Sunday, January 31, 2010

Questions, answers, thoughts ...

It's Sunday. We've made it through another week virtually unscathed.

I thought I'd post a bit early tonight, since I plan to spend the evening flipping between the Grammys and the Pro Bowl. It's a tough life, but someone has to do it!

I've been a bit down this weekend, and it took me a while to figure out why. And then it hit me. I had been scoping out literary agent Nathan Bransford's awesome blog yesterday, and someone in his forums wondered whether the dream of getting published is really worth all of the hard work and stress.

This poster then mentioned that dreaded number that always brings me down: .01 percent.

That's right. Of all novelists who actually finish their book (most don't), only .01 percent actually get published. Now this doesn't count vanity presses or self-publishing. It refers instead to the gold standard -- you know, where a publishing house pays you for the right to publish your work, not the other way around.

Think about that for a moment. One one-hundredth of one percent of finished novels are actually published! My God, it makes playing the lottery seem low risk by comparison.

These are bleak odds, people. Very bleak. There's really nothing I can write here to sugar coat it. Those odds suck, plain and simple.

That said, I plan on beating them. Really, I do. Because if I didn't honestly believe that, I would have quit writing, editing and revising a long time ago. No, that's not accurate. I would have quit writing in the hopes of being published, and instead would just write for myself. And get a job. A real one.

On to more upbeat things. I am really bad at answering people's questions on this blog, so I thought I would grab a handful of them and try to answer them as best as I can.

Here we go:

Anonymous: Do you think your 12-year-old son can relate to 1980s movies as we did at the time? Or do those movies seem "dated" to him?

Me: For those of you (and that's quite a few, I realize) who don't follow this blog regularly, we have Family Movie Night every Friday evening, and lately I've been pushing an '80's movie theme. Okay, Fine. I'll admit it. I've been pushing a Molly Ringwald theme.

But only lately. We also watched Adventures in Babysitting and Ferris Buehler's Day Off, too. Not only does the kid relate to them, he wishes he actually lived in the 1980s! I know! I don't have the courage to tell him that the real 1980s were far different than John Hughes' version. I mean, does anyone remember the Cold War? Reagan? Alf? Mr. T? Hair bands? Rehab? (Oh, wait. That was just me). Wham!?


Anyway, they hold up well as fantasies go; as for real life, not so much. But the kid loves them, especially the music and the fashions. Go figure.

Anonymous: Do you have a side job? If not, I'd be curious to hear how you were able to "take the plunge" into full-time writing while still being able to make ends meet.

Me: Hey. Is this my wife? Come on, honey. Fess up!

No? Okay, then I'll try to answer as best I can, without going too much into my personal finances. First, my wife has a great job. She's an editor at my former newspaper. And I have a couple of side jobs: I am a vice president and director of communications for RS Operations, a global marine salvage company (we hunt for sunken Spanish galleons!). I also do some free-lance journalism gigs (including working for the Associated Press and Bloomberg News). I also took eight months off from writing the novel in 2008 to run a U.S. Congressional campaign that, while not exactly like hitting the lottery, paid pretty well.

Of course, when I left the newspaper, I had a fairly large 401k and my pension, which I was able to tap because the corporation I worked for had a 25 and out policy. So I have been able to write pretty much full time with the exception of most of 2008, and still live comfortably.

It's been a blessing, trust me. And it won't last forever. The moment of truth is somewhere down the road (see the couple of paragraphs on those damned odds above). Gulp.

Marty: Have you written a book proposal for the novel?

Me: Marty, a friend of mine who moved to New York City and became a big-time writer and radio personality, has had a couple of non-fiction books published. When you write non-fiction, you are required to submit a book proposal to a prospective agent or publisher.

Fiction writers do not submit a proposal, but instead must submit a query letter. It's essentially the same thing in that its main purpose is to entice someone (an agent, editor or publisher) to want to read and publish your work.

Yes, I have written a query. An early version of it can be found somewhere on this blog. It has been polished even more since then, and is almost ready to go! Now if I can just get that manuscript revised ...

Gina: I am a huge 80's fan, but I've never seen Broadcast News. Will I be shunned?

Me: Yes. ;)

Although you can remedy that by running out and renting it right now. It's that good!

Andy: So what's with the fuzzy, geeky photo of you on the blog?

Me: No one likes a smart ass, Andy. Well, okay, I do. So I'll answer your question (which was asked in real life, not on the blog).

Yes, I realize the photo is not flattering. I know I look tired, worn out, exhausted. You know why? Because I was.

Each year, usually in January or February, I join a group of a dozen or so wonderful people and we travel to the jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula for a weeklong mission trip. We live in the little Mexican village of Leona Vicario and travel about 100 kilometers each day to a very small Mayan village called Tres Reyes. We do this every day for a week, and we build a small church and school for them. It's the most incredible, awesome week of the year for me. I love it.

It's also brutal work, in hot, humid conditions with the most primitive of tools. The photo I chose for this blog was taken in the tiny Mayan village on the last day of work last year. It was about 95 degrees and the humidity felt like a hot, wet blanket. We were tired, hungry, sore and ready to come home.

We were also happy. Very, very happy. We leave again in less than three weeks, and this year I'm taking my 19-year-old son for the very first time. I cannot wait.

And that's it for today. A long post, I know. But I enjoyed it. Hope you did too.

Have a wonderful evening, and a great Monday!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Old bosses, revisions and Molly Ringwald

As I was leaving the gym this morning, I ran into an old editor of mine from my early days in the newsroom. We chatted for a while in the bitter 12-degree air, catching up a bit. She retired a few years before I quit the newspaper and while I see her occasionally, we don't talk often.

She asked me what I've been up to. I told her I had just finished my novel and was in the process of revising it before starting the submission process.

"Oh. Really?" she said. And she got that look on her face that I know all too well. If I had told her I was building a rocket ship in my basement, I would have received the same look.

I've seen that look a lot over the past three years. I had a great career, a successful career. And I threw it all away to write a fricken book? What the hell is wrong with me? Don't I care about my family? My financial responsibilities? My standing in the community?

Yes. I care about all of those things. Of course I do. And when I quit my job, it wasn't without a fairly substantial financial nest egg. And while I'm not willing to discuss my financial doings on this blog, suffice it to say that we're not starving.


This has been hard for me. More importantly, it's been hard on my family. But they have faith in me, more faith than I have in myself sometimes. They believe that I can sell this book and make money from it. They've read it. They love it. Without their faith, I would have quit long ago. And I'd probably be working at Wally World about now -- you know, as one of those old farts who smile at you when you enter the store. I mean, how hard can that be?

Well, I'm not there yet. And God willing, I will never be there. But if I end up as a Wal-Mart greeter, I will at least have the satisfaction of knowing that I tried. That I gave my dream everything I could give it. I know this: No one achieves their dreams without actually trying. And I'm trying. My best.

So I smiled at my old editor. She didn't piss me off. No. She motivated me. I came home, made breakfast and finished not one chapter revision, but two!

So there.

Oh, and it's Friday! Family movie night. And Molly is making a return appearance in the Towery home this evening.

We're watching Sixteen Candles at the 12-year-old's request (snicker). Next week, we'll finish the Molly Ringwald Trifecta with Pretty in Pink.

I hope you all have a wonderful evening and a superb weekend.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

They were giants

J.D. Salinger died today, precisely one year and one day after John Updike passed away.

Never have there been two more different men. They were literary giants, both of them. But in very different ways.

I read The Catcher in the Rye in junior high school and, I'm ashamed to say, hated it. For some reason, it just didn't resonate with me. It felt forced to me then, somehow. Like Salinger sat down and decided to write like an angry kid might sound. As a kid of about Holden Caulfield's age, it just didn't ring true.

I read it again many years later, quite by accident. I was shopping in a little used book store in East Grand Forks, N.D., while stationed nearby in the Air Force. I was looking for something else but saw that it was marked down to a buck, so I bought it. It was a dog-eared paperback -- hell it was probably twenty years old then. But I read it in one night. I was stunned at how powerful it was, how it moved me.

Clearly, I wasn't ready when I read it the first time. Perhaps I wasn't angry enough, disaffected enough. I was into the punk scene of the late 1970s and this, this book, spoke to me in a language I could understand. Wow.

I came to John Updike in the early eighties, during my first marriage. I bought Rabbit is Rich and fell in love. I have since read every Rabbit book, along with most everything Updike has written. His prose sings. It's lyrical and moving. It excites me every single time I read him. No one, with the possible exception of Stephen King, has been more of an influence on me than Updike. If only I could write half as well as he did.

So why write a post about both men on the day of Salinger's death? Well, because reading his name online today reminded me of how a book becomes the book only when we are ready for it to. Salinger didn't move me when I was a kid, but it changed my life as a young man. And Updike's longing, his loving look at suburbia, marriages and lives falling to ruin, moved me at a moment in my life when I was going through similar circumstances.

This is the power of great authors, of great books. Like great music, they can change lives. But only when our lives are ready to be changed.

Rest in peace. Both of you.

Revision update: I got through yet another whole chapter today. Yay! Six down, twenty-two to go.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I won another blog award!

Sorry for my (relative) lack of posting tonight. I attended a long afternoon-evening meeting and got home just in time to watch the State of the Union speech.

By way of a catch-up, I was able to revise an entire chapter today (yay), and things seem to be moving along nicely. Five chapters down, twenty three to go!

But more importantly, the ultra-cool Emma Michaels just gave A Writer of Wrongs an award! Wow. Emma's blog ( is one of my favorites, so this means a lot to me.

Please check out her superb writing blog. It's well worth a daily read. And thanks, Emma. You rock!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Like a fly in molasses

The title of this post aptly describes my current (and final, I hope) round of revisions. It seems like it's taking me nearly as much time to revise a chapter as it took to write it in the first place!


On Monday, I started revisions on Chapter 4 -- a longish chapter that's one of the most crucial scenes in the book. It's where real life and, well, other stuff collide. It was hard to write (there's some graphic violence and a young child involved), and I remember well the depression I sank into while writing it. It was hellish, even though I knew it was the make-or-break scene of the book.

It took me a week to write the chapter back in early summer of 2007. It took me two entire days to revise it.

At this rate, I won't be done for weeks. I mean, there's 28 chapters in the book! And keep in mind that this is the fourth of fifth (I forget the actual count) revision I've done. This sucker is going to sing when it's done. Hell, it ought to wash the car and cook dinner, too!

There's a part of me that wants to get the book done and send it off. To someone. Anyone.

There's another part of me that knows it has to be the best it can be before I send it out.

I keep telling myself that the book is getting better. And it is. And the better the book is, the better my chances of getting an agent and, eventually, a book deal.

So I plod on, desperate to get back to writing my new book.

One thing I've learned is this: For me, writing is a hell of a lot more fun than editing.

Monday, January 25, 2010

My writing life

Today, I bravely brushed aside my horrific, mind-boggling fears and deeply felt insecurities and tore wildly into the massive manuscript -- rewriting, polishing and killing adverbs and adjectives as savagely as a wild-eyed barbarian with a razor-sharp, two-foot sword.


I also thought I'd use this snowy Monday to tell you a bit about my daily routine and my writing space. For some reason, all writers are utterly obsessed with other writer's routines and workspaces. I'm not sure why, but then I also don't know why dogs sniff each other's butts. So what do I know?

My weekdays follow a pretty rigid routine. I wake up about 7 a.m. and watch Morning Joe on MSNBC while gulping down coffee in bed. I get really grumpy if I don't get my daily dose of Mika, Joe and Willy, et al. When Wife and Child leave for work and school at about 8:20, I head off to the gym for an hour long workout followed by an equally long and relaxing steam and a cool, invigorating shower. It's both heaven and hell. The workout, of course, is the hell part.

I arrive home at about 10:15 and make breakfast. Since I stay on a very low-carb diet, it usually consists of an Egg Beaters omelet with cheese and onions, along with three slices of turkey bacon. And a small glass of one-percent milk. I read the newspaper after breakfast and then spend about thirty minutes reading the dictionary. That's right. The dictionary. Everyday. It's the only way I know to beef up my vocabulary. I find it oddly relaxing. And yes, I take notes. God, I've become such a geek. I also try to get at least an hour's worth of reading for enjoyment in each day (usually at night; more on weekends) since all writers must read. It's like a rule or something. And I'm just about finished with Stephen King's massive Under The Dome, which I plan to review on this blog, perhaps later this week or on Sunday.

Hey. You still with me? Good. Hang in there. There's some writing and editing coming up. I promise.

After breakfast, usually around 11, I head downstairs to the study where my work space is located. I fire up the computer and the little fireplace (in winter) and do an initial online visit to check e-mails, blogs, news stories, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I try to keep it to thirty minutes, tops.

Around 11:30, I pour myself a big mug of Starbucks, clip a nice cigar and get to work. I then work solidly until about 5 or 5:30, when the Wife and Child get home. Since I generally make dinner, I'll get that in the oven if it's something that requires baking (and it usually does). We eat a lot of baked chicken breasts. I'm getting very tired of baked chicken breasts, but that's a whole other post.

I don't turn on the study television set, nor do I listen to music when I write or edit. I know some do, but it's too distracting for me. I do, however, listen to music when I brainstorm. And I generally crank it up real LOUD. I set aside Fridays for more outwardly pursuits (like seeing other people for lunch, hanging out at coffee shops and things like that), although I seem to end up working more often than not. It's very easy for me to isolate myself to the point that I am no longer in touch with the world I'm trying to write about. That's not a good thing.

I reserve evenings for family, reading, computer time, sports and cable news shows, although I do work Sunday nights (and blog, as well), since the wife works nights on Sundays and the Child and I get bored once football is over.

Saturdays are freebies. Once my gym time is over, I do whatever the hell I want. So there.

And that's my life. Looking at it in black and white (or tan, since that's the color of my blog), it ain't much. But it makes me happy and it allows me the time I require to write, edit and pursue my dreams. And in the end, isn't that what matters most?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

When fear strikes

Yawn. Sorry. I'm not feeling real blog-ish tonight.

It could be that I've got one eye on the football playoffs and the other on the keyboard. Or it could be that I still feel a little punky and probably ought to be curled up in bed (watching football, of course).

Most likely, however, it's fear. That's right. Fear.

See, fear has been my constant companion my entire life. It was there in third grade when that big Holloway kid knocked me on my ass during a pick-up football game and then wanted to fight. I ran. Although I suppose, looking back, that it might have been more intelligence than fear on my part -- seeing as how the kid was in eighth grade and bigger than my old man.

It was there when my parents divorced (violently). It was there in junior high, when the class bullies realized that my stepfather was a cop and decided to make my life as miserable as they possibly could. And boy, could they. To this day, when I see a locker room I break out in a cold sweat.

It was there when I left for the Air Force. Big time. And when I got out. And when I went to college, and got married, and went to rehab. And started my career, and had a kid, then another, then yet another. It was there when I got divorced (non-violently; some lessons can be learned). It was there when I went to South America treasure hunting and lived in fear of being kidnapped by Colombian rebels like my boss had been a few years earlier.

It was there when I quit my job, when I started my novel, when I finished it, and when I started the first round of revisions.

And it's still here. Big time.

It isn't nearly as frightening an opponent as it was in the past, however. Age does bring wisdom. And I often find myself sitting and wondering what I fear most -- success or failure?

Fear feeds on my insecurities. Fear requires that inner voice that tells me I'm not good enough in order to thrive. Fear never takes a holiday. And it's patient. Damned patient. It's always there, sometimes just under the surface, other times deeper than that. But it's always there.

So each time I sit down to this latest (and probably last) round of revisions before I start shopping the manuscript for real, the fear comes. Hard. And so I surf the Internet. I read a book. I watch television. I do anything and everything, except what I'm supposed to be doing -- revising the damned manuscript.

Because, see, I'm afraid.

But at least I can recognize it these days. That wasn't always the case. And fear no longer paralyzes me like it used to. I can get through it.

I can.
FAMILY MOVIE UPDATE: Our 12-year-old son has developed a massive crush on Molly Ringwald and now sighs wistfully as he stares at her picture on the CD case. He also is angry that he didn't get to live through the 1980s! I'm so proud of him.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Family movie night!

Well, we finally made out choice for this week's Family Movie, and it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

That's right. The Breakfast Club.


We rented it last week, too, but ended up watching Moon. And it was pretty good, too, albeit a little weird. Even The Wife liked it. But we got busy and never got around to Molly & Co., so we re-rented it, along with Beyond A Reasonable Doubt (a Michael Douglas flick). We'll try to fit it in sometime this weekend -- although tomorrow is booked solid with NFL playoffs.

Thinking ahead to next Friday (remember we postponed this a night to watch the Haiti telethon, which was pretty cool), we are already talking about renting Broadcast News, a favorite of mine.

Have a wonderful weekend. I'll be back for my usual Sunday Musings tomorrow.

Friday, January 22, 2010

TGIF, Haiti and blog awards!

Um, hi. Yes, I survived the past couple of days. Crushing depression? No probs. Lack of confidence? Bring it on. Fear? Yawn.

(You buying all that? No? Didn't think so.)

The good news is, I'm still plugging away on my revisions and have not, repeat, have not trashed it. Not yet. In fact, I'm starting to get excited over this particular round of revisions. How's that for weird? I know.

I've even come up with a theory as to why it seems to hurt so much this time:

It's going to make the book better. Much better. And like most things in life that have impact, have weight, it hurts like hell! Ever had a dislocated finger popped back into place? If you have, you know what I mean.

Someone (maybe Native Americans?) once said that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. (I think some German philosopher may have stolen the saying from them -- but then what else is new?)

So onward and upward. Pip pip. Tally Ho. And all that blather.

Oh! My dear blog-friend Kristy Hutchison gave A Writer of Wrongs an award!!! I know. Weird, huh? But so so so very cool. I just started blogging a couple of months ago after never having blogged in my life. As anyone who's ever visited this blog knows, I'm just learning the ropes. So it's incredibly cool and very humbling when someone who runs as good a blog as Kristy does (link below. Visit her and follow her!) takes time out of her busy life to recognize little old me.

Thanks Kristy. And right back atcha! Her wonderful blog (This Train of Thought Has Been Derailed) can be found at or you can see my list of favorites. She's always been one of mine!

This is also the day I usually announce which Family Movie we've picked to watch tonight. As some of you know, we've been on this 80s kick. Well, ok, I've been on this 80s kick. So sue me. Anyhoo, we decided as a family to postpone the movie until tomorrow night (I'll do a rare Saturday post on the winner) in order to watch tonight's Haiti telethon.

I would urge anyone reading to watch tonight. It sounds really cool, has lots of good bands, movie stars, famous people, etc. But most of all -- IT'S FOR A REALLY GOOD CAUSE.

So watch. It's on just about every channel on television. Check your local listings. Donate if you haven't. And if you have, maybe you could donate again. We probably will.

Until tomorrow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oh God!

Well, I'm sitting here at 12:20 in the morning, listening to the Jam sing "That's Entertainment" really really loud on my mp3 player. And I'm thinking of completely redoing the novel I've spent three years writing!

Why, you ask?

I'm not sure, exactly. There's something about it that's not quite right, you know? It needs more tension, badder bad guys, etc. Call it a hunch, a gut feeling, maybe some kind of cerebral incident. I don't know. Maybe lack of sleep ...

Either way, I'm glad I'm at the beginning of my revisions, because I might be able to refashion it without completely trashing it and starting over. God, I don't know if can handle that. I honestly think it's a good story. But just being a good story isn't enough in this day and age of shrinking publishing budgets, shrinking bookshelf space and the so-called impending death of books -- being murdered slowly, so to speak, by the Nook, video games and short attention spans.


All I know is I want this goddamn thing to be good. Really good.

Now that's entertainment! (no, no, no).

Update: The above post is a classic example of the roller coaster ride that goes into trying to produce a viable manuscript in a very competitive publishing world. Now, after the benefit of almost five hours of really crappy sleep, I feel even worse about the book. But I'm clear-eyed enough to know not to do anything rash or stupid until the current depression (yes, that's what it is) passes. As Scarlett O'Hara said: Tomorrow is another day. To which I would add, Thank God.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Strengthening a scene

In my post earlier today, I mentioned I was revising my manuscript. Part of the revision process is strengthening scenes. It doesn't take much to show a reader something, as opposed to telling them. But it's crucial in making the novel readable as a whole.

While my overall intention is to tighten the novel, my editor wants me to amp up some scenes where my descriptions are a bit lackluster. That's easy to say, so I thought I'd provide a quick example of what I mean.

The following is a fairly mundane paragraph in the second chapter where the main character, Michael, arrives at a local Denny's restaurant to meet his friend. This particular scene kicks off a crucial point early in the book, and it needed some more color, more showing, to bring the reader into the scene.

Here's the scene as it appeared initially:

A few minutes later, Michael pulled his silver Honda into a parking spot in front of Denny’s and hurried inside. It had begun to rain and he could feel winter in the November wind. Gary grinned and raised a hand in greeting from a booth in the rear of the restaurant’s smoking section.

Not awful, since it's fairly straightforward narrative. I wanted to show the reader that the weather, which had been unseasonably warm the previous day, had worsened. That winter was imminent. Here's the same scene, amped up just a bit:

A few minutes later, Michael pulled his silver Honda into a parking spot in front of Denny’s. Tiny pellets of sleet had mixed with the morning’s drizzle and the November wind threatened to wrest Michael’s lightweight umbrella from his hand. After hurrying inside, he stamped his wet shoes and peered into the crowded restaurant. Gary grinned and waved from a booth in the rear of the smoking section.

The difference is slight, to be sure, but instead of telling the reader that it was rainy and cold, I showed them by describing the pellets of sleet mixed with rain, and how the wind was threating to rip the umbrella from Michael's hand. When he stamps his wet feet, it puts the final touch on the scene.

I'm slowly and laboriously doing these kinds of small scene changes on each page of the book -- all 457 of them! And that's just a small one. Some are far more expansive. And I need to remember that each change I make early in the book can cause ripples throughout the entire manuscript.

For instance, if I get creative in Chapter 4 and add a description of someone's hair as blond and curly, it had better be blond and curly in Chapter 20!

So I sit with a notebook and jot down any such changes. And before each page I revise, I check my notebook to see if a ripple has occurred.

Ah, the glamorous life of a writer.

Revisions, revisions

I'm knee-deep in a major revision of THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW.

I got the edited manuscript back from my editor over the weekend and spent yesterday afternoon reading through her edits and taking notes. There are many, but thankfully most are of the minor variety. I do, however, need to strengthen a few scenes.

Today, I started at the beginning (duh) and tightened, rewrote and just generally polished, as per her editing instructions. Most of the work centers around "finding a better word." Apparently, I have a rather common way of describing things -- which doesn't surprise me, since my years of journalism taught me to do just that. It's a bitch to unlearn years of training and experience.

And I admit I went through a few hours of pure terror and depression yesterday. It doesn't take much to get me to doubt my ability, and seeing all of those red marks proved more than enough. But today, my head's a little clearer and I was able to see what these revisions really mean -- that my good manuscript has the chance to get better.

And that's what it takes to get published these days. Good just doesn't cut it. So I'm polishing like a jeweler, hoping like hell I find a nice shiny diamond inside this rough little stone.

More tomorrow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Let Freedom Ring

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 28, 1963.


I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecutions and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. And this will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning, "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!" And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring -- from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring -- from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring -- from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring -- from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring -- from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that.

Let freedom ring -- from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring -- from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring -- from every hill and molehill of Mississippi, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual,

"Free at last, free at last.

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Writers are good people

I've made a surprising discovery over the past couple of years. Writers are good people.

Now that might not come as a surprise to anyone who actually knows and likes someone who writes for a living. But for those of us who'd imagined most authors as drunken, angry and anti-social narcissists, it was a pleasant surprise.

To give you a little context, let me tell you about my professional life since turning 15:

I pumped gas at a large Amoco station throughout high school, working for one of the meanest people I've ever met. I mean, wow, what a nasty man he was (may he rest in peace).

I joined the Air Force after graduating from high school, and spent four years as a military police officer. I had several "adventures" there, had my life threatened a few times and got a broken jaw out of the deal. Oh, and I got to travel a lot. Woot. I also reported to some fairly nasty people (anyone who's been in the military knows what I mean).

After leaving the Air Force, I tended bar and managed a Radio Shack while going to college. I don't have to say any more, do I?

I then began my long and successful journalism career at the largest daily newspaper in Illinois outside Chicago. I worked for, and with, some of the greatest people I've ever met. And some of the worst. Let's just say life in a newsroom is never dull and leave it at that.

I worked (and still do) with a group of men who hunt for sunken Spanish galleons for a living. All over the world. I even got to live and work in the jungles and on the oceans of South America for a couple of months, living a dream. But it was hard and difficult work, and some of the people we dealt with were less than honest and, frankly, downright dangerous.

I also managed a U.S. Congressional race last year. It was the most fun I've ever had with my clothes on, but the words stressful and competitive don't do it justice.

Now, I am a writer. An aspiring author.

Writing is a solitary and lonely career -- hour after hour, day after day spent alone sitting in front of my computer, thinking and pecking, thinking and pecking. I figured a literary career would be competitive and nasty. And make no mistake, it can be both.

But somehow, it's different than all the others. Competition is generally good-natured, because when one of my writer friends gets an agent, or a book deal, it's good for all writers. In other words, if my friend Jennifer sells her Young Adult Fantasy title, it has no negative impact on my adult thriller. Every book sold means people are still reading and buying books. And that, my friends, is a good thing. A very good thing.

And so we support one another. We visit each other's blogs. We make comments, offer a shoulder to cry on, a hand of congratulations. My friend Gina said it best when she wrote, "Isn't it nice to know we're not alone any more?"

Yes. It's nice to know. It's nice to know there are people out there sweating the query process, line edits, revisions and rejections that come with a career in writing.

There's nothing better than spending all day sweating over my manuscript, agonizing over every word, every phrase, every comma, and then going online and finding others who have done the exact same thing.

And the best thing of all? They're working in their pajamas, too!

Take that, you corporate weasels.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thank God it's Friday!

Wow, what a crappy week. Not a great week, progress-wise, for my writing/editing. And then there was that horrific earthquake in Haiti. My heart just breaks when I watch the news coverage -- and I cannot stop watching the coverage.

And I seem to be getting sick again (again???). Oh, and I got my first rejections. Yes, that's right. Rejections. I got my second a few minutes ago, this from a Christian agent in Tennessee who, frankly, was probably scared off by my book's very dark themes.

Well, that and the F-bombs (only two in the prologue. Sheesh).

What can you do?

Well, I can continue trying. That's what I can do. I may need to polish my query letter some more. And Staley, my superb book editor, is wrapping up her edits, so I hope to have both the query and the manuscript in top form soon.

And then, well, we'll see. No one said this was going to be easy. In fact, everyone I've talked to who is involved in publishing says it's hard as hell. And it sure isn't for the faint of heart. But I'll keep on keeping on, as the old song said.

On to happier things: It's Family Movie Night!


The Kid and I picked up two good ones this afternoon from the local Hollywood Video -- The Breakfast Club (keeping with our '80s theme), and Moon, a new sci-fi flick just out on DVD.

I'm conflicted as to which one to watch first. I'm not sure if The Wife will like Moon, although sometimes she surprises me when it comes to quality sci-fi. And, well, there's always the Molly Ringwald factor.

I mean, The Kid is 12 now. He needs some Molly Ringwald in his life. Every boy does.

Even us really old boys.

Have a good Friday/Saturday. I'll be back on Sunday, unless something breaks in the book world.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My first rejection

January 14, 2010

Dear Author: Thank you so much for sending the [name redacted] Literary Agency your query. We’d like to apologize for the impersonal nature of this standard rejection letter. Rest assured that we do read every query letter carefully and, unfortunately, this project is not right for us.

Because this business is so subjective and opinions vary widely, we recommend that you pursue other agents. After all, it just takes one "yes" to find the right match.

Good luck with all your publishing endeavors.

And there it is! My first rejection letter. And it's a form letter -- the worst kind of all. No feedback. No "You're almost there, keep at it." Nothing but no. Yay.

I ended up sending out two letters to prospective agents yesterday, the first included the first five pages of my manuscript as per her instructions, and this one, which consisted only of the query (per this particular agent's instructions).

Want to know a secret? This didn't hurt nearly as much as I thought it would. Weird, huh? I fully expect to receive my second NO any time now -- since that's the one I sent to the Mikey of the agent world (she doesn't like anything!). Of course, I screwed that one up. BUT, it contains a sample of the book, something the above agent didn't see.

So we'll see. But I know from exhaustive research that no author -- not one -- got accepted the first time they sent a query or a manuscript. Stephen King? Dozens of rejections. J.K. Rowling? Rejected by every single agent and publishing house except one -- and it got rich from her in the long run.

So, there's no telling. But I shall persevere. The process has only just begun. (Why am I starting to sound like John Paul Jones?)

I'll update if I hear from Agent No. 1 today.
UPDATE: I sent a third query out late this afternoon to an agent in Tennessee. I found him on the Internet and he reps what I write. So we'll see. In summary -- three queries out, one rejection, two pending. I'm told many published authors send out up to 50 or even 100 queries before they get an agent. It's gonna be a long winter.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Well, I did it

God help me, I just hit send on my first query to a real literary agent! I sent the query and the first five pages of the manuscript (i.e., the entire prologue) to a very well known agent who is famous (infamous?) for rejecting almost everything she gets.

What the hell is wrong with me?

Granted, I fully expect to be rejected. And that's probably why I chose her, to get that first NO out of the way. Once the initial sting of rejection passes (and provided my wife can get my nearly dead body cut down before I really suffocate), I can then continue on with my edits and start querying in earnest.

But I've felt ready this week to stick my toe in the waters. So, I have.

I talked to Staley a few minutes ago (Staley, you might remember, is my awesome book editor) and she said to go for it. Of course, there's much left to do on the manuscript, mainly cutting some of the excess verbiage and tightening some character stuff. But even if the agent in question asks for a few more additional pages (ha! like that will happen), I'd feel confident providing them.

I think.

I'll update when the first rejection comes in. It's almost a rite of passage among new authors. Some even print the email out and frame it. Me? I'll probably delete the damned thing.

I don't generally handle rejection well. So I might as well start getting used to it.
UPDATE: Holy crap! I just checked the emailed query I sent earlier today to an agent and IT HAS A MASSIVE SCREW-UP IN IT! Okay, not massive. But pretty bad. I was changing around the personal stuff at the bottom (you know, where you kiss their butt!) and inadvertently cut off a sentence!!! This to a literary agent who's known to look for reasons to reject people.
Foot, meet bullet. Bullet, meet foot.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Editing frenzy continues

I got through two more chapters today and I fixed my prologue, which I managed to screw up yesterday during a classic case of editing gone wild.

Sometimes, I just can't leave well enough alone. People will tell me a passage or chapter is really good, and then I'll spend hours tinkering with it. I'm not sure why that is, although I suspect it's connected to my perfectionism. Which is probably linked to ... oh, forget it.

Bottom line is, I need to edit my words, make them as good as I possibly can, and move on.

I think I'm getting close to screwing up enough courage to send out a query or two. A journey of a thousand miles can't begin until one takes that first step.

The book editor who has been combing the manuscript is almost done and I should find out very soon if there's any major problems with plot, character, etc. I've already instituted many of the changes she had suggested for the first several chapters. I'm becoming pleased with the manuscript, something I never thought I would do.

As a perfectionist, just the simple act of blogging becomes hell. When I first started, I edited and re-edited my posts until I realized I was using valuable writing time -real writing time on my real book - screwing around with my posts.

Now, I pretty much bang them out. I know it shows, and I'm sorry for that. And if I see a major problem, I still go in and fix it. But I also know that I need to hold back my perfectionism for the manuscript.

Okay. I'm going to hit publish post now and ... wait a minute. Does that paragraph make sense? Is that word misspelled? Shit.

No really, I'm going to hit publi....

Monday, January 11, 2010

Query & writing update

Last week, I posted my query letter for THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW. I also mentioned that I had submitted it to a couple of highly regarded online writers' groups to be critiqued.

I was actually very pleased with the responses, for the most part, and came away from the experience convinced I'm almost there. I spent the weekend polishing it even more and I think it's there. Really.

Here's the newest version. Please refer back to my earlier query and you can see the differences in tone and content.

Dear [agent],

Burned-out newspaper editor Michael Reed reluctantly takes a call from a disgraced former nun that changes his life forever. The desperate woman’s request that he meet her son sets Michael on a quest to determine the true identity of fifteen-year-old Jordan Crane. Is the kid Jesus Christ in the flesh? A fraud? Or is he something far worse?

Within hours of the call, Michael’s life inexplicably falls apart. He loses his job and eighteen years of sobriety. Two days later, his eight-year-old son is killed on the highway in front of his home. Within seconds, Jordan Crane mysteriously arrives on the scene and places his hands on the child’s body. When the dead boy opens his eyes, Michael finds himself face to face with the unthinkable.

Fearing for his very sanity, Michael must choose between believing what his heart tells him is true and what his mind says is madness. As a journalist, Michael has valued truth over all else. But what if the truth leads not only to his own death, but the death of everything he holds dear?

My first novel, THE DEVIL YOU DON’T KNOW is a mainstream thriller complete at 120,000 words.

As a career journalist, I received several national, regional and state awards for writing and reporting. My newspaper, the Peoria Journal Star, submitted my work to the Heywood Broun Award and the Pulitzer Prize committees.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Terry Towery

With the query letter ready (I hope), it's time to move on to yet another edit of the manuscript. No kidding, this is the tenth time I have gone through DEVIL, editing, cutting and polishing where needed. I think I know all 120,000 words by heart.

What I'm doing now is called a "line edit." It means just that -- I am going through each line of the 470-page manuscript, pondering each and every word. Can I use a stronger verb here? Can I cut this modifier there? An adverb? ACK. Kill the bastard!

I've completely put aside the new novel to get this one ready to send out into the big, bad world of publishing. I needed to get the new one's opening scene down, and I did. Now it can wait. Its time will come.

Trust me.

Let me know what you think of the new query letter. And thanks, as always, for your help and your visit.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Where I'm from

Today is my birthday.

I won't say how old I am, but I will say this just to get all of the age jokes out of the way: When Washington crossed the Delaware, I was the guy on the other side who helped him tie up his boat.

The point of this post isn't to crow about my birthday, nor is it to bitch and moan about my age. No, today's entry is really about my life, redemption and second chances.

You with me? Hang on, 'cause I'm diving deep here.

See, I come from a very small place. Very small. Let's call it Dysfunction Junction. It's about three miles south of Hell On Earth. Seriously. No one from there ever went anywhere in life. No one. Quite simply, it just doesn't happen. Sure, you might graduate from high school. Hell, if you were really lucky and worked really hard, you might go to college.

But that's about it. Try to do more and you'll get branded a fancy pants show-off. Mr. Big Shot. It's all the sadder for being true.

Now before anyone in my hometown gets all upset and foamy at the mouth, please understand that Dysfunction Junction isn't a real town, per se. No, it's actually more of a state of mind. It's what I'm from, I suppose, rather than where I'm from.

But I know this -- it's a place where dreams don't just die, they don't exist at all. No, that's not exactly true. Dreams are discouraged. Period. We're all in this together. If I have to be stuck here, so do you. I heard and felt that my whole childhood.

All of my life, I've fought against this feeling way down deep inside that I'm not good enough. I'm not smart enough. I'm ugly. I don't deserve anything good. Hard work? Hah. Good luck getting anywhere with that. Smart? Hah. See where that gets you in life, Bucko.

I've been ashamed of who I am for my entire life. All of the cool things I've done? All bullshit. All of the good things that have happened to me? Not deserved. Pure dumb luck. Just wait, the other shoe will drop.

It's been a black hole that has sucked at my soul for decades. I've fought it like a drowning man fights an overpowering current, but in the end, the current always wins.

But like a man imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit, I've spent the second half of my life planning my escape. I was getting the hell out of Dysfunction Junction, or I was going to die trying.

Three years ago this week, I quit my job as assistant city editor of the newspaper where I had worked for twenty-five years. Think about that for a minute. Twenty-five years. And one day, I just walked out.

I was so burned out I could no longer look myself in the mirror. I had built a great career for myself, and I was proud of it. But of course, I didn't deserve it. And so, I walked out. I had reasons, good reasons, that I won't go into here. I promised myself when I quit that I would not disparage the newspaper or those who work there. And I've kept that promise.

I became a journalist back when Reagan was president because I wanted to be a novelist, a writer. It's all I've ever wanted to do in life. But over the years, I convinced myself that I didn't deserve my journalism career, that I wasn't good enough. And some at the newspaper, perhaps sensing I was as vulnerable as a gimpy wildebeest on the African plains, took great pleasure in pointing out just how bad I was, how much I didn't deserve what I had.

So one Tuesday morning, I walked out. Thus began the most frightening and exhilarating time of my life. I began to pursue my dream, my lifelong dream, of becoming a published novelist.

Thank God I have the world's most understanding and supportive wife, a woman whose faith in me exceeds her fear of bankruptcy.

So here I sit, terrified and exhilarated. Time, of course, will tell whether I really am good enough.

And man, that frightens the shit out of me.

But it's not as frightening as going to my grave knowing that I never tried, that I never even attempted to escape from where I'm from.

Watch out boys, I'm going over the fence.

YET ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: People. This post is not about any of the places I've lived. It's about me. My life. My hang-ups. My upbringing. It is not meant to denigrate any person or place. Anyone who should feel guilty probably isn't reading this anyway. So quit worrying.

Friday, January 8, 2010

And the winner is ...

Me! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahah.

Hold on while I get up and go do a little victory dance. Okay? Be right back.





(in your face!).

Okay. I'm back. We're watching Ferris tonight! Although the Wife says she is also renting War Games (she calls it: "A slightly more obscure but highly entertaining 80s movie with lots of hot guys in it").


Anyway. I won.

Did I mention I won? Well, I did.

As the girls say: *squee*

It's Friday!

Well, it's Friday and the weekly movie battle at the Towery home is in full swing. Okay, not really a battle.

Anyhoo ... I would like to watch Ferris Buehler's Day Off. Sure, I've seen it a million times. But hey, so what? I've eaten pizza a million times too, and that never stops me. (Me and The Sick Kid ordered a Pizza Hut delivery this afternoon. It sucked. The crust was so thin and tasteless, the kid asked me if it was pita bread!)

So every time I've broached the movie subject with the Wife, she rolls her eyes. Now granted, she's got beautiful eyes and she rolls them so beautifully. But still! I mean, it's Ferris! (and Slone!)

So we'll see who wins. I'll update later with the results. Remember, I usually get out-voted 1-1. Know what I mean?

Writing update: Blah. That's the only way I can describe this week's writing. The week started with such promise ... and went straight downhill from there. First came the kid's broken foot; now he's home with strep throat or some such icky thing. And I've been feeling kinda listless and tired myself. All of that has added up to a big fat blah for my writing output this week.

I'm hoping for better things next week.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

My query letter for DEVIL

A query letter is, without a doubt, the hardest thing an aspiring author must write. It should contain about three paragraphs on the distilled essence of your novel, and it needs to contain a hook.

A hook is that magical phrase or sentence that screams to a prospective agent: Read me!

A good query should show that your book includes a quest or personal journey, lots of conflict and a moment of choice. While it's difficult to pull those out of a long and complex novel, if you look closely you'll find that all of the good ones are built around those elements.

An excellent query is designed to land you a literary agent. It's a huge first step toward conventional publishing, i.e., with a commercial publishing house as opposed to self-publishing (which is a cat of a whole other color). Once you nail that agent, she then acts as your advocate in finding a publisher and selling your project for the most money. The agent also helps to negotiate your contract -- a rocky shoal on which many a newbie writer has been stranded.

A good query letter must be concise (less than 300-400 words) and basically sum up a 400-plus page novel in three paragraphs. It also needs to contain the title, the word count and the genre.

A query letter has to shine like a diamond. Good literary agents read upwards of 30,000 queries a year! And they generally offer representation to about six or seven lucky souls. And it's all based on their query letter. A good one means you have a career as a novelist. A bad one means, well, that you don't. In other words, you can have a monumental novel written, but no one will see it if you can't write the best damned query letter in the world. Seriously.

No pressure. (gulp)

Your query should also contain a very brief author's bio, and should include anything in your background (writing work, awards, etc.) that will catch an agent's eye in the brief seconds he is scanning it before moving on to the next one in his in-basket. I've spent weeks polishing my query after the initial version was ripped apart on an online critique group. Man, that hurt. But it was good advice and I'd like to think I followed it for the most part.

So, today I'm going to post my query letter as it stands right now. It may yet go under the knife again, since I've re-posted it to that very same shark pit that tore me apart last month.

Here goes:

Dear [agent],

Burned-out newspaper editor Michael Reed reluctantly takes a call from a disgraced former nun that changes his life forever. The desperate woman’s request that he meet her son sets Michael on a terrifying quest to determine the true identity of fifteen-year-old Jordan Crane. Is the kid Jesus Christ in the flesh? A fraud? Or is he something far worse?

Within hours of the call, Michael’s comfortable life inexplicably falls apart. He loses his job and eighteen years of sobriety. Two days later, his eight-year-old son is killed on the highway in front of his home. When young Jordan Crane mysteriously arrives on the scene and places his hands on the child’s body, Michael finds himself face to face with the unthinkable.

Haunted by his tragic past and fearing for his very sanity, Michael must choose between believing what his heart tells him is true and what his mind says is pure madness. In making the choice, he learns that sweet redemption always comes with a price.

My first novel, THE DEVIL YOU DON’T KNOW is a mainstream thriller complete at 120,000 words.

A career journalist, I have received several national, regional and state awards for writing and reporting. My newspaper submitted my work to the Heywood Broun Award and the Pulitzer Prize committees.

(Note: The following paragraph is aimed at one particular agent and may not appear on all queries sent)

On a personal note, I enjoy your blog and read it daily. Your informative and helpful posts not only afforded me the technical skills to craft this query letter, but the courage to send it. Thank you.

Terry Towery

So there you have it. My query letter as it stands today. My question to you is this: After reading it (and understanding that it's meant for literary agents and not the general public, since the overall novel is far more complex than it appears in this query), would you want to read the story?

If so, why? And if not, why not?

As always, thanks for your help and input. I value it highly!

SNOWSTORM/WRITING UPDATE: We got hammered here in Peoria last night and early this morning. I'd guess we got an additional 6 or 7 inches on top of the 8 inches already on the ground. Our patio furniture looks like white topiary! It's really quite beautiful and ... we're snowed in. The driveway is long and sloping and un-driveable.

So what am I doing about it? Well. I'm hoping my really nice neighbor fires up his John Deere tractor with the really cool blade on it and comes over and plows it. Again. Did I mention he's really nice?

The 12-year-old got his wish. Schools in the area are shut down. But, as luck would have it, the poor kid woke up sick this morning with a high fever and sore throat and is currently asleep upstairs in his room with his Playstation 2 game paused. What a waste of a perfectly good snow day! Poor kid. The wife is also home (see driveway status above).

Me? I'm sitting at my desk, smoking a cigar, drinking my fourth cup of Starbucks Sumatra, staring off into space and occasionally stroking my chin. I also say "a ha" every so often. Hey, writing is tough work sometimes.

Really, I'm thinking the new book through. It's coming, albeit slowly.

I also plan on spending several hours pondering tomorrow's Friday Family Movie. I hope the driveway gets itself cleared soon, so we can get to the video store.

SNOW REMOVAL UPDATE: I have the best neighbor in the whole world!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Writing FAIL!

I admit it. I wrote nothing today. Nada. Not one damned word on the new book. I feel so guilty. Really. I do.

I mean, I did some work to further my blossoming (ahem) literary career. I revised my query letter and posted it to two separate websites for critique purposes -- which is a bit like sticking your hand into a garbage disposal. In other words, it's painful. But necessary, I suppose. Okay, sticking your hand in a garbage disposal isn't necessary, but you get my drift.

See, my lovely wife was off work today so we went out and had a wonderful lunch at a hip little restaurant that opened in town recently. As part of her job at the newspaper, she sometimes does restaurant reviews and sometimes, if I'm a really good boy, I get to go along! Awesome, huh?

Yeah, I thought so, too.

Now we have a massive snowstorm bearing down on us, so I suspect the 12-year-old will be home tomorrow (he so hopes). Still, I ought be able to double-down and get some serious writing done.

We shall see.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Starting things off with a BANG

My word count for today was a shade over a thousand, about average for me. While they weren't great words, they were pretty good. Acceptable. I'll polish them tomorrow until they are all bright and shiny. Either that, or I'll kill 'em and start over. My problem today? I was winding down a very intense opening chapter. See, the new book (unnamed so far; cast your vote below!) opens with a bang. It drops you, the reader, into the midst of a suspenseful and horrifying situation and then, well, rubs your face in it.

God, it was fun to write.

My previous book, THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW, opened a bit more sedately (see its prologue posted Dec. 17). I intentionally sought to create more of a moody, eerie feeling, as though something just isn't quite right. Then it pretty much goes into a straight narrative, telling the story from start to finish. Eventually, the reader discovers exactly what it was that happened during the prologue -- one of those ohhhh moments I so dearly love.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting for a call from the book editor who is finishing up her edits on DEVIL. I am terrified. What if she hates it? What if the plot doesn't hold up? What if the characters are cardboard and the story structure falls apart after Chapter 4?

My God, what if the whole thing just sucks?

Crap. I should have stayed at the damned newspaper! Arrrggggggg!!!!!

(Breathing deeply)

Ok. I'm fine now. Nothing a little coffee and my third cigar of the day won't cure.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I don't like Mondays - or do I?

I'm writing this in a kind of stream-of-conciousness fog, so hang with me. Okay? Coolio.

As of today at 5 p.m., I'm 1,796 words into the new novel and, so far, I'm very happy with it! This baby starts out big and bad and then it gets -- bigger and badder.

(I hope.)

Anyway, I wrote about 1,400 words today. That's about 400 words over my usual pace. And this despite one Monday-ism after another.

Listen to this:

First, we had to take our 12-year-old in to the orthopedic doc first thing this morning, where he was fitted with a "boot" to protect what the doc called a "displaced fracture" of the lower tibia. It's the ankle bone, essentially. Ouch. And, the kid was a little miffed since he wasn't getting a real cast, because real casts are cooler.

Then, I noticed I had two almost flat tires, both on the driver's side. Yeah. I wondered how that could happen, too. Especially since the car sits in a locked garage. Anyway, I limped the wounded puppy to a convenience store/gas station near where I live. And noticed that it cost seventy-five cents for air. Air! What is this world coming to? So I went in, and there's a line a mile long at the counter because some woman is cashing in a gazillion of those scratch-off Lottery cards! Dear God. Finally, after about ten minutes, I get to the counter.

Me: Hi. I need change for this dollar so I can put some air in my tires.

Lady: Sorry, we don't give change. You gotta buy something.

Me: I'm trying to. But I don't have any quarters and I have two flat tires. What am I supposed to do?

Lady: (Shrugs).

Me: So I've stood in this $#@&Y line for ten minutes for nothing?

Lady: Yep. And the air machine doesn't work anyway. Next!

I should say at at this point that there was some profanity involved on my part. Sorry.

So I limped the car up the road to a Mobil station (a real gas station!) and not only did the woman let me have air, but after I told her my story, she let me have it for free! Yay.

And then when I got home, I noticed the milk in the fridge was warm. And everything in the freezer was thawed and floppy. So I called the repairman, who had just repaired it a couple of weeks ago. He was, like, really busy. But he he talked me through getting the fan back on. (It was bad, folks. It even involved, like, turning the power off! It's a wonder I didn't electrocute myself.)

And then the glass sliding door on the shower came off. And it's a bitch to get back on, but I finally got it. Of course, I also cut the hell out of one of my fingers.

So I tromp downstairs to my writing area, angry at the whole world. And I wrote more than I have in weeks. Good stuff, too.

Maybe, if I'm really lucky, the cat will claw my eyes out tomorrow and the roof will cave in. Hell, I should have the book finished by 5 p.m.!

I mean, think of the possibilities here! Maybe if I break my own leg on Wednesday, and then the well goes dry and the furnace goes belly up ... well, watch out Pulitizer committee!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday night title question

I need some advice on my work in progress, specifically about its working title. I realize you haven't read it yet (because I haven't written it yet. Ha ha), but I want to know which title trips your trigger.

I don't know about you, but for me, a book title is very important. A really cool, sexy title makes me want to pick that baby up and buy it. So I'm asking for a little help in deciding which title is sexier. Okay? Here we go.

1. The Crossroads.
2. A Cold Day in Hell.
3. The Clearing at Lourdes.

All three would work with my story idea. But take a moment and envision them on a really cool book cover at your local Barnes & Noble (from my keyboard to God's ear!).

Knowing nothing more about its content, which title would make you stop and reach for the book? And more importantly, why?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Attention please

It has been brought to my attention by our flatscreen television set that college football bowl games are being played all day today and into the evening hours.


Therefore, be it resolved that Family Movie Night has been postponed until next Friday, when we will once again resume our quest for the Perfect 80s Flick.

That is all.