Thursday, April 25, 2013

Myth #2: One Bad Review Will End Your Writing Career

During my life, I heard somewhere that one bad review can sink your writing career. So I decided to do an experiment and put this to a test.

Three specific numbers came to mind.

Here they are:

1. 2,158*
2. 5,343*
3. 1,336*

*These numbers are subject to change each day.

These are the number of 1 star reviews on amazon for three kindle authors. 

Wanna know who they are?

1. Stephen King
2. James Patterson
3. Dean Koontz

Writers need to have tough skin.

People are going to hate you, poke you, prod you. They may even despise you. They may give you a bad review because your book was too long, short, wordy, descriptive, not descriptive enough, couldn't fit well in their thick hands. They may gripe about the font, size of the text, the format, the spelling, the plotting, the characters, the beginning  the middle, the end. They may trash you because they don't like your personality, your politics, your work ethic, your nationality, your religion. They may flame you because they never received a book, they hardly read the first page or it could just be that your book landed on their foot and now they have outrageous medical bills thanks to you. They may go after you because your book made them physically ill, nauseous, dizzy, gave them slight headaches, anal leakage, a slight case of pregnancy  They may chide you for being too dumb, too smart or not smart enough. They may not even consider you as a tried and true writer. They may even choose your book at random to troll. It doesn't really matter. The possibilities are endless. 

Out of a handful of reviews, I received two or three bad reviews. Yeah, they hurt for a sec. Like when you take a blood test and need to be pricked. And what's life, but enduring a prick or two every once and a while?

As long as you keep on writing, nothing can stop you.

Are you tough enough to keep on going?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Great Chicago Flood of 2013


Things, it seems, are narrowing into a funnel of obligations, responsibilities and new beginnings.

It all started with "A dark and stormy night."


I drive home from a long day's work.


After dealing with a cat poop fiasco, some dinner and an episode of Lie To Me, I decided to head to bed.


I'm woken up by a scream of terror. The toilet starts overflowing for what seems to be no reason. My wife and I start making plans on what we are going to do. She's nine months pregnant and NEEDS a toilet. We agree that she should take a cab to her parents house while I hold up the fort, monitoring the toilet, seeing if it will run over again.


My wife arrives at her parents while I sit on the couch, watching The Switchback with Dennis Quad and Danny Glover. I've only seen the ending and don't care too much about the movie but I need something besides the thunder noises to help me sleep. I figure I'll sleep in the living room on the futon. I set the sleep timer on the tv for 30 minutes, set my phone alarm for noon and hope for the best.


Apparently hoping for the best just wasn't good enough. The water from the lakes rose while I was sleeping. It cleared the distance from the waterline to the deck within hours. That's about fifteen feet.

I skip all stages of grief and zip right to acceptance  Cause you have to accept something at this point. My apartment is without power and I can hear the water gurgling in the vents. Yep. It's time to scoot.

(My neighbor called this the Danger Step. Does that mean I was in the...Danger Zone?)

I call my wife and we work out a list of things I need to bring and things to do.

Had to call off work, too.

First, I unplug everything. I start stacking things on the couch and futon.  Then I start taking boxes out to our car. Two boxes are crucial: one says BILLS/DOCUMENTS and the other is STORIES, written in sharpie. Then I pack clothes, toiletries and other knick-knacks for the baby.

By 1:00pm I'm conversing with my neighbors  seeing if they need any help. They're getting along just fine so I high tail it to my car while the gettin's good.

I'm making my way on Ogden when, out of nowhere, my car battery goes kaput right in front of the post office.

I park in a nearby Dunkin' Donuts...crookedly, I might add.

Of course, I bang my knee while getting out of the car, too.

I flag down a nice enough fellow who helps me try and give life back to my battery. The jumper cables didn't work.

Just my luck. I call both my brother and my father to formulate a "creative" plan for getting to my wife.

After some time, and a bright idea from my bro, we settle on a taxi.

My wife calls the cab to pick me up and he gets there fifteen minutes later.

He parks and I begin transferring all my stuff to his cab. Last, but not least, my cat Bandit who does not have a damn clue what is going on, is handling the move well but his eyes are wide as saucers.

The drive is relatively quick and I have a great conversation with Sayid, the driver. We determine that in life, certain things must happen and pave the way for new beginnings  It's all part of a grand design. I'm very thankful that my wife and I got out safely, that her parents are so understanding and that the hospital where our girl will soon be born is now closer to us.

As we're coming up coming up on Bellwood it seems there is a wealth of numbnuts and numbskulls either trying to hit us or box us in because, for some reason, they just have to play JET CAR WATER SKI down the block.


I finally get our stuff to my in-laws and rest for a bit.

This day was hectic redefined.

In the span of just 17 hours, our lives changed.

I had to call off work, take pictures for insurance and we're about to have a baby in four short days.

Lately I've been looking on the news and see that I just managed to squeak out of there.

I remember seeing all the news vans and helicopters.

I'm sure an Ariel view caught me hustling like a mad man to get to his wife.

In the end, we ordered some food at her parents, settle in and have some laughs. We also listened to some 45's.

I'm just glad my friends and neighbors made it out when they did.

If our place is flooded, that's okay. Those are just things.

We're still here.

We're safe.

And I'm still writing.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Village Americana: Behind The Story

For once I wanted to give you readers a little Behind the scenes look into what happens when I create a new story. From conception to eBook.

In June of 2012 I was frequently visiting the local Starbucks. I was ordering a Mocha Frappe and scoping out my favorite seat; right next to the windows. It was raining that day and storming heavy. As the rain cascaded down, another storm was brewing inside my head. I wanted to write a novella. Something gritty. Something different.

As I slurped my drink, my brain went off on many different rabbit trails. One of them being of my old high school days. I began thinking about the books they forced us to read. Our class never gave us classics like Catch-22, Catcher in the Rye or Lord of the Flies. I read those later, when I attended college. We were stuck with Gang Member Memoirs and a book called Animal Farm.

Then, suddenly, an image arrived.

It appeared quite clearly, as if I were viewing it just outside the windows. I caught a glimpse of a hut and a young woman in distress, trapped. "Help me," she said. "Help get me out of here."

Then several other things popped into my mind.

A villain. 

A dead Uncle.

A resourceful man named Paulie.

To encourage the thought more, I flipped open the laptop and began a music video which helped me envision the rest of the story. Suddenly I had them: a cast of characters, a setting,  and a very gruff baddie. His name was originally Rufus. It was a quick name, just something to put down.

Slowly, the story began pouring out as I wrote the first lines:

Zach, the man who had led them to the hut, cracked the butt of his rifle on the Korean kid’s jaw, provoking a cry of panic from three of the others. This made him cock his gun and aim it at them. They fell silent, faces kissing the dirt, praying to mother earth for forgiveness.

From there came a chapter every three days or so. Every time I'd try to rescue my heroine  Brooke, I found she just got deeper into trouble. I think Kurt Vonnegut said it best when writing a story,  "Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of."

So, I did just that.

For the first time in a very long time, I felt as if I were writing with the door wide open. And for some reason, I couldn't write at home. I always found myself gravitating toward the same Starbucks and chip away at the story five hundred words at a time.

After I finished it, it felt good.

I saved, clicked out of the document and forgot about it.

Nine months later, I decided it was time to unleash it out into the wild.

Things changed after some revision.

Now the Villain's name was Craig Hooks.

I kinda pictured him as Jeffery Dean Morgan.

Brooke became tougher.

Paulie had more of an arc.

But the story stayed the same.

I'm just glad it made its way to Kindle. Finishing a story is a fantastic high, revising it is even better, but the most potent high of all is sharing the story instantly with the click of a button. It's an exciting time to be an author in the digital age.

What's more, I had so much fun with this little experiment, I've decided to work on a few novellas I've been saving for a rainy day...

While taking a class trip to South America, sixteen friends are ambushed, captured and taken to a nearby village run by a mad man. It becomes clear that this is no ordinary village. It is a village of slaves, psychological warfare, and pure terror. With nothing but her wits and the voice of her dead uncle to guide her, Brooke Kylee must find a way to escape the horror while still maintaining the one thing she has left: her sanity.

VILLAGE AMERICANA is 10,000 word novella. Feel free to sign up on Amazon to receive email updates on new titles released in the future.