It's been a great and fun year, one that started off at a pretty low point, but continually picked up steam as the months passed. Of course, the biggest news was the publication of my first novel, The Last Good Halloween. Through that project, I've had the opportunity to meet and work with a lot of great, new people in the publishing world and for that I'm incredibly grateful.
Before we kiss 2013 good-bye, I wanted to mention a few fun items that came up at the last minute this year.
First off, I had the chance to participate in a Sun-Times blog series on hot writers in Chicago. This was an opportunity that definitely fell into the push-your-comfort-zone category -- especially since the point was to provide a "pin-up" style photo. After a bunch of bad ideas that didn't turn out well, I ended up embracing the concept and, well, you can see the results for yourself. Turns out the pic that worked best was a selfie. (And, for the record, this is the first time I'm typing that word.)
Second of all, I got asked by the good folks at The Next Best Book Club's Blog to give my top three reads of 2013. I'm proud to have been asked to participate and even more proud of how indie-press-centric the entire list is. If you want to find some reads that might be a little off the beaten path, check it out!
As for 2014, well, I've got some readings coming up in January and February, plus some more writing projects lined up, so stay tuned. I'll let you know more when I know.
Just a quick note to all the Chicago Folks:
My publisher, Tortoise Books, is sponsoring a table at the Chicago Book Expo this Sunday, November 24th. I'll be there signing copies of my new novel The Last Good Halloween. If you're interested in getting a signed copy, or just want to keep me company, I'd love to see you there!
The Expo is going from 11 AM to 5 PM. The address is 1345 W. Argyle.
Seeing all your bright faces will help take the edge off missing the Cowboys game, which, let's be honest, it's probably better if I don't watch it anyway.
A gigantic package arrived this week, and the world's most amazing birthday gift has made its debut on the Southside of Chicago. No matter how well I try to photograph this thing, the images will never quite do it justice. Still, I wanted to try to share it with the rest of the world because keeping it on a wall in here seems like it would somehow be an injustice.
The painting was done by Minnesota artist Scott West. He painted it after reading the manuscript for my forthcoming novel, The Last Good Halloween. For me, hearing about the inspiration for a piece of art is almost as important as the art itself, so I was curious to hear what he had to say about this piece. Here's the note he sent me:
"This painting was very different for me... usually my compositions are cluttered and busy and overbearing with color. The void was important. Knowing Izzy through your writing I felt an absence in her character, almost a separation from her surroundings because she knew she would one day leave. She became a metaphor for the connection we all have with loved ones that all too often leave our immediate life. They gift us life lessons for our future relationships and the strength to understand reasons why they leave. This is why I chose to paint just Izzy. She was the underlying current of the story for me. Thanks again for the opportunity and for sharing your wonderful work."
Obviously, I was touched and moved by his thought and sensitivity in the way he treated my characters. It's strange, I was pretty nervous to see what he'd come up with because it felt like some kind of judgment on these characters I'd come to know and love. In the end, I couldn't be happier with the result.
As the publication date for my novel approaches, things are starting to snap into fast-motion, where once they seemed to mosey along without a care in the world. The biggest item thus far has been settling on a cover. We've gone through many iterations and had some great suggestions, but I think we're finally zeroing in on a coherent idea. There are still a few changes that'll need to happen, but here is the prototype:
From here on out, the rest of the work will center around launching and promotion. Stay tuned for an announcement regarding the launch party and for upcoming interviews/reviews. For now, I can tell you that I've already recorded an interview with the good folks at WordPlaySound. They'll be coming out with a special episode close to our publication date which will also include a recording of me reading an excerpt of The Last Good Halloween.
That's all for now. Surely more to come soon.
Just having a little fun here today. I've posted the first chapter of my novel The Last Good Halloween on my novel page. If you're curious to find out what it's all about, go the bottom of the page and click on the "Read Chapter One" link.
It's been a tough year, publishing-wise. It started out with high hopes and
a swirl of good news, only for it to slowly evaporate as the months dragged
on. Dark times call for soul-searching. As I was wandering through the foggy corridors of the interior, I came eyeball-to-eyeball with a surprising (to me) fact: I have been submitting stories, essays and novels to literary journals and agents and contests on a consistent basis for almost twenty years. That means for nearly half my life I've been on tenterhooks, awaiting responses on submissions -- trapped in a perpetual state of hope.
I'm starting to wonder if hope might not be an addictive substance, as damaging as the most seductive narcotic. Does that sound cynical? Perhaps. But bear with me as I examine some side effects of hope. I find myself constantly checking email, waiting for a response. Good news, when it comes, is inevitably buried under drifts of bad news. And even when there is good news, the high it produces is never as strong as I imagine it should be. Through it all, what does hope imbue me with most? Paralysis -- a sense of constantly waiting for things to change. I'm a hope-junky.
So it's time to go cold turkey. My resolution, if that's what you want to call it, is to go for an entire year without submitting one piece of writing. No contests, no lit journals, no queries. There's still a backlog of submitted pieces, which should take a few months to work its way out of the submission process bloodstream -- so it probably won't be until this summer that hope will be officially purged from my system. Then I'll be able to experience life without hope. I'm calling this experiment a submission-fast. (My freelance work is exempt from this fast due to the fact that I'm not subjecting those pieces to judgment. They're already commissioned, so the people paying me for them don't really have a choice. And I don't have to hope that they'll get accepted.)
What do I expect to accomplish from this? Aesceticism aside, the expectation is that by spending some time with absolutely no thoughts of submission, of purging the notion of hope from my psyche, I'll see if in fact it's better to live without it. Do I feel better day-to-day, not needing to check my email? Do I sleep better at night, not thinking if I should have put something else in a cover letter? Most importantly, will I be more productive with my time, not having to spend hour upon hour looking for submission sites and preparing the submissions? A positive side effect might also be to get back to writing for the sheer thrill of it. After all, if you don't expect anyone to ever see what you're writing, that can be liberating to write whatever the hell you want.
That's why I'm doing this. I'll report back as the year unfolds.
This week will mark the beginning of a new phase of the publication process. It's been a long road that somehow seems to have ended up back where I began almost a year and a half ago. Later this week, my agent will begin sending out my manuscript to publishers. I'd like to think that this step of the process will be short sprint toward a successful conclusion. But long, hard experience has taught me otherwise. So I'm mentally preparing for the long haul. I'm going to try to document the phases (both internal and external) that go into this. For now, I'm waiting for the word that the first sortie has been sent out. Then, maybe I can begin to cross my fingers.
This is a repository for all my semi-filtered thoughts on... blah, blah, blah.