Today I’d like to welcome author and podcaster Jake Bible to The Evolution of Nikki. Jake is the author of DEAD MECH, the world’s first drabble novel.
You can find out more about Jake via his official website.
Now onto today’s post. (If you’re a potential writer, this one is most definitely for you.)
So, I am a writer. Impressive, eh?
Sure, I get to sit around in my PJs clacking at my keyboard, getting multiple refills of delisciousssssss coffee while snacking on donut holes. Then watch Doctor Who re-runs for the other seven hours of the “work” day. It’s the life!
Except, none of that is true. Oh, I wish it was. I could use a good pair of PJs. But, alas, I am part of the 90%-95% of professional writers that is afflicted with a condition that the average reader (even sub-average reader) is not aware of.
I am speaking of: The Day Job.
Yep, I work for a living.
Sure, I may make enough from my ebook sales and (soon) my print book sales to keep my fridge stocked with craft beer on the weekends (can’t afford beer on weeknights), but I won’t be buying a summer cottage on The Cape anytime soon. (Where is “The Cape”, by the way?)
Yes, I even have a literary agent that is busy trying to sell my work out there, but selling and sold are two different words. And even when sold I will be lucky if I can pay off my Best Buy card. Not that I regret the HDTV in the living room. I do regret I got suckered into buying the over priced HDMI cable, though. I should have read CNET first.
I digress. Won’t be the last time in this post.
What many readers don’t know is that only between 5%-10% of professional writers make enough money to support themselves (and possibly their families, as well). Yep, see all those books on your bookshelf, dear potential writer? 90% of those are written by folks that are schlepping it to work each day just like you. Oh, the glamour!
Now, before you feel sorry for me and get your wallets out…be sure and click here. I kid. …Or do I?
Okay, I better get to the point before you go back to watching The View. Or that YouTube video of the cat playing with the dolphin. That is just so damn cute! Can’t wait for the sequel where the cat plays with a shark. Hijinks will ensue, I guarantee it!
Here is why I am writing this post (after six plus paragraphs of nonsense): if you want to be a writer, be prepared to work your butt off like never before. If you are lucky! That’s right, you’ll be working your tuchas to the bone even if you catch a break. I am.
I launched my first novel, DEAD MECH, as a free podcast. I was lucky (there’s that word again) that it took off and caught the attention of some other big authors/podcasters. With help I was able to gain a rather large following right away which lead to a publishing contract (which I have since nullified because I am a control freak). But, my following was a following of folks that liked FREE content. Did that translate to sales when the novel was printed? No. No, it didn’t.
So, I had to start the hustle that all writers go through. I had to self-promote my novel (as well as the podcast), I had to work on getting my next novel written (and recorded for podcast), I had to plan my third novel (maybe a podcast?) plus all the website maintenance, correspondence, ebook publishing, writing, revising, editing, writing, revising, etc.
And do it all while working 40+ hours a week at my day job.
Sure, you still want to be a writer?
Or, if you don’t want to be a writer, do you still believe writing is easy?
I’m sure many of you are unconvinced, so let’s break it down.
My month has consisted of the following:
- Prep/proof two manuscripts for print publication.
- Revise said manuscripts and coordinate with my formatter for revisions.
- Write a new YA novel (still in progress).
- Edit my current novel.
- Record/edit the podcast release of my current novel.
- Start the first draft of a zombie musical (yes, you read that right).
- Update all of me ebooks because of late errors found.
- Update my website to reflect the new info constantly being generated by new work.
- Write several guest blog posts.
- Be part of a few interviews.
- Work on publicity/promotion.
- Get frustrated with publicity/promotion and get drunk instead.
- Post on Facebook/Twitter/The Ether.
- Respond to comments on Facebook/Twitter (can’t respond to The Ether, that’s just crazy talk).
- Take notes for next novel.
- Take notes for the novel after that.
- Drink coffee (okay, drink whiskey with coffee in it).
- Work at day job.
- Keep wife and children healthy and fed (I do all the cooking).
- Sleep (yep, I’m a wuss that way).
There’s more but I’ve had too much “coffee” to remember what the rest is. Let me know if I missed anything.
How’s that writing dream feeling? Have I crushed it yet? I sure as hell hope not. Because if you have read all of this and still want to be a writer then you probably have the stuff to be successful at it. However, if this list freaks you out (or you don’t like “coffee”) then maybe you should just keep working on that manuscript until you do have what it takes.
Now, if you get one thing from this post, I hope it’s this: It’s easy to fail, it’s hard to succeed. Be prepared for success. You don’t need preparation for failure. We’re humans, failure is in our DNA. Success is what will really kill you. As a writer, your biggest regret in life won’t be that you failed at writing, but that you succeeded at writing then failed at success. That’ll break your soul.
But, even with all of this craziness I absolutely love writing and I wouldn’t go back to my pre-writing days if someone paid me. Well, I guess it depends on how much they paid me…
And, on that note, I wish you all great success!
Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids. He is the author of many published short stories and the creator of a new literary form: the Drabble Novel. DEAD MECH is his first novel and represents the introduction to the world of the Drabble Novel, a novel written 100 words at a time.
Learn more about Jake and his work at www.jakebible.com. Links to his Facebook fan page, Twitter and his forum can be found there, as well as his weekly drabble release, Friday Night Drabble Party, and his weekly free audio fiction podcast.
Today’s special guest is Jim Ryan, a caffeine-loving podcaster and writer who can be found at his official website Jim – Yes, THAT Jim and via Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. (Yes, MySpace is still around. It’s hard to believe, I know.) Also, please feel free to check out Jim’s two podcasts, The Great Debate and The Everyworld News Podcast.
Now, onto Jim’s thoughts on providing readers with too much information at once. (Yes, the old saying is true. Sometimes less is more.)
I have a confession to make. I’m addicted to world-building.
Whenever I write something that takes place in a fictional world, I like to spell out details about that world to the Nth degree. My material leans in the direction of science fiction and fantasy, so more often than not I find myself creating races and societies and – depending on the setting – sorting out rules for how magic works or how advanced technology works.
Why bother with all that? Because my OCD-riddled brain likes to sort out every last piece of information and put it in its proper place.
The problem is that once I’ve got the details written up, I often feel a compulsion to share them with my readers. From what I understand this can be a malady that strikes many writers. It’s only natural, of course. After working for hours on the complete history of every major spacefaring race in a given galaxy, the desire to share the pride I have in such a massive creation is a perfectly normal one.
Normal, but sadly, not helpful.
I may feel as though providing pages and pages of information on the mating habits of the rock people of Quar is the right and just thing to do, but deep down I know that producing a story the approximate length of the Great Wall of China might not be the best strategy. Not if I want to retain any of my readers, anyway.
So, how do I avoid including info-dumps in my fiction?
I’ve tried having clueless minor characters standing by to ask, “What’s going on?” so the clever protagonist can tell them. But that only really seems to work for me up to a point, after which it can start getting ridiculous. Sometimes there’s a fine line between having a main character who’s a genius and having one who’s basically a tape recorder.
(For those of you who may be a bit younger, we used to have these things called “tape recorders.” Google them some time if you’d like to get an insight into how the ancient folk of the late 20th century lived.)
What I’ve found works better is to seed the information in appropriate passages a bit at a time – just hinting at the greater depth of background instead of throwing it all out there. I try only to include the bits of information that are relevant to the story. So, for example, instead of getting into the specifics of how the Quarren race reproduces, I can instead have the Quarren ambassador mention that he’s recently carved out a son.
The key here is letting the readers fill in the missing bits with their imagination. I haven’t explained HOW the ambassador had a son, but I’ve 1) communicated what I need to (that the ambassador has a family, which helps explain his motivations) and 2) hopefully made the reader curious about the Quarren race. The readers can’t help but try to picture what I’m talking about, but because the picture is incomplete there’s now a mystery to which they’ll want to learn the answer.
Stringing folks along by revealing only tiny bits of the world you’ve created can be a bit cruel, perhaps, but ultimately they’ll love you for it. Because a world that looks like it’s got a lot of potential is way cooler than one that’s finished.
So consider hoarding all of those excruciating details and letting them out a bit at a time. That way, when they ask for more, you’ll have a ready supply.
If you’d like to guest blog on my site, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
Before I delve into my review of Tony Faville‘s Kings of the Dead, I must admit I haven’t read many zombie stories, so my knowledge of them is fairly limited, but I am an avid reader, so I still know what makes a great read, at least to me.
I like a story that draws me in and holds my attention to the very end. I like characters that I can relate to and who resonate with me. I also love stories that make me feel something — that touch my heart. And if they make me ask questions…even better.
Kings of the Dead accomplished all of that and more.
I started reading the book Saturday night around 7pm, and I read through until 11:30 or so before turning in for the night. By that time I was already 53% done with the book. I finished reading it yesterday afternoon.
Once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. The story sucked me in from the very first page, and it didn’t let me go until the end.
What I Loved About Kings of the Dead:
I loved the journal format.
I loved all the details on weaponry used to deal with the zombies and other problems the Kings faced.
I loved the way all the characters interacted with each other.
I also loved reading about all the stockpiling of food and equipment.
For those who don’t know, I’m a huge advocate of stockpiling and preparing for the worst. I also am a huge advocate of learning how to be self-sufficient and live off the land, so Kings of the Dead definitely has a leg up on the competition, at least in my book. (I’d like to think that if faced with the same scenario, I would be a part of a group like the Kings.)
Now, I must ask, who actually cries when reading a zombie novel? Well, this chick, that’s who. Go ahead and laugh if you want, but it’s true. There were parts of the book that made me cry. I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll leave it at that.
I highly recommend Kings of the Dead to all zombie fans. It’s a quick, fast-paced, entertaining story that will leave you wishing there was more to read.
Total stars: FIVE!
I, for one, cannot wait to read Tony’s second book Slow Burn. If Kings of the Dead is any indication of what this author is capable of, I think it’s going to be fantastic.
When the H1N1 “Swine Flu” virus mutates it begins to not only kill those who have received the vaccination, but also bring on the unthinkable: the dead reanimate. Cole Helman and his friends are not only survival experts, they’ve spent hours discussing and preparing for just this event and quickly head to the hills before the cities become clogged with looting and riots. But the group knows all too well that the living dead are just the beginning of their problems, and they’ll eventually have to deal with the worst qualities of the living-desperation, greed, selfishness, and cruelty-in this new post-apocalyptic world. And a chance encounter at a secret military installation may reveal a conspiracy bigger than any of them had imagined… Straight out of the apocalypse comes the chronicle of one small group and their experiences with life and death, survival and loss. In a world of the living dead, is one man capable of maintaining not only his community, but his own sanity?
Over the past year, you’ve all heard me mention author Jennifer Hudock, aka Jennifer Melzer, on numerous occasions. She’s my friend, mentor, editor, cover artist and more.
Jenny and I first met back in 2008 while we both were working at Mahalo. Since then, she’s been there for me through many of the ups and downs in my life. She’s encouraged me to follow my dreams and never give up. She’s helped me to believe in myself and the gift I’ve been given. She’s played a significant role in where I’ve ended up. So when an opportunity arises to help her, I jump on it. I want nothing more than to see her succeed at her dreams. She’s an extremely gifted author, and I believe in her.
So please take a moment and watch Jenny in the video below as she explains why she’s raising funds. I hope that once you watch it, you’ll help her in her quest.
Today’s guest blog post on ePublishing comes from author Suzy Turner. Her debut YA novel, Raven, will be available for purchase through Amazon in the near future. To read an excerpt from Raven, please visit her official site.
About a month ago I had an epiphany. A light bulb illuminated inside my head… ‘epublish your book’, it said.
I know in the past, many indie authors have had a bad name but times, they are a changing, and authors are doing it for themselves (isn’t that a song?). So why not jump on the bandwagon, so to speak?
Like many (if not all) authors before me, I have received my fair share of rejections, but I’ve also received my fair share of compliments about my style of writing (and my over active imagination, but that’s another story altogether), enough to make me think ‘why shouldn’t I try and do it my way?’
So I began to read up about the process of epublishing and, to be honest, I can’t find a reason why I shouldn’t do it.
Provided your book is the best it can be and it has been edited and proofread to within an inch of its life, then there is no reason why you can’t try and make a go of it yourself. You keep the profits. You maintain integrity over your project. You choose the cover, etc, etc.
My YA novel, Raven, will be my first ebook. The first person to read it was a friend who also happens to teach kids at a London school. She helped me improve the story by pointing out inconsistencies, anything that was just plain wrong and spelling mistakes. She also suggested I make a few changes to my main character (she was too naïve to be 16 so I made her a little younger, for example). I have since completed the revision and the book is now in the hands of four other friends – all, except one – in the editing / publishing industry so I trust what they will have to say.
While I wait for them to finish (with full time jobs, it’s taking a little longer than I’d hoped), I am working on the cover art. I’d love to pay someone to do this for me but as this is my first book, I simply can’t afford it at the moment. However, I do believe my cover image is coming along quite nicely. Taking the picture was fun…although I’m 35 and no longer the shape of a teenager, I donned my best teenlike clothes and my husband and I drove up to the nearby mountains to get a shot of me running into a forest. When we got back, I chose the best photo and then went to work. Not having Photoshop on my laptop, I used an online image editing site (http://pixlr.com) to tweak the image, reducing the size of my curves (!) to make me appear to be much (much) younger, and making the image darker and eerier. I posted the initial image on my blog to gauge response and was pleasantly surprised. It just needs a little more alteration and then it will be ready. Not bad for a first timer, I guess.
To follow my journey, visit http://suzyturner.com.
If you would like to guest blog on my site, please email me at email@example.com for more information. I look forward to hearing from you.
Today I’d like to welcome friend and fellow author Tony Faville to The Evolution of Nikki. Tony is the author of the post-zombie apocalypse novel Kings of the Dead, currently available on Amazon. If you’d like to get in touch with Tony, you can find him on Twitter and Facebook or you can visit his official website.
Now sit back and enjoy what Tony had to say about music and how it can, at times, inspire our writing. (It definitely inspires mine as you’ll see in a future post.)
Music (noun) – 1. The art or science of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.
For some people, music is more than just a noun, it is a way of life. You can see them all over the place, dancing, singing or just moving like they do not have a care in the world. All they feel at that point in time, is the music.
For some people, myself included, the right song can be like a time machine, instantly transporting you back through the very fibers of space and time to an event in life that helped form them into who they are today. For example:
Journey, Frontiers, Faithfully, it’s 1983 and I am in Colorado Springs, Colorado sitting across the pool from a young lady that I thought I was in love with. A year later I would do something to her that I will spend the rest of my life wishing I could find her just so I could apologize to her for what I did.
We are the World, 1985 and I am having one of the best summers of my life in San Diego, California
Kenny Loggins, Danger Zone, it is 1986, I am 16 years old drving my 1967 VW 21 Window Deluxe Microbus up to Seattle for the day while being seriously hotboxed by my buddies.
Guns and Roses, Appetite for Destruction, Sweet Child of Mine….Axl is sliding his feet left and right, Slash may or may not be awake, Izzy is doing his best Ronnie Woods impersonation, Duff was wailing on the bass, and Steven was pounding the hell out of the drums. It is 1988 and I am not quite 19 years old, in the US Navy driving a piece of crap 1970 Datsun 240z at well over 100 miles per hour through the southern California high desert while smoking filterless Pall Mall cigarettes like they are going out of style.
In My Life, The Beatles, it is 1998 and I am getting married to my soulmate this time, and the song is sung by a friend of ours. Since originally sung by The Beatles, it has been covered by multiple other singers, but my absolute favorite version is Johnny Cash with a close second by Ozzy Osbourne.
Eros Ramazotti, 9, Un Attimo di Pace, in 2003 my wife and I took a long two week dream vacation to Italy and truly had the trip of a lifetime. Upon our arrival in Roma, there was a transportation strike and we had to walk from the train station to our hotel on the other side of Largo di Torre Argentina. As we walked we found armed Carbineri blocking the road ahead as there were protests taking place ahead at the base of the Vittorio Emanuelle National Monument. By the time we got there, the crowd had grown to easily a hundred thousand angry Romans, and we had to pass through the crowd. A pair of American tourists, at a time when American tourists were hated more than ever. This song was playing everywhere along our route to the hotel, which we arrived at safely.
See what I mean? All I have to do is hear any of those songs and I am instantly transported through space and time and I either get to, or have to live through those moments in time once more.
As writers, many of us have used past experiences for our writing. Now, I am not saying we necessarily write down specific experiences that have happened in our lives, At least not always, but sometimes the feelings that remain from the things we have experienced do in fact come through in our writing. When this happens, it can certainly affect the tone of what we put down on paper.
These days when I sit down and start writing, I find myself listening to a lot of Mister Johnny Cash as I find it helps me be a little more retrospective than if I were to be listening to Duran Duran, or Metallica, or the Rolling Stones. As I sit their and listen to The Man Comes Around, or We’ll Meet Again, I begin to feel what he may have felt while singing the songs. While he sings, I start to remember, and I start to feel, and I start to write. Sometimes what I wrote works, and sometimes it does not. That is just the way things go sometimes.
When the writing works though, it really works.
If you’d like to guest blog on my site, please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. I look forward to hearing from you.
Today, I’d like to introduce you all to Nicholas Denmon, an up and coming author who will be releasing For Nothing, his debut novel, in mid-May. (So stay tuned!)
I can honestly say that I enjoyed the answers Nick provided to my questions, and I’m confident you’ll love them, as well, so what are you waiting for? Keep on reading.
N: What a loaded question. I am not always a hundred percent sure I have figured that out. But we can start with the facts. I was born in Buffalo, NY in 1982, which was a time before slap-bracelets, glow-worms, and stuffing little puppies in purses. A simpler time, really.
I am a middle-ish child from a broken home with six children that came from parents, stepparents, and science experiments gone horribly awry. I’ll let you decide from which group I come from. A lot of times people will say the middle child acts out, or is less loved, but that would be a lie with me. I’ve received an abundance of love in my life, and I found a way to be heard above the din of all my siblings by telling elaborate and intricate stories, which sometimes were true, but more often, were not. Imagine trying to get five to seven people who are smarter than you to believe something? It took practice.
My mom was sick while I was growing up. We say sick, but really it was a mental instability that we found out was schizophrenia. Because she was sick, my brothers and I were taken from her at a very young age and we had to learn a new place and adapt to a new life. Our mother is a tough person in a lot of ways, the least of which is that she can get out of bed each day with more uncertainties hanging over her than the average person. She is an inspiration for some of my stories, character bits, and the sense of longing that my characters often find themselves battling.
Other than that, I grew up in a fairly normal suburban neighborhood with two parents (my Dad and Step-Mom) who were lawyers, making it even harder to get away with story telling. I started writing short stories for quarters in grade school for the few friends I had who wanted them. I went to high school, developed insecurities, and pretended that writing was for nerds. Well, it is for nerds, only now I realize I am a monstrous nerd. In fact, some writing buddies and myself are in a group called #BNFF on twitter, so if you see that hash tag floating around my tweets or the tweets of @ChristinMowery, it just means Best Nerd Friends Forever. We are a very prestigious group and we only let the nerdiest of nerds join us. So ask, if you’re interested. (I’m a self-professed word nerd. Does that make me eligible?)
Then college happened, and I got an English degree (go Gators) and in my senior year decided to write a novel, which I believe I can plug in the next question.
Q: I’ve read the novel samples on your site, and I love them. I can’t wait to read more. For those who aren’t familiar with you, can you tell them a little bit about the novels you’re currently working on? When will they be available for purchase?
N: First off, thank you for reading my novel samples. I love when someone actually reads what I spew, and that is why I track my blog page hits so obsessively. By the way, that’s at www.dratednovelist.blogspot.com, if you care. Shameless plug? Damn right it is. (That’s okay, Nick, we love shameless plugs. So plug away!)
As for my novels, my first attempt is called For Nothing. It is a mafia crime thriller that follows an undercover cop in a quest for revenge. He traverses the underworld during a time of civil war, searching for the hitman who killed his buddy. The story also follows the perspective of the hitman, Rafael Rontego, as he carries out missions for his Don, and comes to terms with his lot in life, and hopes it doesn’t lead to his plot in the ground. I am hoping to have For Nothing on the Kindle in mid May, so be on the look out!
I am also working on a fantasy trilogy that has the working title, The In-Between, which is a medieval fantasy that deals with a teenage boy from our world, who crosses a portal, setting the stage for a tale of heroes, knights, the intrigue of court, magic, monsters, and those who control the elements. It is a Young Adult novel with a dark side, maybe tilting more towards an Adult novel. I don’t really pull any punches in the way of violence. Also I don’t sugar coat the very adult world thirteen-year-old Daniel O’Finnegen finds he must adapt to very quickly, if he hopes to survive. The release date for the trilogy is TBD.
Q: If you were to create a soundtrack for one of the novels mentioned on your site, what songs would be on it?
N: Oh wow, that’s a great question. I think For Nothing was written to a healthy dose of The Dropkick Murpheys, so “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” would have to be on there. Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” would make the cut and with out a doubt, “Woke Up in The Morning”, from the Sopranos was played a ton.
Q: Now, for that same novel, who would you cast to play in the movie version?
N: Can we cross breed actors? (Yep, we can.) If so, I would go with Ethan Hawke’s (Training Day) and Johnny Depp’s (Donnie Brasco era) love child for Alex Vaughn, the undercover cop.
As for the mafia hitman, Rafael Rontego, I would pick the child of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, but before they became caricatures of themselves. Something pre-2000’s , for sure.
Q: The ideas from my stories come from a wide variety of places. Where do yours come from? Do you feel like your ideas come from within? Or from somewhere else?
N: My stories come from a healthy mix of both. Some things I glean from people who stop by the window of my life. Sometimes they tarry just a moment, and others are life-long friends. Everyone has a story. Everyone comes from somewhere. Sometimes the best novel, or chapter, or character, or character trait, is right in front of you. To be a good storyteller, you have to be a good human observer first. I like to see what makes people tick, and then make similar motivations for my characters.
The rest, I make up! It’s all about struggle, so let’s find a way for these characters to struggle. Do you like dragons? Take that struggle and throw in a dragon. Do you like vampires and girls who want to date them? Throw your character into that mix. Who knows what will come out the other side of that blender.
Q: Most writers, myself included, are inspired by other authors. What authors have inspired you? Is there any particular author’s career that you would like to emulate?
N: Two authors that inspire me are Dennis Lehane and George R.R. Martin. Dennis Lehane, because his novels such as The Given Day, Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River, and Shutter Island have been enormously successful and he lives in my new hometown, St. Petersburg, FL. He has an uncanny ability to get into the head of the characters he writes about, and I love it.
George R.R. Martin, because he taught me a new way to look at fantasy. Instead of focusing on the epic quest, like Tolkien and Lewis and traditional fantasy writers, he focuses on the politics that push events and the motives of the individuals that decide to step into that arena.
Q: Finally, if you could pick one author to collaborate with if given the opportunity, who would you pick and why?
N: I would definitely like to collaborate with George R.R. Martin. I would love to learn his process for the intricate levels he builds into his stories. Plus, if I worked with him, I might be able to pick his brain about how his series, A Song Of Fire and Ice will end.
M: Nick, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions and for allowing my readers to get to know you. But before we go, please let them know where they can contact you and find out more about you and your writing.
N: Nicole, Thank you so much for taking the time to have me on your blog. It was a great set of questions and hopefully I can get you to return the favor one day. (Of course, just say when!) As for finding out more about me, you can visit my blog at www.dratednovelist.blogspot.com. I can also be reached at my twitter @nicholasdenmon or at my email, nicholasdenmon08 at gmail dot com.
Today I thought I’d share an excerpt from A Second Chance with all of you. I know you can download samples at Amazon, but for those who have not installed the Kindle computer software, this is for you.
That Friday in mid-September dawned bright and hopeful for Annabelle Dixon. The air’s crispness marked the arrival of fall. Even the leaves on the trees in Annabelle’s front yard were beginning to change, transitioning from vibrant green to hues of orange, brown, yellow and red, preparing everyone for autumn’s cooler temperatures and flaming foliage.
As a child and teenager, Annabelle had always looked forward to the changeover from summer to fall, for it signified the start of a new school year and new beginnings.
Fall also meant hours spent outdoors, raking up the fallen leaves that littered the ground, carving jack o’ lanterns with her parents, and drinking ice cold apple cider from a local orchard, traditions she now practiced with her own children.
That morning, Annabelle sat on her front porch steps, drinking a cup of coffee before her doctor’s appointment scheduled for that day. While she sat there, her hands wrapped around the steaming mug, she watched a blue butterfly dance from bush to bush in front of her. The sight of the butterfly struck her as odd. It was unusual to see butterflies that late in the year.
It wasn’t long before the butterfly’s waltz was interrupted by the arrival of her parents as they pulled into Annabelle’s driveway and parked beside her car. They waved to her as they made their way up the walkway.
“Morning, Mom. Morning, Dad,” she said as she scooted to make room for them both to sit down beside her.
“Morning, Anna,” her mother, Evelyn, said as she lowered herself down next to her daughter, her bones creaking and protesting loud enough for Annabelle to hear. “How are you doing this morning?” she asked her daughter.
“Maybe I need to ask you that question,” Annabelle joked.
“Oh, hush. I’m fine. Seriously, how are you?”
“I’m a little tired, but that’s okay. It’s expected. I know I’ve got a long way to go before I’m 100 percent again.”
Her mother smiled and patted her on the knee. “You’ll feel better soon. The past few months have been rough, but you’ve pulled through. You’re strong, Anna. You make us proud.”
Annabelle’s eyes misted over. “Thanks, Mom. That means a lot to me.” She stood up and looked around her. “I guess I should head to my doctor’s appointment now that you two are here.”
“Okay, sweetie. We’ll be here when you get back,” her father told her as he took the empty coffee mug from her hand.
“Thanks. The kids are inside watching the television…cartoons.” Annabelle rolled her eyes. “Tell them I’ll be back soon.”
“We will. Drive safely.”
She nodded. “Will do.”
Before climbing into her car to head to her doctor’s appointment, she paused to turn her face to the sunlight beaming down on her from above; its rays warmed her inside and out. At that moment, her life felt almost perfect. She had two happy and healthy children and a husband who was everything she wanted in a man and more.
The sole dark spot in her life was her own health. But that Friday morning promised a new start for Annabelle and her family, a fresh start, which left her with the same giddy anticipation she’d felt when she was younger. She was confident her doctor would tell her that her cancer had finally responded to treatment and that she was well on her way toward being cancer-free, something she’d hoped desperately for since she was diagnosed with the ravaging disease many months before.
As Annabelle drove to her doctor’s office, she turned her stereo up and tapped her fingertips on the steering wheel to the beat of the music pouring from the speakers. Before climbing out of her car, she adjusted the baseball cap covering her pale, bald head. She couldn’t wait until she had long hair again. She missed washing and brushing it. She missed its softness. But she knew in time it would grow back, so she remained patient.
* * * * *
Inside the doctor’s office, soft music drifted out from behind the receptionist’s desk into the waiting room where Annabelle sat, her hands clasped between her knees, waiting to be called in to meet with her doctor. Several minutes ticked by before Dr. Lucas’s nurse entered the waiting room and gestured for Annabelle to follow her.
Annabelle stood up and beamed a grin that reflected the happiness and contentment she felt inside.
As she stepped into her doctor’s private office, the first inklings of doubt began to play along the edges of her mind when she noted her doctor’s somber face. He didn’t return her smile, which struck her as strange because even through her darkest hours, he’d been filled with encouragement and a dogged determination to help her get well. Was something wrong or had his morning gotten off to a bad start, she wondered to herself. She hoped it was the latter.
As she sat down in the old wooden chair in front of his desk, she pushed the unease from her mind and sat on the edge of her seat, waiting to hear the verdict on her latest test results.
Dr. Lucas’ steel-gray eyes met hers for a brief moment before he spoke. “I’m sorry, Annabelle. There’s just no easy way to tell you this, so I’ll get right to it. The chemotherapy and radiation treatments haven’t worked. They didn’t stop the cancer from spreading.”
While I’m living at home and working on the screenplays, we put out an ad for a guitar player/keyboardist on Craigslist. Enter ambient music mainstay Vir Unis. Good old Vir (aka John Strate-Hootman) found our ad and said that he wasn’t interested in playing with the band, but that he loved our music and wanted to produce it. This isn’t the 60’s. Sleazy producers don’t find you on Craigslist and try to offer you money for your soul.
He came out and made some demos at our practice space and then he told us he and his production partner would come and see us (conveniently) at our huge Saturday night show at the Metro (where R.E.M., Nirvana, Bob Dylan, and Guided by Voices all played). It turns out that his partner is this guy: Matthew McDonough , the drummer from Sony Record’s Mudvayne. Not our sound by a million miles, but he loved us! We loved him! It was an awesome love fest! All of a sudden the big break we never tried for was on our lap! Matt made several promises that, ‘this can go right to the vice-president of Sony’ though he always added ‘but that might not be what’s best’. Fair enough! Whatever enough!
We didn’t go out and buy anything! In fact, we actually had to pay for the studio time, but it was nothing considering we had a crack team of producers. Recording was an awesome time. Matt and John were always good fun, always encouraging our ideas, and it was one of the best times of my life. For a few weekends every other month, I could shed Clark Kent and truly be Superman. Life sucks. I savor my victories.
Time went on and worldwide Mudvayne tours slowed us down, but after two years, we were finally going to hear what John and Matt had done to our music (which we were very curious because we essentially produce our own music with Ryan our bass player and our friend Steve at the helm). It was not good. Not only was the core of our sound gone, but it was more Linkin Park than Nirvana or Roxy Music. More so, we were locked out of the creative process suddenly. There were blatant and rampant mistakes throughout, like the vocals shifted in two songs so they were milliseconds off. They didn’t care. I was dumbfounded. I consider these guys friends. We had put two years and a lot of stock into this going to Sony or somewhere at least. And we walked.
We fucking walked and decided to immediately rehire the sound engineer for those sessions, the uber-nu-super brilliant Paul A. Vnuk, Jr. and continue on our own immediately with new, better material. Those two years, like the bullshit screenwriting stuff, had more lessons than we could imagine. We had confidence because of Matt and John. They were super pros and understood us and our music (to an extent). Because of that, we wrote 4x beter songs 10x faster than ever before. That’s why when Camera’s The Panic and the Permanence comes out this summer you’re going to shit your pants. I’m not kidding. I am the hardest on our music and this is going to be our Nevermind our Velvet Underground and Nico, our Is This It…
Hmm, now where was I? Oh! We’re getting close! We’re all the way up to last summer. Holy shit, and this is the quickest way. During last summer I was also hired to write a novel called PreLife with my now good friend Jeff Rosenberg. PreLife’s first draft was written in 24 hours so I could afford to go record with Camera. See how this works? Being broke doesn’t mean not having spending money, people!
Now we’re creeping up on the climax.
I got a Kodak Sport HD camera in October. I started making videos again, much like I had in high school (okay, I forgot about that phase. I would make and edit videos to stave off the munchies). I made this first:
See the date on that cracker? February 2nd. I made that with footage I found on my camera with a program for editing that came for free.
Shortly after February 2nd, I had a huge idea delivered to me all at once. I don’t want to give it away here because it’s the video that’s launching the company! But I will say this, it’s a spoof on Call of Duty and after reading all of this I would hope you know that I wouldn’t do anything that simple…right? Slow Graffiti Productions was officially conceived that day. I stood up, took the camera, pitched my idea right into it, and I emailed it right off to my business partner Sean Hoffman, now COO of Slow Graffiti. He loved it and amended the plan we had started working on together in 2007 that had us making one film for 8 million dollars to launching a company that could sustain itself with a certain amount of film and audio equipment.
While I’m making another stoned video pitch in my garage to an investor (my first and only. He’s now Chief Investment Officer or Judge Dredd or something), I got a check in the mail from Amazon.com for $13.46. I didn’t know what it was for, but I assumed it was a refund or something. I spend all of my poor and loving girlfriend Sherman’s money on blu rays, so it made sense. But it wasn’t a refund. I got a Kindle when I got my camera and I wanted to put my own novels on it so I could read them. That lead me to putting them up on Amazon simple so I could convert them. I figured if anyone found them, cool.
$13.46 worth of them did! I decided right away to start pushing for this and trying to really make a go at it. I read about Amanda Hocking and John Locke and other eReader sensations. Then I read their work and I knew that there was room for me. I started taking Twitter seriously the last week of March and I’ve sold 114 copies of my 4 novels just from hanging out and conversing. I don’t really push them anywhere else, but it blows my mind! 114 word of mouth copies in under a month…I would love to make a living writing, but I’ve just always wanted to share and give back to the world of books that has given me so much. Ya’ dig?
The investor was interested. My Call of Duty spoof will be joined by the one-minute series NARC (about a narcoleptic hard edged narcotics officer), the above reality series The Manny Diaries, and Answer the Call, a Dark Knight/Watchmen spoof. Here’s the wardrobe test I turned into a teaser:
While all of this is going on, I get contacted by a good friend that’s in law school. Her mentor has been Eminem’s manager (a girl from my high school is married to him) and she wants to make a career out of being my agent as far as my screenplays are concerned. And she will incur all the costs to solicit them. That’s a lot of scratch and what’s always held me back. You can’t be a starving artist and really go for it. Try living at home with your broke parents and sending out your manuscript the way you’re supposed to!
May 1st, all of the film, sound, and editing equipment will arrive at the 809. My novels are all being recoded, edited, and getting some pimp ass cover art. My first blast of screenplays will hit the market shortly before my 31st birthday. Camera’s The Panic and the Permanence will be out at the end of the summer (our PR is being handled by the always reliable Team Claremont. They rep R.E.M., M83, Modest Mouse, god knows who else…but all quality).
Slow Graffiti will be based around comedic web clips based off of ideas that I already had. They just happen to appeal to a wide and specific enough audience where I could devise a marketing strategy to get big money big business people interested. Now that they are and I own my own company, I have finally arrived at the feet of where I thought I was going to be when I was, like, oh, 17 or something. Every step of the journey is so important, considering my journey is just beginning.
I’m exhausted and you have no doubt given up long ago. I leave with this: Create purely for yourself, just do it enough to where you’ll be ready when opportunity aligns itself with…wait, Terry Rossio was right! Just do whatever it takes! Quality will penetrate! Avenge me! Avenge me!
I want to thank Justin for taking the time to write out this guest blog post. I thought I was long-winded, but Justin has me beat. If you’ve enjoyed Justin’s post, please stop by his official site. Also, if you’re so inclined, feel free to head on over to Amazon.com and purchase some of Justin’s novels.
*If you’re interested in writing a guest blog post for my site, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or via Twitter @NicoleLIreland. I look forward to hearing from you.
One of the most important things I wanted to accomplish with A Second Chance was to make my parents proud of me. I’ve said before I wasn’t an easy child to raise. I was a handful, and I put my parents through a lot. I caused them to cry. And I even had them praying for a miracle when I got sick at 16.
When I look back at where I was all those years ago in comparison to now, I can see that I’ve grown by leaps and bounds. I’m still not perfect. I’ve never claimed to be. But I am proud of the person I’ve become. I’ve worked REALLY hard to get here. It hasn’t been an easy road; it’s been filled with many bumps along the way, but I know every single moment that I’ve experienced has made me into the person I am today. Those moments helped make A Second Chance into what it is.
So back to my original point. All that I want is for my parents to look at me and be proud of the person I’ve become. I want them to know they never failed me in the parenting department. They did a fantastic job raising me. All of the good traits I have inside of me come from them. They laid the foundation for the person I would one day become.
Now that I’ve shared one of my hopes with you, I want to share something my mother said to me this morning before work.
Last night, I sent my mother a link to a review written by Heather Faville of Doubleshot Reviews. She told me this morning that she read it and then had to read it to my dad in the middle of the night. He then had her forward it to him at work. (I had already done that, but he didn’t know. LOL!) She told me that he’s “pretty damn proud of me”. And I told her that that’s what I wanted, to make them proud, so to know I have makes my heart swell up and tears run down my face.
Before I close, I want to leave you with two songs I consider to be my life’s soundtrack. Both of these songs sum up my life perfectly.
“Do I Make You Proud” – Taylor Hicks
“I Did it For You” – Westlife