Monday, July 27, 2009

Notable Movies #1

To the best of my knowledge, this is Robin Williams fourth outing as a writer in a movie. He's getting quite good at it.

He played the crazy Walter Finch in Christopher Nolan's Insomnia (which I thought was a Stephen King adaptation and was disappointed by the mistake very quickly.)

In the strange adaptation of The World According to Garp, which I have the inability to finish, Williams plays a woeful writer constantly having a string of bad luck. Maybe I should read John Irving's book first.

And, of course, he played the curiosity driven writer in the hitchcockian suspense tale called The Night Listener.

Call me crazy, but I wonder if Robin Willaims isn't working secretly on some hidden opus tucked away in a shelf somewhere. He eerily captures the trials and tribulations that all us writers go through. I will be sure to check this movie out.

What say all of you? Does he mimic your behavior as a writer?

Friday, July 24, 2009

When The Waiter Rants, The Readers Rave

Have I got a treat for all you aspiring writers out there. He's been called the voice of 2 million waiters. Many of you know him as the writer of the popular blog Waiter Rant which in 2006 won a Bloggie Award for Best Writing in a Weblog. He was published by Harpercollins, working on his second book right now. The paperback edition of Waiter Rant is available now with all sorts of extra goodies. Usually I ask authors if they want to do an email interview but this guy wanted to do a phone interview. A first for this blog! Please welcome to the blog New York Times Bestselling Author: Steve Dublanica!

When Steve called me, I admitted that I still had about forty pages left to read of his popular book. "I die at the end," He jokes, catching me off guard.

"I guess that means there's no chance for a sequel, huh?" I ask.
"No," he continues, "There is. In the second one I get resurrected."

You can't beat his humor. From there, the interview started.

First off, when did you start Waiter Rant? I just subscribed.
I believe that was April 2004.

I got to tell you, I really like the fact that not only do you go through all the crazy customers you had to deal with but how it’s also an evolution of how you’re getting your writing career off the ground.
The thing was, when I started Waiter Rant I had no interest in being a writer.

I read in one chapter how you were writing something, showed it to a friend, he said it wasn’t good and you decided not to write. Give us more details on that.
Yeah. I think I was in college and I was writing a detective story. I wrote several chapters of it. And it just came out. It probably wasn’t good, y‘know, to be honest. But his opinion meant a lot to me and when he said it wasn’t very good I just shelved the whole idea. A better response from someone in a mentoring position would’ve been needs work but keep at it.


These Iphones suck.

I know. My brother has one and he can’t get internet on it.
Oh, they’re great time wasters. When I was at the DMV getting a new license, it was a lifesaver but if you have to make a phone call it’s a disaster.

They do everything but phone calls.
Yeah. So with the story, that was it. I never really wrote anything again until I started blogging. People always said to me, Dublanica can you write this report or a letter? They knew I wrote well. But I never looked at it, in any way, shape or form as a means of supporting myself.

In the book, you said that you are reading a lot of Phillip Marlowe stories. Who wrote those and is his stuff good?
Phillip Marlowe was a fictitious private eye written by a guy named Raymond Chandler. Chandler was an interesting fellow. He was a drunkard. He didn’t start writing until he was about 44. He worked for an oil company. He came back from England after World War I. Real mama’s boy, lived with his mother. He married a woman who lied about her age. She said she was ten years older than him when, in fact, she was twenty years older. So he was duped. But his wife was really beautiful when he met her. She was at the tail end of being gorgeous and pretty quickly she became an old woman. So he was drinking, he was womanizing and he got fired. He didn’t know what to do, y’know, he had no money. So he started writing what were called dime magazines or pulps. He wrote detective stories and he learned to write while doing this. So desperation made him write. He turned out to be, naturally, a very talented person. That worked very well for him. Then he came out with his first book in 1938. He wrote about seven books. They are the standard by which all detective novels are written.

So, would you say (not entirely) that you’re kind of following in this author’s footsteps? Not with the woman, or the oil or the drinking or any of that but as establishing yourself as someone who had it tough but made it out alive?
(Laughs.) Sometimes I feel that way. I mean, now I look back and think I never really had it that bad. But the interesting thing about Chandler was he started not knowing anything. He didn’t know anything really about writing. He did it, really, as a way to save his bacon. He never anticipated the success he was gonna have. But his stuff is literature. Pick up one of his books. The Big Sleep is really his finest work. A real great book.

I’ll be sure to pick it up.
It also tells you that you don’t have to worry about how old you are when you start writing. Because a lot of focus of writing today is like wunderkinds. “Oh! This 19 or 22 year old wrote this book.” But sometimes age gives you a perspective that you can have. Like, Frank McCourt just passed away, right? He taught writing for years and never wrote a book! He didn’t do it until he was in his early sixties. He finally got the distance that he needed emotionally from his childhood to be able to write about it. So sometimes age is a real blessing. I was old enough, at that point, to make sense of what I was doing and write about it. Yeah, people shouldn’t get discouraged if they’re in their forties or fifties or at any age for writing because you can do it any age.

Yeah. There’s always that mystery as to what the right timing is or it has to be a “ Am I ready to do this?” moment. “Or should I practice some more?”
Well, one of the great things about blogs is you get enhance to write everyday with some regularity. It helps you hone your ability to write. Also, the feedback you get from comments; people will tell you if it’s lame or good. That helps you out. It helps your confidence.

Definitely. I used to blog on Myspace until it’s popularity sunk. I went to open up a blog to inspire people to write, to get them excited about this stuff as much as I am. I think the first five posts, I just started bitching about how hard it is to write. But then I found the voice for the blog.
Yeah. I think the thing that people should know is that writing is very hard.

I was bitching about it to a friend of mine. My friend was like, “Would you rather be waiting tables again?” I said of course not. But when you leave that life behind, you have all this new stuff to worry about. You have deadlines and every writer has a time when they just can’t write. “I can’t write for shit today,” you’d say. But then you have to work through that. It’s a very lonely job. It’s a tough job. I think it’s very fulfilling but the thing that is the most fun is when the book comes out. You enjoy that. Then you have another book to write and you start worrying about that. There’s always something about writing that is not fun. That’s part of the deal.

Yeah. That’s the work that goes into it. You try to explain to people that you can’t write because of a block and they ask what the block is. You end up saying, “Well, I can’t describe it. That’s why it’s called a block!”
(Laughs again.) What I have learned is if your head is too full of stuff (family, jobs, relationships, money), if that stuff consumes your headspace that makes it very hard to write. A couple weeks ago, I was having a really tough time. And I just put down the work and sat to figure out the situation. Then I resolved it. Then I was writing again. That’s part of it.

A writer once said, “I love writing . . . I just hate the paperwork.” What’s your favorite quote about writing?
There’s a great story I once heard. There’s a guy who was like an award-winning poet. He had a son. The son was very intimidated to do what his father did, writing poetry. Finally, he starts writing poetry, he shows it to his dad. His dad looked at it. From the looks he was giving, his dad knew that his son had talent. The dad then said, “Well, congratulations. You’re a poet. Welcome to hell.”

Yeah. All writers get that. We love the parties, we love the recognition, we love holding the book in our hands. What we don’t love is sitting down and actually doing it. It is boring at times. One thing I think is true about myself is if I think I’m writing great stuff and am high on it and I think it’s really great and I think “I’m so good at this” and stuff . . . I’m writing shit.

When you spend a lot of time on something, it’s usually shit. But if you spend five minutes on something . . . For example, I wrote the prologue to Waiter Rant in five minutes. Everyone was like, “This is really good.” It’s amazing what works and what doesn’t. When I sent in my manuscript, I was fortunate not to have a lot of editing. One chapter I thought was really great and my editor was like, “Nope, it’s gotta go.” But I was like, “Man, that’s two weeks worth of work!”

What would you say is your favorite chapter of the book? Also, is it safe to say that you picked, out of the hundreds of posts, your favorite stories to go in the book?
I would say that 80% of the book is original and 20% is recycled materiel from the website. I never talked ill of my co-workers on the blog but with the book I was a little more forthcoming about their foibles as well as mine. Favorite chapter? I don’t think I have a favorite chapter. I can tell you my least favorite chapter was Paupery. That was the one I was getting most critical about and that was a chapter that went through a couple revisions. Never quite happy with it. That was my least favorite. And every girl I dated since then was like, “Oh, you like lap dances.” Wait! I think my favorite chapter was the fourth of July one. I wrote that one in the last 100 pages of the book when it was serious crunch time.

In that fourth of July chapter I was really feeling for you. You were inside the restaurant and that nice couple let you go outside to watch the fireworks. In 2003, I was working at Blockbuster, which can be hell too, and I had to work on the fourth of July. I thought, “This is ridiculous. Who the hell rents movies on the fourth?”
Social retards.

Exactly. So I couldn’t see the fireworks because I was trapped inside but I could hear them popping.
Yeah. It’s annoying. If you like fireworks, it sucks.

I love this book. I can’t wait to finish it. Each chapter you get at least one laugh out of me. One line in particular I have to ask you about. Because when I read it in that mother’s day chapter . . . I lost my sh*t. I just have to ask if it was originally written by you. The line is: Not taking mom to a restaurant on Mother’s Day is like Ebenezer Scrooge pistol-whipping Tiny Tim on Christmas morning. Was that all you?
Yep, that one I made up. Didn‘t steal it. (laughs)

In the Russell Crowe and me chapter, you were in danger of losing your anonymity with your blog at the time right when you were finalizing your book deal. Did you think Russell Crowe would tank the deal?
I didn’t think Russell Crowe gave two shits about me either way. I wasn’t so worried about that. My worry was my job was at stake. And I really could not work on the book until that whole thing was resolved.

How did it feel becoming a New York Time Bestseller?
The paperback edition just came out. I write about that at the end. New afterward too. But it was unbelievable! The only thing I wanted from my first book was the ability to write a second. I didn’t think I would go on Oprah or sell enough copies. My sales goal was very modest. But it came as a complete shock. It took a couple weeks for it to sink in.

Do you plan to write fiction anytime soon?
I’d like to. Traveling is a lot of fun with my second book but you have to do a lot of research, keep your notes in order; it’s laborious. It would be fun to just sit down and make it up.

Maybe you can get back to that detective novel you always wanted to write?
You got to write what sells. Graham Greene is a great example of this. In the morning he’d write entertainment to pay for his amphetamines, which he would take on a daily basis and then he’d write more serious stuff in the afternoon. The Power of Glory, which I think was self-published at first, turned out to be a masterpiece of literature. I have to figure that out yet and I’m a one book at a time kind of guy. I really can’t focus on two things at once. Maybe that’s a skill that will come later.

Novels can big undertakings.
The thing I tell people is you have to break them down into little pieces. Write 2,000 words at a time and keep plugging away at it until it’s done. Six or seven months, you’ll be done, work with the editor on the rewrites; you have plenty of time.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers who are really down in the dumps?
Things get better. You have to work to support yourself, but don’t give up. Carve out some time to write. Elmore Leonard, before he became famous, would wake up at five in the morning and write until he had to go to work. Robert Parker had two kids and a full time job and he wrote a page a day and within a year he finished his novel. It was his first book and it established him as an author. Ian Fleming would get up, sit at his typewriter and write 2,000 words every day. He’d have a book in three or four months. So, the trick is to sit your ass down and do the work! If it means sitting at a blank screen for three hours, then that’s what you have to do.

I wanna thank you for taking the time to answer questions. I was actually surprised because you were the first author who wanted to do the interview by phone.
I’d much rather do it over the phone. I hate email writing. I got to write enough during the day, I don’t want to write a long email.

Thanks again.
Thanks Rob.

"The most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the single most valuable investment a writer can make with his time." ~ Raymond Chandler

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

To Scratch and Scribble Part 4

My best guess is that I was in seventh grade when I fiddled with my very first typewriter. In actuality, it wasn't mine. It was the family's typewriter. It was a pale tan Smith Corona electric typewriter. To this day, my parents don't know where they acquired it. That worries me. Because my first run-in with this thing led me to believe it was the typewriter from hell.

I'd set the thing down on the carpet in my room, roll in a sheet of paper and sit there with my fist under my chin and cross legged to boot. . . . for hours. This was at a time in my life when I knew I really wanted to write but I didn't have any ideas. I figured that just owning a typewriter would provoke the flood of words.

Days would pass, the blank sheet of paper would still be in there, collecting dust. One day I decided to just start typing something, anything, and figured it would take me to a plot or a well-crafted story eventually. Can't remember what I typed but, oh boy, do I remember what happened after I got two paragraphs into whatever I was dishing out.

I was just finishing the end of one sentence when I made a classic spelling mistake. On any other typewriter, you'd have to deal with it. But with this one, it had an extra ribbon that would erase your mistakes all by clicking a button. I pressed it, hoping it would wipe out the last two words.

It sprung into action with a loud CHUGGA-CHUG! CHUGGA-CHUG!

It erased the whole sentence.

I figured oh well, keep going.

A few more sentences and the thing got going again. CHUGGA-CHUG! CHUGGA-CHUG! CHUGGA-CHUG! It was a nightmare. It was erasing the last two sentences I typed. I didn't even press the button! It was still going, taking out five more sentences, eliminating my second paragraph.

I tried typing some more but this thing would wake up on occasion to feed on my scribe garbage.

The damn thing defied me, mocked me. It had no feelings or remorse after eating my words. It felt no shame when I screamed in fury, "Noooo! Nooo! What are you doing?! Stop that!" I slapped the thing, I flipped it upside down another time. I came close to throwing it down the stairs but didn't.

From then on, I wrote my school papers longhand. I hated that damn thing. A month or two would pass and I'd feel brave enough to try again, but, like before, the thing was waiting for it's daily bread; my poor writing.

I guess I could've removed the ribbon but something told me that if I tried taking this thing apart, I'd get a malicious high from dismantling it and wouldn't stop.

Looking back, I've come to value that little episode as a firm lesson. There is some amount of mystique to being a writer. It's all about timing. You can't force ideas, thoughts or the perfect combination of words. If you try, something, in this mysterious world, will smack you down before you get too full of yourself.

I can still hear the dreaded CHUGGA-CHUG! CHUGGA-CHUG!

But I believe that thing had a voice and it was coming in loud and clear, I just didn't want to deal with it at that time.

It said,


So I stopped typing on it. I took it's warning, reluctantly, but I still took it.

I recently found it in my parent's garage. They're planning to sell it in a yard sale. May God have mercy on the poor aspiring writer who tries to type with that thing. I'm certain that thing will be among the cockroaches should there be a nuclear Holocaust.

Found my dad in the backroom and I asked him if he remembered how I would go crazy trying to type and how that thing tested my patience. How I tried to write but failed to get anything down on paper for more than a few seconds.

"Hmm," He says, scratching his chin. "Maybe it didn't like what you were writing." He says this with a nod and a smirk.

I'm inclined to agree with him.

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it." ~ W.C. Fields

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mur Lafferty is Playing For Keeps

Mur Lafferty first hit the scene of podcasting in 2004 with her debut podcast Geek Fu Action Grip. It later became Lesson From a Geek Fu Master as a podiobook featuring original essays written by Mur herself. If you love reading David Sedaris, you'll love listening to her 40 plus essays which had me laughing on those long drives to and from work. You'll hear funny stuff as to why she hates the color Pink, why all the pharmacy is a stage and why everyone would have a much funnier day if they just said, "Smurf You!"

She later podcasted her first serialized novel Heaven followed by the sequel Heaven: Hell.

Mur then followed up with a show discussing the art of writing itself called i should be writing, now in it's 122nd episode. "A podcast for wanna-be fiction writers, by a wanna-be fiction writer." It won the 2007 Parsec award for Best Writing Podcast.

She is now in her fifth season of the Heaven series and published a novel in 2008 entitled Playing For Keeps from Swarm Press.

I am delighted to have her here.

Now, please welcome Mur Lafferty to the Tales and Troubled Times blog.

What is your earliest memory of writing?

I was around 12 and I took my mom's electric typewriter/word processor to try fanfic of Fred Saberhagen novels and my own opus concerning unicorns.

How does it feel being published?

Unreal, honestly. It's an odd feeling. I keep waiting to accept it in stride.

When did you decide to be a writer?

About the time I stole my mom's word processor when I was 12.

Do you get writer's block? How do you combat it?

Not really. When I don't write it's because i have problem with too much to do and I have problem focusing on what to do first.

Where do you write? Do you write longhand, typewriter or computer?

I write in a horrible ergonomic area, either my rocking chair or my couch. And computer- my handwriting is terrible.

Tell us about Playing For Keeps and how you decided to self publish at first.

PFK is a book about people with superhuman powers, but not terribly good ones. I had wondered why all superhumans had crime fighting (or causing) powers, and wondered what would happen if someone had a crappy power. I got inspiration from The Tick, Piers Anthony's Xanth series, the comic books Powers and Astro City, and James Maxey's Nobody Gets the Girl. My protags were people who looked at superheroes with envy and bitterness, as they weren't successful enough to fight crime as well.

After I wrote PFK I tried for 10 months to get an agent. I sent it to one publisher who kept it for around a year. When I didn't sign with an agent, I decided to release via podcast and self-publishing halfway through, hoping interest in the podcast would drive sales with impatient listeners who didn't want to wait for the end. After a successful podcast run, Swarm Press contacted me and offered to publish it. I pulled the POD and the Swarm version launched in August.

What was your inspiration for writing it?

My good friend Jason seemed to have a power to summon an elevator during a busy convention, and I thought that would be the lamest power, but so useful right then. That got the ball rolling.

What are you working on now?

I'm writing the fifth and final season of my podcast serial, Heaven. I'm editing my novel that is untitled but I call Project: Underground. It's about a publishing company for monsters. And I have an agent now and am waiting on her to get back to me with suggested edits for the novelization of Heaven.

Favorite writers?

Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, China Mieville

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Persistence is key. If you keep going, you will eventually succeed in something. You will get better. If you quit, you never will get better, and never will get published.

"...set your fantasies in the here and now and then, if challenged, claim to be writing Magical Realism." ~ Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Scratching the surface of Scratch Beginnings

You may not know it, but given the crazy economic times of today there is still hope. One man has taken the will to achieve the american dream and has gone on to star on the Today Show, 20/20, NPR, The Artist's Craft and many others. And now we have a sit down with this blog's first Non-fiction author interview. Please welcome Adam Shepard to the site.

What is your earliest memory of writing?

My mom had me writing thank-you notes before I knew my ABC’s. Really. She wanted to make sure that we expressed how grateful we were for any gifts we received.

From there, I enjoyed creating stories, but writing wasn’t a passion of mine until I got to college. I was always pretty good at it, but I didn’t take the time to really foster this craft until I got to that level.

What inspired you to write SCRATCH BEGINNINGS?

I read a book the summer after my freshman year of college called NICKEL AND DIMED. In it, Barbara Ehrenreich basically writes on the death of the American Dream. Her tone really, really bothered me, so I took some time to ponder how I could write a response. Even better, as I looked around me at what a spoiled society we are—especially this younger generation, my generation—I knew that I could go out and make a discovery about what is really important.

I think there is a lot of power in writing in response. A lot of people have their opinions, but few really care to take action.

Tell us about SCRATCH BEGINNINGS and how you promoted it.

Scratch Beginnings is the true story of how I started in a randomly chosen city with $25, a sleeping bag, and the clothes on my back to see if, in one year, I could have $2500, a car, and a furnished apartment. Essentially, I was set on A) discovering the vitality of the American Dream, and B) meeting the guys living in a lower socioeconomic stream—at homeless shelters, etc.

I self-published this book initially, so promoting it was nothing short of the toughest experience of my life. Every night after work, I’d come home and email journalists, editors, producers…whoever for three or so hours. It was time consuming, but worth it in the end. Finally, after many, many rejections, a writer for the New York Post decided to write a piece about my story and that opened the flood gates for me to get on the Today Show, CNN, NPR, etc. and eventually receive an offer for publication from HarperCollins.

What were the most important things you learned from the experience?

Not to take anything for granted. We, as Americans especially, don’t understand the difference between want and need. I was able to get under the layer of superficiality and see that I could be happy without an iPod or a BMW or the coolest new jeans. It’s easy to talk about, but for me to actually live this experience gave me the opportunity to actually be a part of it.

More than my story, though, I’m fortunate to be able to write about Marco and BG and Easy E and Derrick, guys who are much more fascinating than me, and who have some very engaging stories to tell about REALLY facing adversity.

What are you working on now?

I just finished my second book, THE BEST FOUR YEARS, which is basically a look at how college students can make the most of their time from orientation to graduation. It’s a topic I’m passionate about, since most students today only go to school to graduate with a diploma and move on to building careers. College can be so much more than that.

Most of my time now is spent on airplanes and in hotels on the way to my next speaking engagement.

With the economy in the poor state that it is right now and job loss on the rise, do you still believe that the American Dream is obtainable?

Of course! Shoot, man, the greatest opportunities in this country come out of the deepest, darkest moments. Take the Great Depression. How many millionaires evolved out of that time period just because they saw opportunity while others were jumping off the roof. Really. It’s all an attitude. There are tough times and good times, but it’s all about how you handle your attitude during those times.

"Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor. " ~James Baldwin

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What inspires you?

I figured I should take a month or two break from writing books. Writing, as I've said, can be a joy but it can also be the worst tension headache you could ever imagine. I think Johnny Depp said it best in a featurette on how he was playing his character Mort Rainey in Secret Window, "It's man versus paper. The most beneficial thing for a writer is imagination but it's also the thing that can work against him. You end up being plagued by too much thought. But I guess that's your bread and butter though, isn't it?"

So true.

But for today, briefly, I want to ask you, the readers, what does it take to inspire you?

With me, it can be a multitude of things.

  1. It could be the classic "what if?" scenerio. "What if a doctor came back from the dead and was trapped inside his own hospital? What would he do?" Presto! Mr. Dead Eyes was born.
  2. Some ideas I get from the news (Online, television, newspaper), which have very rich and TRUE material.
  3. From sights. I was driving past the Old Joliet Prison on my way back from my second job on Friday at 11pm and the sight was so creepy, it has inspired me to write a short story set in a prison.
  4. Of course there is music too. Lots of bands inspire me to write: Evanescence, Greenday, My Chemical Romance, All American Rejects, Smashmouth, The Killers and some golden oldies just to name a few.
  5. Just recently, while working at my first job, I stumbled across a small photograph of a painting by Vincent Van Gogh. I picked it up and stared at it for five minutes before returning to work, entranced by it's subtlties and vibrant colors. I'm not much of an art fan but I might've picked it up from reading Eliso Lorello's Faking It. (Quick plug. ha ha.) The painting was called starry night, you can see it below. I've put it up as my background on my laptop to help me think when I write.

So, my question to you is, what inspires you as a writer? Is it one thing or many? Your answers can be as lengthy as you want. There are no wrong answers. Just curious.

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." ~Oscar Wilde (Lady Windermere's Fan)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Promotion in the form of Pizza

In 1981, my father, Carmello Scarlato, opened his own pizza place in Calumet city. As the years progressed, business was picking up. It picked up so much that he then owned three pizza places and maintained a bar while still working at a shampoo factory. I think my father invented multi-tasking.

The business closed in late '93 and it looked like that was that.

But it wasn't.

In July of 1996, my father once again opened up the Scarlato's Pizzeria. He remembers the first day like it was yesterday. The restaurant was between a convenience store and a dollar store. The first few hours, people would pass, occasionally looking in the windows. We were new to this town, which meant a wall was up. Total strangers were walking past. Only two or three actually came in for a slice. My father would have none of this slow business, not after he had worked so hard to setup the new restaurant, after making his mark in Calumet city. He feverishly started making jumbo size 20 inch pizza's. We set up tables outside and we'd put on top three separate toppings; cheese, sausage and pepperoni.

Now people were slowing down, taking time to come forward and ask what was going out. We were giving away free pizza the first day. My father was flipping dough through the windows and cooking up a storm. After making 20 free pizza's, the restaurant was packed with new customers. "People were coming out of the woodwork's," my father tells me.

So you might be asking why the hell am I talking about pizza all of a sudden.

Well, it's to illustrate a point when it comes to publishing.

My father received the original recipe for the pizza from his dad. He told me he was the only who was told the recipe. My father, as well as myself and others, knew, once you bit into that pizza, it was the best there is . . . period. Convincing people of that was half the battle.

My father took advantage of people's hunger and curiosity by satisfying it. He knew that the most powerful tool when it comes to promoting yourself and your work is word of mouth. Word of mouth is like a brush fire, it catches quickly. And, just like in publishing today, you have to promote some of your work for free. You have to give them a taste of it. One little taste goes a very long way.

The restaurant closed in 2000 but my father insists, "Business was great right up until the last day when we closed."

So, for those of you who are shy from promoting your work or feel that people wouldn't like it, let me give you a bit of advice. If you truly believe in your work, if you know that others would like it, put yourself out there. Many authors before you have promoted themselves in this fashion. They woke up one day, just like you, saying, "I'm tired of my dead end job. I'm tired of not leaving my mark. Damnit, I have stories to tell and I don't want them to be lost without even being found first."

In order to establish yourself, you must be proactive. You can't just let readers fall into your lap. You have to find them. They are out there.

For a writer, the hardest thing is to sum up your novel in 200 words or less. It will summarize it but it won't capture the feel of the novel. That's why it's so hard to get literary agents and publish houses to recognize you. You are not even a blip on their radar yet. You're a stranger with a story to tell, like billions of others. You have to find recognition before you can find publication.

Then, you'll not only find readers and a community of people telling you they like what you bring to the table, but it will encourage others as well.

As far as my father and the restaurant goes, (and if your asking, "where can I get this legendary pizza?") he's told me he plans to open up another restaurant within the year.

Has his customer base dropped since then?

I would say not.

To this day, people, friends and family are still telling me it was the best pizza they ever had.

So go out there, aspiring writers and readers alike. Work your ass off in making yourself a household name. Send out newsletters, get email addresses, setup up your own blog or website, create a buzz, update people. But the most important thing you can do is KEEP WRITING. Because believe me, if your stuff is good . . . it's a really good chance that, like the consumers that people are, they WILL be hungry for more.

The kid in orange is my brother Tony. Still have one more pic to upload.

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." ~ Dr. Seuss

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Short and Sweet

Attention, readers. Little announcement to make.

I have now officially completed my third book.

Damn, it feels good. It currently has 20 short stories plus a notes index. 277 pages (roughly 76,000 words long.)

In time I plan to podcast it. But for right now . . .

I'm on the verge of Snoopy Dances.

"A good book is never finished — it goes on whispering to you from the wall." ~Virginia Euwer Wolff

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Blog With No Name

You've heard the old phrase, "No shoes, no shirt, no service?"

We all have, I'm sure.

But what if lacking one little thing could make all the difference?

How bout a new slogan?

No name, No problem.

Anonymity can be a powerful tool when you begin writing. We all use it whenever we put pen to page. Before our work is discovered, we are all unknown authors. Take Beowulf for example, at only 3182 lines, the book of a hero is still analyzed, studied and translated to this day.

No name, No problem.

In the book Go ask Alice, more than 25 years in print, the point of view is in diary form from a girl who is just discovering drugs as her life takes a turn for the worst. Whether the diary is a true account or fiction is still debated to this day. It has sold over a million copies since its first publication in 1972, and has not dated at all. Necessary reading for all teenagers and their parents.

There are others. Such works as the Post Secret books and Sweeney Todd or The String of Pearls to name two more.

Today, we have a chat with another Anonymous (who I call Anon for short) author I have kept in contact with for a few years now. I saw him on myspace when he first published with Lulu press and picked up a copy of his book. I took that thing everywhere, sometimes reading it in the passenger seat of my dad's work truck while we were waiting for the rain to die down. I'd tear through that thing six chapters at a time. We've exchanged messages back and forth and when the opportunity to question him popped up, I couldn't pass it up.

Without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to Anon.

What is your earliest memory of writing?

I remember when I was six years old I wrote a short story at school. It was about a man who had a tomato for a head. My teacher liked it and read it out to the class. I was so pleased that I started writing stories every week, even when I was supposed to be doing something else.

How does it feel having a growing number of fans?

I’m getting used to it. Lots of people email me through sites like Myspace and I’ve made some really good friends through it. One of the most pleasing things about it is that a lot of people say I’ve inspired them to try and write their own novel.

When did you decide to be a writer?

As I was approaching thirty I was stuck in a job I didn’t like and I kept asking myself "How did I get here?" I realized that I was in a job I disliked because of all the choices I’d made. I’d always wanted to be a writer but I hadn’t done anything about it. Once I accepted the fact it was my own fault that I wasn’t where I wanted to be, I started writing and I haven’t looked back.

Do you get writer's block? How do you combat it?

I haven’t ever suffered too badly with writer’s block. If I’m stuck and not sure where to go with a story, I just start writing nonsense and see where it takes me. Usually this is where most of my best ideas come from. I’m very lucky because things just tend to fall into place when I write myself into a corner. If what I write is rubbish, I can always go back and delete it.

Music is always a big help too. I listen to all kinds of different music when I go running and it seems to make ideas pop into my head. The ones that I remember often go on the page later that day.

Do you write longhand, typewriter or computer?

I wrote my first novel longhand, but by the time I’d finished it, I’d vowed never to do it that way again. Both The Book With No Name and The Eye of the Moon were typed up straight on to the computer, but I did then rewrite both of them seven or eight times.

Tell us about The Book with No Name and how you decided to self publish at first.

When I was writing I kept on reminding myself that I was writing it for me, not anyone else. I knew that by incorporating so many different genres into the story I would harm my chances of getting a publishing deal. But I kept reminding myself that the story was for me, not to impress anyone else. With that in mind I was pretty sure I would end up self-publishing. I approached a few agents and publishers with the manuscript and as I expected they politely declined it.

I was quite sure that self-publishing meant I would struggle to sell many copies because the book would be competing against traditionally published books that sell for half the price. So I knew I would need a really good marketing plan. That’s when I came up with the idea to call it The Book With No Name by Anonymous. I completely rewrote the novel and added in the storyline about the mysterious untitled book that was causing the death of everyone who read it. When I was done I had a much better story and a gimmick that I hoped would attract interest from the book buying public. I was able to generate interest because no one knew who the author was, and because people were intrigued about why the book was claiming to cause the death of everyone who read it.

What was your inspiration for writing it?

Anyone who has read the book will know that I’m a fan of films. I wanted to write a story in which I could take a lot of my favourite scenes from films and put my own interpretation on them. Many of the chapters are similar to scenes from films and TV shows I’ve seen. Some are instantly recognizable, others have been changed quite significantly. The reason The Book With No Name crossed so many genres is because I was inspired by such a wide range of films. Most people say the book reminds them of From Dusk Till Dawn, but the films that most inspired the book are less obvious ones like Heat, LA Confidential, About Last Night, Payback, Seven, Kingpin and True Romance.

What are you working on now?

I have just finished writing a new novel. It will either be called The Devil’s Graveyard or The Hex Factor. It’s the usual mish mash of genres – bounty hunters, serial killers, the undead and a talent show featuring dead rock stars. I threw Sanchez, the Bourbon Kid, Elvis and the Mystic Lady into the mix and it came out as a very unusual story.

There is a teaser trailer for it on youtube - The Devil's Graveyard

I’m also working on a couple of other projects. One is a desert island murder mystery. The other is another Bourbon Kid adventure along the lines of a Mad Max or Terminator movie (with vampires instead of cyborgs)

Favorite writers?

I’ve got the utmost respect for anyone that can write a novel. Knowing how much effort goes into it, I have a much greater appreciation for what other writers are trying to achieve, even if I don’t particularly enjoy the genre they write in. A few writers I admire (off the top of my head) are Richard Laymon, Trudi Canavan, Dean Koontz, Jeff Lindsay, Patricia Cornwell, Brent Weeks and Iain Banks.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Write your story the way you want to, and always be positive. Most importantly, make friends with as many other writers as you can and see what you can learn from them. You should be able to learn at least one thing from every other writer you meet, no matter how good or bad you think they are.

And write a blog.

Blogging is becoming a very good way to get noticed, but use your blog wisely, don’t use it to trash other writers. If one day your manuscript lands in the hands of an editor or agent who is considering making your dreams come true, they’ll do an internet search to find out what they can about you. Don’t let them find you trashing books they’ve published or authors they work with!

Most important of all, don’t give up. If all the agents and publishers you approach reject your manuscript, don’t get angry or upset. Ask yourself what more you could have done to convince them how great your manuscript is. Or work hard on improving your manuscript.

Find out more about the book with no name here.

"A good scare is worth more to a man than good advice." ~Anonymous