other hand, if you think this would be a stellar book, I could use the boost.

Thanks in advance, friends.