Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why I Write

John Kennedy Toole was born in 1937. After spending some time as a professor, he was drafted in 1961 where he taught English to Spanish-speaking recruits. By the time he worked in a men's clothing factory, he was able to write A Confederacy of Dunces. He had several unpublished works. He sent the manuscript to Simon and Shuster but it was rejected. From that rejection, his world crumbled. He began drinking heavily, had nasty headaches and would disappear from time to time. Toole committed suicide on March 26, 1969.

After his death, Toole's mother insisted that Walker Percy, the author of The Last Gentlemen, read her son's unpublished book. Walker was hesitant and later bargained with himself that he would only ready a few chapters to satisfy the mother and put it down for good. But Walker could not just put the novel down. He read that book well on into the night and fell in love with it. Later, he wrote the forward when the book was finally published in 1980. A Confederacy of Dunces won the pulitzer prize, sold 1.5 million copies and was translated into 18 languages.

I had never heard of the book up until a couple months ago when Chuck Palahniuk, in a web video describing his favorite books, recommended Confederacy of Dunces. I searched up this history and realized something. Writing literature is a way of putting your thoughts on paper, to immortalize your words. It was tragic how this author thought he was doomed and ended his life, but even he could not predict the novel's outcome. With his words he was remembered and established a legacy. To date, I have well over sixty ideas which I hope to publish. I write not only because I want to get these thoughts on paper but there is also an encouraging notion that my ideas will outlive me. That strangers will pick up my book, read it and say something about it. It may inspire them to write or it may make them look at their life differently. We don't know for sure. But I'd rather be remembered than be forgotten. So, I'm happy that God has blessed me with gift. That's why I write.

"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." ~Jonathan Swift

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Slight Change

The book will be released on September 4th at 2:00pm. Full moon that day. Ooooo, creepy, huh? Need two more days to work on the book. So if you see that the book is not on on the 2nd, there's a good chance that it will be available on the 4th instead. Hope you all enjoy the book when it comes out.

On another note, I've decided to start writing again on Tuesday. On Friday I came up with two brand new short stories. Plus, there's another book project I'm working on.

Happy writing everyone!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

To Scratch and Scribble Part 5

A certain number of writers suggest that you do yourself a favor and write the crappiest stuff imaginable. They tell you to get all that crap out of your system by suggesting that you type anywhere from 50,000 words to a million. When the crap stops, the real writing begins. It's a filtering process that I guess we all have to deal with. Let's face it, all of us are not born perfect or can type up the next Catcher in the Rye.

Stephen King says, ''I'm convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.''

For this statement, I believe he was correct on a historical scale.

Let me tell you about my first bad book . . . the one you will never read.

The typewriter from hell may have caused me some problems but what I didn't expect would be the problems of the ego once I couldn't stop writing.

My first official book project was a half-assed idea. It was to be part autobiography and part fiction (don't worry, more confusion awaits). The basis was my hectic, sometimes unbelievable life, everything up until 8th grade which was also when I wrote it, and a side character who was a lackluster guardian angel. I guess I had a rotten trail of bad luck and this book of mine was the only release. I didn't care what I wrote down, so long as I wrote something. The idea would take on many forms. In some parts it would be a mystery, in others a drama, in spurts a comedy and in large a big convoluted mess.

I typed it up on an Acer computer which dwelled in my parents room. Each chapter would be two to three pages long. The book, as a whole, was 69 chapters at 156 pages. You'd think that would be it, but I wasn't finished with it and I was reluctant to work on it at all. The idea kept changing but not in a good way. It kept taking on new and unexpected forms as annoying as Hydra. Each idea I tried to vanquish, two more would pop up.

Somehow I bravely made the trek six houses down to my friend who took a liking to reading my work. Her and her friend read my tales and troubled times. They couldn't quite understand the guardian angel character or what I was trying to say when I introduced him. In one scene, I was at the kitchen table eating a bowl of cereal when the angels comes down, dressed to the nines in long black leather trench coat, sat down across from me and flung some ashes from his cigarette into my bowl. The chapter was no pivotal point in the book, it was just a scene with no real force behind it. Most of those chapters established nothing. They were just fillers. My personal "word vomit" book.

My friend and her friend liked some parts, and laughed in the right places. They knew how to let me down easy when they encountered a bad chapter or one that made no sense. But they were always interested in my ideas, asking what I was cooking up next.

One fateful day, I came back to the computer. Chapter 70 was staring me right in the face. This book became the bane of my existence. You can't work on an idea when it changes so much. You begin to question what the hell the original thought was in the first place. The title continuously changed as well. The first title I chose was The View. After I became sick of that, I thought up A Comedian's View. When I recognized that my work wasn't that funny, it finally became Never Shake Hands with a Jackass. I even drew up a cover with the crazy angel sitting in a chair on one side and a donkey with a censored bar across his eyes sitting in the other.

I couldn't write anything on that damn computer. I was blocked. My crappy filler moments had finally run out. The Jackass was me.

Now comes the part where I tell you why you will never read this book.

With a heavy hand, and an even heavier heart, I arched my finger and deleted the entire book. 156 pages after months of writing and it was all gone in 2.5 seconds. I was not ready. This I was willing to admit. But when you know it's not your time, you have to accept it with grace and understanding. There will always be another book to write.

"Great books write themselves, only bad books have to be written." ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How I Became a Famous Novelist

I frequently check this one website ( for scoops on the latest movie rumors. One day I found that a book had just acquired a director. When I searched up the book, I found that it was released in July. Now that's fast business!

How I Became a Famous Novelist is the story about a man named Pete Tarslaw. After receiving a mass e-mail from his ex-girlfriend, announcing her wedding date a year from now in Australia, Pete begins to fume. Not only does he fume, but he also has a crummy job which he hates. While drinking some beers with his buddy, he watches an interview of a famous novelist that everyone likes, even his Ex. It is at that moment that he decided to tackle writing a book himself, somehow get it on the bestsellers list and upstage his Ex at her own wedding! Instead of writing the same formulaic airport novel, he decides to really hit hard by writing serious literature. He visits Borders and Barnes and Noble to start cracking the code that is writing and sees if he can fake it. He makes lists of what people like to read and key words they are drawn to. His novel, The Tornado Ashes Club, becomes a melting pot of ideas and genres. In each chapter there is an excerpt of either a fake novel, an interview or segments from his acclaimed novel itself. Steve Heley has really captured the trials and tribulations of writing while poking fun at the insanely rich eccentric authors of today. This novel is a feast for the mind and should be on every writer's bookshelf. It's a re-readable triumph of writing genius.

Steve Heley has written for The Late Show with David Letterman as well as American Dad. His first book was The Ridiculous Race.

"Fiction is the truth inside the lie."
— Truman Capote

Monday, August 10, 2009

Notable Movies #2

Even though I've only read the first chapter to the Time Traveler's Wife, I'm sure it's a good story. It takes two different genres and blends them: Romance and Science fiction. While time traveling establishes couples having distance troubles, it is important to come to know their struggle. Does time heal all wounds? Or does it open them up? As soon as I get my hands on this national bestseller, I will read it twice.

Audrey Niffenegger, the author, must be proud of this representation of her work. The trailer alone had me on the edge of my seat. Audrey, as I've found out, lives right here in Chicago and works as a professor in Interdisciplinary Book Arts MFA Program at Columbia - the same school I once thirsted to go to. Her second book, Her Fearful Symmetry, just sold in March for an advance of $5 million dollars. It should be out this fall.

So, with any book adaptation there is always the question of whether to read the book first or watch the movie, saving the book for the extra tidbits they left out. After much thought, I've decided to read the book first. 560 pages sounds too good to just ignore.

But what do you do when you know the movie is adapted from a book? Do you read the book first? Or do you watch the movie?

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Car Reader Fever

Growing up was tough. Especially if you don't like car rides. Picture this: a bouncy, off-the-wall, sugar injected kid completely bored with the drive (no matter what length) complaining every two seconds. That would be yours truly. It would be a long time until I would drive and I knew, at a young age, that my parents ruled the road. Car time was definitely not my time.

I'd huddled myself in the back all grouchy and unsatisfied as they blasted cassette tapes up front. I sought to remedy this problem quickly and with somewhat messy results.

For the first few times, I would bring my red egg of silly putty into the car. Parents are not fans of silly putty. Here's why: I got tired of constantly bringing it back and forth from the car to the house and was afraid I would lose my little pliable form of entertainment. I ditched the egg case and stuck the stuff right at the base of the back window of the van. Being that the interior was the same light brown color as the putty, it was virtually undetectable. Of course, it became a problem when I did that in summer and the van began absorbing a burning plastic smell.

"New rule for the van: No more Silly Putty!" my parents said.

That didn't stop me from coming up with new ideas.

I was a kid with an overactive imagination. So I thought to bring some of my toys into the van. Mistake number two. The van became a mobile playground as I abused my privilege bringing over twenty action figures all from my batman collection (the original 1989 movie version set) and would get the wedged in between seats.

"New rule: No more action figures!"

I was bordering on frustration. It wasn't fair. They listened to whatever they wanted on the radio and I was left to just sit there and take it with no form of escape? What was I to do without my made up plot lines of Batman and the great seat adventure?

Well, as luck would have it, I found an old pass time which was quickly dominating my world: Comic Books! They were to me what Indiana Jones was with his trusty whip at his side. I would bring twenty or so, under my arm. Since the average comic was twenty pages, I would never run out of time with my collected treasures. Sometimes I wouldn't even read, I'd just look at the artwork in appreciation. There was one drawback though. I had to focus a lot of concentration on the comics because there were times that the radio up front was blasted to an ungodly level because my mom had some hearing loss. Try reading a spider-man comic to Mariah Carey's "Emotion". I dare you. It isn't easy.

After training my brain to block off listening to all these pop stars, reading was easy. However, I don't doubt that I know Cher, Mariah Carey, Gwen Stefani, Madonna and a host of other pop songs line for line somewhere in the reaches of my mind. This disturbs me because I am not that big of a fan of pop music.

Luckily, my comics privilege wasn't taken away but my mind thirsted for something more. Thus, I turned to Novels, bringing five or so into the car. Still, I read while blocking out pop music. But I loved reading in the car.

Today, I own a ten year old beat-up Saturn. I still carry books with me everywhere. My father once told a person that "He's always got a book glued to his hand. He never goes anywhere without one." That's true. It's also an addiction. Now I read five books simultaneously just in case I get bored with one and want to move on to the next. Right now there are 50 books in the trunk of my car.

If I ever have some sort of problem with my car out on the road, I feel comforted knowing that, if I happen to be waiting on a tow truck, I have my own mobile library. Odd, I know, but I'm still doing it.

So what say all of you? What is your strangest reading habit? Were you a car reader like me?

"Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home." ~ Anna Quindlen (How Reading Changed My Life)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Great Amazon Rush

It began with the man they call Scott Sigler. Scott had a dream of becoming a published author and he was well on his way, already with his first book in production. But in 2002, when financial woes were hitting companies after the 9/11 event, Scott's book was pulled from production. Then, in 2005, he resurrected his works by podcasting his novels in the tradition of the old time radio serials of the 1950's. He's a writer of science fiction/horror novels and has gained a "junkie" following of fans since 2005. He wrote such books as Earthcore, Ancestor, Infected, Contagious, Nocturnal and The Rookie. All of them received high praise.

I first found his work by listening to Earthcore, which was so good, I was hooked. He later found some progress when he accepted a contract with a small press called Dragon Moon Publishing. In order to boost sales and gain attention he implemented what all podcasters know to be "The Amazon Rush day."

Put simply, his publisher told him when the book would be released, he let everyone know on the internet (with an ever-growing mountain of fans and downloads) that he was coming out with Ancestor on April 1st, 2007. Everyone bought it the same day and as a result his book was boosted to #7 on the Amazon charts Bestselling list. When he made the switch to Crown publishing, a division of the titan publishing company known as Random House, he did the same amazon rush with his novel Infected. He has since become a New York Times Bestselling author. He still podcasts, his sequel to Infected called Contagious is a hit with readers and listeners alike. Just recently he announced the re-release of Ancestor, his first hit with the readers, with a brand new cover and sure to have some more goodies.

After this monumental idea, other others decided it was their time to shine. Such authors as Seth Harwood, Mur Lafferty, J.c. Hutchins and Phil Rossi have gained readers through this system. That is what it is all about: Readers. If the point of movies is to get asses in seats, then the point of books is to get them in the hands and in front of the eyes of your potential audience. So, it is with great pleasure that I announce my first book in print: The collection of short stories that I've been working on. From today, you, the readers, have about a month until the book is released. I'm just beaming with excitement and am eager to know just how many people will read my work. I hope you enjoy it too.

In the meantime, I'd love to do some guest blogs to anyone who will let me.

Some of my shorts will make an appearance on some future blog posts and I plan to podcast the collection soon. Be sure to tell your friends and spread the word.

September 2nd, 2009 2:00pm. Keep that date in mind.

"The death of an author is obscurity." ~ Liz Dubelman