When I started this newsletter project, I had no idea if it was something I could sustain. It’s not uncommon for me to get sidetracked by another project or three and have something else demand my attention. Perhaps having the deadline of the 19th helps, which is a salute to Chene’s “Why 319?” debut novel. There’s just something about the 19th that works for me. So it's quite an accomplishment to see it still going.
By the way, since the book was released, I’ve yet to stay in room 319 at a hotel. Is that a coincidence? As Pappy Cantrell would say “ain’t no such thing.”
A new podcast, with select scenes for "The Wayward Path" went live yesterday. You can click on the link at the top of the column to hear more.
Time for some updates, an interview with another indie author and music. If you’re expecting Christmas music, this isn’t the place.
During the writer’s workshop last month, a question came up about outlines. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that most of the writers present don’t use them. A few (myself included) despise them.
I’ve always found outlines to be too restrictive. There are some authors I know who plot out every single scene, every interaction, every bit of dialogue, before they settle down at the keyboard and get started. My response: figure out what works for you and stick with it.
In all my books and short stories, I start with a glimmer of an idea and a main character. Then I turn them loose and see what happens. Often the story will take a dramatic turn and shift into a new direction that I hadn’t expected. That’s where the creative process kicks in.
Another aspect of what many call this ‘seat of the pants’ style is that I don’t write sequentially. I’ll get the idea for a scene, or some dialogue and can’t get passed it until I write it down. Only when that segment is typed can I get on to the next passage. Later, I’ll move those sections around and get them into some semblance of order. Then I figure out what needs to be done to connect everything. A friend compares this to putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
As one of the nuns in elementary school once said about this method, “Crude, but effective.”
I took that as a compliment.
Figure out what works and stick with it.
Work in Progress
The new book is slowly marching forward. Unlike my previous stories, this one isn’t going to be a mystery. I’m trying my hand at a crime novel. If all goes well, there will be plenty of twists and turns and a surprise or two. I’ve been inspired by a few great movies, such as “Entrapment” and “The Thomas Crown Affair” with Sean Connery in the former and Pierce Brosnan in the latter.
If you’ve read books two and three in the Chene series, you’ll recognize a couple of the primary players. Leo Agonasti and Maximo Aurelio, the retired mobsters who have an unusual friendship with Chene, will be featured in the book. Leo will be telling the tale from his point of view. So far it’s set in the 1992, when both are still active in organized crime.
Work and some other commitments have kept me from spending as much time on the keyboard with this duo as I would like. To date, a little over 6,000 words have found their way into the story. Here’s what Leo might look like at the time of the story.
Over the years I’ve met other authors in different ways. Through the wonders of the internet and social media, at art festivals and book events and even at book stores. I never would have expected to meet a fellow author right next door. Okay, David doesn’t live next door, but we both work at the local college and at one point, he was in the office next to mine. When I learned about his writing, I invited him to join me at a few events this summer. We enjoyed it so much, we’re already planning to hit a few more next year.
Time to say hello to David Kobb.
are you from?
I am from Mishawaka, Indiana, “the Princess City.” I recommend going to Mishawaka’s Wikipedia page and reading up on the legend of “Princess Mishawaka.”
your ‘someday’ or dream vacation spot and why?
My wife and I have made travel a priority in our lives, so we’ve been able to explore several places already. We’ve been to Japan, Iceland and several European countries. Right now, we’re fascinated with Singapore, so I think that’ll be my answer for this question. It’s a city-state country, which is fascinating of itself, but it also has an interesting culture and history. It’s exceptionally safe and low on crime because, among other reasons, punishments are severe. Its supposed to have a great food culture, which has me drooling just thinking about it.
your favorite thing to do for relaxation?
My relaxation is accomplished by being active. I workout a lot, play hockey, rock climb, and have recently taken up boxing. Using up my energy and safely getting out agression is what I look for in a relaxation activity.
Some of my hobbies were mentioned in my relaxation answer, but I enjoy other things, too. I like to spend time with my wife and my dog. Of course I enjoy reading and writing, too. I play guitar and am trying to learn French.
long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing off and on since I was a kid. I remember one of my first stories, complete with illustrations, was about a dinosaur that wanted to play football. I’ve only been serious about writing in the last few years, though.
Are you able to write full time or do you also have a job/career?
Writing is more of a
hobby for me than a profession. I’ve made some money off my books, but nothing
to replace a full-time job. While I would love the freedom that could come with
writing for a living, I am happy with my current situation.
Is there a particular genre that you write?
I like to write horror
and especially for children. I grew up devouring R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps books
and wanted to take a stab, pun intended, at writing my own series of spooky
books for kids.
Do you use friends or family as characters in your work?
There might be some
personality quirks from my family and friends or colleagues or even stranges I
saw at a café that make their way into story charecters, but I’ve never written
a character that is primarily based off of someone I know.
What authors had an impact on you growing up and as an adult?
I adore Ray Bradbury’s work. I love his short stories, his novels, and, really, everything he’s written. He has such a unique voice that express beauty and fear with the same alacrity.
Has anyone in your life influenced you or encouraged you to pursue your interests of writing? (teacher, family member, friend)
I never took my writing seriously until my older cousin and now co-author encouraged me to write something with him. He’s written several international espionage thrillers because his day job is a diplomat for the US State Department. He wanted to write something scary for kids and knew that was an interest of mine, so he hit me up and we worked on our Terrifying Tales series together.
What is your favorite aspect or writing? Your least favorite?
I enjoy story, themes, characters and plot. My weakness is the technical side of writing, ensuring I’m avoiding passive voice, and getting all of the commas in the right places. I want to be Cormac McCarthy and just avoid punctuation alltogether.
aspect of writing would you most like to improve on?
The technical side. I never imagined that I would make money from my writing, and at the time of writing the books, I was in gradschool and wasn’t making much money, so I was loathe to spend money on profesional editing services. Now, that I know that my books can make money, I’ll utilize profesional editors on my future works.
there a common theme or item that appears in each of your work?
I try to think about what fears I had as a child and utilize them in my work. A lot of childhood fears are universal, I think. The fear of the unknown and unseen. The fear of darkness.
What have you learned the most from being in the writing business?
There’s no shame to self-publishing if your work is of quality. Getting published at all is difficult. Getting published at a high-level publishing firm has the money and other resources to really get your book out to a wide audience is even more difficult. Self-publishing can be the best route for many authors. You need to wear many hats, though, if you go the self-publishing route. You have to be a promoter, marketer, graphic designer, sales person, and more. But, you get to keep more of the money you earn and you have full control over your work.
How did you decide on your story plot?
Usually, I start with a
scene. I think of an interesting scene and then build a story off of it. What
if a kid is out riding his bike and he notices someone following him on their
bike, and then that someone is the Grim Reaper? What is the story from that
Describe how this method works best for you. Outline or ‘seat of the pants’?
Usually, I think of the scene and then build a very rough outline from it. I like to have a general idea of what the story is and then piece all the scenes together. I am more than happy to go another way as I am writing the story, though. If the characters take me another way, then I’ll follow them, and sometimes that ends up creating an entirely different story than what I had set out to write.
Do you have a favorite scene you’ve written? What makes it special?
No, too often I look back on my work and only see what I wish I did differently.
Here’s an excerpt from one of David’s stories.
Isabell Adams’ new house reminded her of a rotting gravestone, half crumbled into cemetery dirt. Fuzzy green moss smothered the roof, and creeping vines clutched at the windows like grasping hands. She had no idea why, but her mother loved the place.
“Isn’t it great?” Mrs. Adams said, beaming with pride. “And it’s all ours. It was dirt cheap, too.”
Isabell sneered at the house, and then turned the sneer on her mother. “Yeah, mom. It’s great.”
“Oh, sarcasm. How original. You’re such a tween,” Mrs. Adams said, matching her daughter’s sarcastic tone.
“It was cheap, because it’s a death trap, Mom,” Isabell pouted.
Mrs. Adams took a breath. “Listen, I know you didn’t want to move, but we did, and there’s no going back. You might try to make the best of it.” Mrs. Adams smiled hopefully.
“But it’s falling apart, Mom! I think I got tetanus just by looking at it.”
“It’s all we could afford, okay? We’ll fix it up in no time. I bet the inside is nice!”
The inside of the house wasn’t any better. As the sun moved to hide behind the tall willow trees that surrounded the house, Isabell and her mother spent most the night unpacking their moving boxes.
“Okay,” Mrs. Adams said, wiping sweat from her brow, “let’s take a break for dinner. Pizza?”
Isabell did not feel like eating. All she wanted to do was take a shower and sleep in her old bed at her old house. “Pizza’s fine,” she grumbled.
Mrs. Adams pulled out her cell phone and found a nearby pizza place. She called and ordered a large pepperoni and mushroom, which was Isabell’s favorite.
“They said it’d be half an hour,” Mrs. Adams said, hanging up the phone. “Until then, we clean and unpack.”
Mrs. Adams was downstairs, still trying and failing to make the living room livable. Isabell explored the house’s upper level. She found a small door, just a couple of feet tall, in the hallway near the stairs. She opened it and saw a dark crawlspace. The little light that leaked in from the hallway was just enough for Isabell to see that the crawlspace was filled with spider webs. Wind from the outside whistled in from a crack in the wall and played a funeral lament. Her skin crawled and she quickly closed the door. That crawlspace was like a nightmare she often had – a dark space, tight like a coffin, and crawling with spiders.
After shutting the crawlspace door, she began to walk away. After just a couple of steps, she heard a click. She turned around and saw that the crawlspace door was open. She walked back over, grabbed the small latch on the door, and pulled it shut again. She frowned at it for a moment and then turned and walked away. Again, after a few steps, she heard a click. She stopped, turned her head, and watched as the crawlspace door crept open.
“Mom!” she yelled, racing down the stairs.
Sir Paul McCartney has been a contanst player in my music collection for years. Whether as part of The Beatles, Wings or his solo work, McCartney has always delivered memorable music. Even at age 80, he’s still composing and performing. He’s known as one of the most successful composers and performers of all time.
McCartney has had over 30 songs top the Billboard Hot 100. He’s been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, once as a member of The Beatles and once as a solo artist and in the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. He’s won an Oscar and an Emmy, 18 Grammys and been recognized by the Kennedy Center.
Here are my top five favorites for Sir Paul McCartney
Let it Be: https://youtu.be/u6T5C-jzSH0
Twist & Shout: https://youtu.be/ohql4weWrqk
Ob La Di Ob La Da: https://youtu.be/mvbs07wwBjo
Maybe I’m Amazed: https://youtu.be/DNh5Ca1dIXM
Band on the Run: https://youtu.be/d4ZLt-lWRms
I’m Going to Sit Right Down: https://youtu.be/AI9oVAHEpJY