December 26, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Back in November, when I was knee deep in NaNoWriMo, Sydney Aaliyah tagged me for a blog hop. I promised I'd get to it once NaNo was over but then December turned into writing for the Orange Karen anthology and then the holiday season around my house (and a few billion other households around the world). 

With all that craziness behind me now, I am pleased to be able to answer a few questions about my upcoming book:

What is the title of your Work in Progress?

I have been writing this story in one form or another for close to a decade. It's finally taking proper shape as a novel that has gone from being untitled, to having several crappy titles, back to being untitled, and finally landing on "No Known Cure". 

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The Darwin Awards! No, I'm serious. Back in 2002 I submitted a "Personal Account" to the Darwin Awards website that garnered Top 20 status in votes the following year.  Once I saw those 450 words in print I knew I had to tell a bigger story. What started out as a film about a subtle plea for gun control as told through the eyes of God has, ironically, evolved into a novel about a few people playing God in an effort to control humanity.

What genre does your book fall under?

Mystery Suspense 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
  • Peter (first half MC) - Jay Baruchel
  • Roger (Peter's father) - Dan Aykroyd 
  • Sandra (Peter's girlfriend) - Zooey Deschanel 
  • Dana (Peter's co-worker) - Ellen Page
  • Jim (second half MC) - Tim Roth (minus the accent)
  • Sherri (Jims wife) - Lea Thompson

What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?

My story is about a government agency searching for a man with an astonishing secret whose only goal in life is to remain anonymous and what happens when the two worlds finally collide. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I am going to try taking the "conventional" route first and see how it goes. I'm actually looking forward to writing my first of many query letters :)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

A decade! :) Having a full time nine-to-five job, plus two kids who each take on two activities every week, plus a loving wife that deserves attention, plus a couple other hobbies/businesses (my band and my photography), and time left for writing is pretty slim. The bulk of the novel was written during NaNoWriMo this year. It was supposed to be two books, the second of which I started last year but haven't completed. I switched gears and now that former WIP will be some later chapters of this book (possibly, we'll see. There are months of edits ahead for this novel). All told, this book will take about 90 days of actual writing to complete the first draft.

What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

Think of  Robert Ludlum's "Bourne" trilogy ,with a hint of Steve Berry, and a little Dan Brown's "Digital Fortress" thrown in for shits 'n giggles. I can only dream to be in the same ballpark as these guys some day. For now I'd be thrilled if anyone suggested we were even playing the same sport!

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Being able to give my parents a copy of my novel is definitely a driving factor. My Dad was an English major and a school principal and my Mom was a teacher, so being able hand them a copy of a published work of mine would be a big deal. Ultimately, I just need to create. For as long as I can remember I have been following a pretty standard path: I got a degree, got a job, got married, bought a house... Everything was all very "normal"... and then my wife and I had children. Everything changes once you have children and for me it brought forward this passion to create. I take such great inspiration from how my kids view the world - and behave within it - that I feel compelled to create and give something back; and show them that they should follow their own inspirations with dedication and passion, and if they do they can be truly happy.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

  • 1 cup: Conspiracy
  • 1 cup: Likeable geek gets girl
  • 3/4 cup: Good people setting good examples
  • 1/2 cup: Quiet, introverted genius sticking it to The Man
  • 1/2 cup: Cat & mouse 
  • 1/2 cup: Cloak & dagger 
  • 1/4 cup: Psychological drama
  • 1/4 cup: Bad guys getting away with it 
  • A pinch of torture 
  • A dash of murder

Next up on the blog hop:

December 16, 2012

The Night Was Poorly Lit and Tumultuous

I am what could be classified as a ‘new writer’. Aside from a two page anecdote in the humorous collection "The Darwin Awards III: Survival of the Fittest" I have never been published. I write this blog, of course, but these posts are mostly just random thoughts that eject from my head like the Oort cloud spitting out a comet. Many have come, but only a few have ever been considered wonderful. 

I have a full time job, and a family, and several other interests outside of writing, but for some reason I am drawn to the art of dreaming up a fabulous story in my head, and translating those thoughts into words, and organizing them in such a way that they transport the reader to a world that is not their own.

I had this idea to write a screenplay, so I could see my story come to life, but a friend suggested I write it as a book first. He knows me well, and though I fought the idea for some time I eventually came to the same conclusion. So off I went; to write a book. I wasn't really concerned that I've read exactly zero books on how to write, or that I haven't studied English, literature, or anything remotely related to writing in almost two decades. I've read Lynne Truss' "Eats, Shoots and Leaves", insist on a single space after a full stop, and will fight to the death over the Oxford comma. That should be good enough, right?

There are many schools of thought on how to begin writing a book. There are thousands of books/websites/classes/opinionated snobs that will tell you this but in my opinion Kurt Vonnegut sums it up better than anyone else: 

"You cannot edit a blank page."

So, I'm writing a novel and a trilogy of short stories and both are marching along slowly but surely. Then, I heard about the Orange Karen Anthology. Writing communities are close-knit and when one person in this community suffers they all suffer. They also all rally behind each other providing the support necessary to help people through tough times. When a friend of ours was struck by a terrible illness, and racked up ridiculous medical bills in the process, her community rallied to create an anthology with all proceeds going to help her out with the financial costs that have come with surviving.

In awe of her courage and determination, and proud of the support from her community, I was inspired to submit a story for consideration in the book. Taking a page from Mr. Vonnegut I just wrote it down. It was a story based on real-life events, and it was an emotional one to tell. I had mentioned I was writing it in a Facebook group  and another group member, a friend who wrote alongside me during NaNoWriMo this year, offered her assistance with editing. I happily accepted her offer.

At first she had some reservations. The topic was very close to me and she didn't know how I would accept her feedback. But, we both plugged through those uncertainties, fears, and doubts and several versions and emotionally gut wrenching re-writes later we had a finished story to be proud of. It was exhausting, and it was completely worth it. 

Jennifer Gracen was my editor and she guided me through this process gently, but with expert precision. I am beginning to think it's no accident that you can find the word "grace" in her last name and the fact that she is a compassionate mother of two beautiful children served her well on this project. From her initial suggestion to write in the third person (I stared by writing it in first person) to her final "I like how you re-worked this"; every bit of red ink on that manuscript was a learning opportunity and it would have been a tragic waste of time for both of us if I would have considered it anything less.

Jennifer’s job was to tighten my sentence structure, fix my grammar (and my god forsaken tense mix ups), suggest alternate wording, prevent orphaned or complex dialog, and otherwise tease, coax, persuade, charm, lure, sweet-talk, or cajole the right words out of me using whatever methods she felt would work best. Looking back at that first brain dump of words and comparing it with the final version you wouldn't know that it was written by the same person. 

My editor made me a better writer.

I am beyond thankful for all the effort she put into this and I sincerely hope that I will get to work with her again. My only concern now is that she will read this post and notice that I have ignored a lot of what she just taught me. Don't worry, Jen, not every comet gets to be wonderful.

It is with all my heart and the utmost compassion that I extend a thank you to my dear wife. The story is more hers than it is mine and she didn't just let me write it - she gave me the strength to write it and for this I am eternally grateful.

December 02, 2012


The month of November is a busy one for me. First, it's my anniversary on the 6th. This year would mark 13 years of marriage to my wonderful (and wonderfully patient) wife. 

Then, there is Movember. Movember is an annual charity fundraiser in which men from all over the world shave their face clean on November 1st and then grow a moustache for the entire month, the whole time raising awareness and money for men's health. This is my 3rd year participating in this event and while not even the cats will come near me for the last half of the month, it's for a great cause and I'm glad I participate. 

Finally, November is National Novel Writing Month as defined by The Office of Letters and Light. Every year they issue a challenge to writers everywhere, experienced or aspiring, published or not, good or bad: Write a novel (50,000 words or more) in 30 days. Their tag line for the challenge is "Thirty days and nights of literary abandon," and is referred to on The Internets simply as NaNoWriMo and this was my 2nd year participating.

Over the course of the month I experienced many highs and a few lows but when it was all said and done I have to say that it was one of the more successful Novembers I've had in a long while. I am not talking about the milestones or experiences either. It would be all fine and dandy if that was all there was to it, but it just so happens that I've learned a few things along the way. It is because of this that I can truly say the month was successful.

A few things I have learned:
  • My kids do not like daddy with a moustache
  • I have a very beautiful, intelligent, and supportive wife
  • I can grow a very creepy looking moustache in 30 days 
  • I can write a novel in 30 days
  • There are millions of people who want to raise awareness and money for men's health
  • There are millions of people who write, many of them are writers, and a very large number of those people are awesome
It doesn't stop with just those items either. Oh no, there is more. In fact, I could go on for several blog posts, but I'll spare you the time to read all that and just give you the highlights here.

A few other things I have learned:
  • Writing is hard
  • Writing is easier if you have awesome people around you  
    • This is true for more than just writing. ANYTHING is easier if you have awesome people around you
      • This is where I have to point out that my wife, my friend Susan, everyone in The Lounge on Facebook, and my core word sprint team of Janelle, Amy, Jennifer, and Karen, really helped me out. I can't thank them enough for their support (but I will try)
  • It is possible to do everything you want if you manage your time properly
    • I suck at managing my time
      • NaNoWriMo helped with this more than I would have thought
Last year I had an event derail my NaNo efforts mid-month and I never got back on track. I could have, the thing only upset my flow for a day or two, but I didn't. I cut bait on the whole thing and spent the next 11 months kicking myself and in a rut (writing wise).

This year's NaNoWriMo experience challenged me in ways I never thought possible. For starters, let's take time management. Here are a list of all the things I managed to do in November and approximately the number of times or hours I did them:
  • Eat (1.5 hours/day)
  • Sleep (8 hours/day)
  • Commute (1 hour/day)
  • Work (8 hours/day)
  • Prepare food for family (1 hour/day)
  • Practice guitar with the kids (20 minutes/day)
  • Swimming lessons (1.5 hours/week)
  • Guitar lessons (1 hour/week)
  • Watch movies (2.5 hours/week)
  • Watch TV (2 hours/week)
  • Put up the Christmas lights (once ~3 hours)
  • Attend concerts (Stars & Metric: ~5 hours to get there, watch, and get back)
  • Hockey games! (2 of them: each about 4 hours to get there, watch, and get back)
  • Anniversary dinner (~4 hours to get there, eat, and get back)
  • Snow tire appointment (~1 hour)
  • Dinner out with wife and kids (~1 hour)
  • Dinner at in-laws + Santa Claus Parade (~5 hours total)
  • Take kid to dentist (~ 1.5 hours once)
  • Parent/Teacher interviews (~ 1 hour once)
  • Lydia Herrle's homecoming (~1 hour once)
  • Social events (~5 hours over two events)
  • Quiet time alone or with my wife (none of your damn business)
Even with all of that, if you do the math (and trust me, I did the math) I end up with more than an average of 5 hours per day of available time. I wrote an average of 2 hours a day on weekdays and 4 hours a day on weekends and I still have a couple hours a day unaccounted for. Even if I low-balled the math on the above items that means I still had some free time.

So there you have it. It is possible to do everything you want and still do a lot of things - and not be selfish about it (if you're like me and my friend Tess you're not shellfish about it either). The key is in managing your time. With a little forethought, discipline, and help from your friends... the world is your oyster (or non-oyster substitute for those with allergies).

NaNoWriMovember: The Video!