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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

When I was in high school, I was in the marching band. Depending on the venue, I played either the baritone saxophone or the bass saxophone. All 5’5″ and 90 lbs. of me, so it was no easy feat. During my sophomore year, we traveled to an away game that would decide whether the football team went on to the state championships for our division.

During that game it rained, it sleeted, it snowed. The marching band performed valiantly, and the football team a little less so. We lost to a team whose quarterback would become my brother-in-law a few years later. By the time we loaded onto the bus for the long ride home, the marching band was mostly frozen into our uniforms. We were lucky they were heavy wool, because although we were all soaked and frozen, we were fairly warm sealed up inside that wet wool. I spent most of the ride home with the harness for the bass sax still attached, because my hair was frozen to it.

On the drive there, we’d done much cheering and chanting, but the ride home was more subdued. A well-meaning, but misguided cheerleader started up a familiar cheer. At the point in the cheer when the audience was supposed to respond with “We’re Number One!” I answered in my loudest, crowd-piercing voice: “We’re Number Two!” I got some glares, but the tired and frozen brass section behind me took up the chant. Honestly, we weren’t bitter. The team had made it further than anyone expected us to. There was no shame in having come in second.

atuawt-cover-w-goodreads-badgeThat’s how I feel this morning, upon being informed that All the Ugly and Wonderful Things received the second highest number of votes in the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Fiction. 27,000 people voted my book! I got more votes than Jodi Picoult (mind=boggled).

So in honor of all the second place runners up, I am celebrating!

I’m Number Two!

And thank you to everybody who voted for me! If you’d like to celebrate with me, please consider leaving me a review on your preferred online venue. Reviews really do make a huge difference.

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Last week, there was a bit of a dust up about All the Ugly and Wonderful Things on social media. I did my best to stay out of it, but having stayed out of it, I’d like to address the issue very briefly here and without naming names.

It’s okay to hate my book. Not every book is for everybody.

If you read my book and you hate it, that’s fine. We’re square, you and me. I brought myself to the book. You brought yourself to the book. Perhaps we’re just not compatible. That’s cool.

If you choose not to read my book, because of things you have heard about it, that’s okay, too. I often give books a pass if they sound like something I wouldn’t want to read.

If you choose not to read my book, but then publicly express your hatred for it and for anyone who enjoyed it, understand that your hatred is coming from a place of ignorance. Are you comfortable with being that person? Someone who hates something out of ignorance? Someone who judges people without knowing who they are or what they’ve been through?

On a nearly daily basis, I am called upon by strangers to defend All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. And if they were merely asking me to defend my book, I might not be so troubled, but this morning, I have yet another email that asks, “Why would you write a book like this?”

I suspect that the real question is Why do you exist? Within that question about my existence, there are these questions: Why did you choose to have a drug dealer as your father? Why did you experience things that make me uncomfortable? Why do you think you have a right to tell stories that reflect your life? Why don’t you shut up?

The answer is simple. I won’t shut up, because if people like you have the right to tell and read stories that reflect what you’ve experienced, people like me have the right to tell and read stories that reflect what we’ve experienced. I’m going to keep doing that.

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I thought there was a good chance I’d better get more deleted scenes ready to send out in my October newsletter. With only five days left in September, we are thisclose to two more deleted scenes. Just six more reviews on GR to hit 1100 reviews, and 12 more to hit 200 on Amazon. That means two more deleted scenes, and probably a little something extra.

For anyone who needs motivation, here’s a little teaser of the next Donal scene.

May 1989

“Goddamn Liam,” Sean said. He was like Mama that way, always complaining about Liam. I mean how funny was that? Liam had been dead six years, and Sean was still going on and on about how everything was his fault.

“Lousy twenty grand. That’s all it woulda took to put me back on my feet. Woulda cleared me with the Leffer brothers. And all this–all this–” He waved his arms around wild enough that other people on the sidewalk stepped out of his way. People did that now that he’d lost his front teeth. You wouldn’t think four teeth would make that big a difference, but it really did. He just looked scarier without them, the way his mouth sagged in.

We were walking to see “this guy,” who Sean said could get him some work. Well, I don’t know if Sean had ever used the word work in his life, but he said this guy could him some money, so it was a job. Sean was supposed to go down to Mexico on the bus and drive a car back. That’s how the guy, whose name was Dougie, described it: “Just go down and drive the car back.”

As soon as we got off the bus in Mexicali and I saw the car, I knew exactly what it was. What Kellen used to call making a run. Because the car was just a car. It wasn’t anything special. Not the kind of car you go to the trouble to send some guy to Mexico to get. Unless the car had drugs in it, which I figured it did. I didn’t look. As soon as we got the car, I thought we should turn right around and head back, but Sean, being Sean, wanted to dick around.

“Let’s stop and get some tacos,” he said. “When are you gonna get real Mexican tacos?”

Right, tacos. But he was driving, so when he pulled off at this little roadside place, I took the money he gave me and went inside to get tacos. I figured you’d have to have pesos to buy tacos in Mexico, but they took my dollars.

When I came back to the car, Sean was slumped over in the backseat with a fucking needle in his arm.

“Are you kidding me?” I said. “Right out here in the open?”

He didn’t answer, because as always he was wrecked. I sat there for about half an hour, long enough to eat my tacos. Then I got to worrying that we were just sitting by the side of the road in Mexico with a bunch of dope in the trunk, waiting to get robbed.

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You all were busy this weekend, as I woke up to more than a thousand reviews on Goodreads.

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I guess that means it’s time to take a look at the poll for deleted scenes…

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I think one of the hardest things I had to cut from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was most of Donal’s story after he was taken away from Wavy. When one is a famous, established author, one can get away with producing a sprawling 800-page saga, but publishing frowns on that for unknown, unestablished writers such as myself. So most of Donal’s life with Sean got axed early on, because it required the reader to follow and invest in two rapidly diverging story lines.

Because that’s such a big chunk, and I’m essentially a devious person, I’m not sending it all out at once. I’ll send the first two chapters tonight, and the next two when I hit one of the other two goals. Over on Amazon, only 26 reviews to go to hit 200. Mwahahahahah. If you’ve already written a review on Goodreads, it’s easy enough to copy and paste over to Amazon or B&N.

Or you could try giving your friends who’ve reviewed on Goodreads sad puppy eyes to convince them to post their review elsewhere. Here, you can use Josey.

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If you saw me at any of my recent events, you may have heard me admit that the first draft of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things weighed in at a hefty 200,000 words. Nearly 80,000 words more than the final, published version.

So what became of those roughly 300 pages that I whittled off? I’ve been saving them in a file called Lost Scenes. What’s in there? All the stuff I wrote that just never quite had a place in the book. Some of it I was sad to cut. Some of it I knew I wouldn’t be able to use, even as I wrote it.

How can you get your hands on those deleted scenes?

I’m sending them out to my newsletter subscribers, so step one: sign up for my newsletter.

I’ll be sending out deleted scenes as I hit certain review numbers on Goodreads and Amazon. (Darn it! There is a catch.) So step two: leave me a review, please. I’ll send out the first deleted scene when ATUAWT hits 1,000 reviews on Goodreads, another when it hits 200 reviews on Amazon, and another if it hits 50 reviews on Barnes & Noble.

Basically, the more reviews I have, the happier my publisher is, and the happier my publisher is, the more likely they are to want to buy another book from me. I believe that’s a win-win, if you enjoyed ATUAWT.

If you’ve already done steps 1 and 2, and you’re killing time, you can also vote in this poll to help decide which scenes I send out first. You can vote for up to three.

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When the audio book of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things went on sale, Audible sent me the ten promotional copies that were promised in my contract. “Use one for yourself and the rest to promote your book with giveaways” their overly cheery email suggested. I promptly did a couple of little giveaways and passed out a handful of the promotional codes.

audible-coverI didn’t plan to listen to the audio book, but then people kept asking me if it was any good. Writer friends were curious how the narration of sixteen different narrators turned out. So I downloaded it, intending to listen to a few snippets. Instead, over the course of the last week, I listened to the whole thing.

It is weirdly compelling. The narrator, Jorjeana Marie, did an amazing job, particularly in light of the fact that the sixteen narrators span from a five-year-old boy to a seventy-year-old woman, and include college girls, old men, drug-dealing heavies, and half a dozen random strangers. She makes it compelling. Nothing weird about that.

The weird part is to find myself compelled by my own work. I have been over this book so many times, I couldn’t give you an accurate count. A few hundred at least. I’ve read it aloud at least a dozen times, because that’s one of the best ways to do revisions. Read it out loud and really listen to the rhythm of it. I was sure that at this point in time there weren’t any surprises for me, but I was wrong. Hearing someone else read it reminded me of details I’d forgotten and introduced me to beats I didn’t even realize I’d written. Weird.

All this to say that I still have some promotional codes to give away, and if you’re willing to take my biased opinion, it is weirdly compelling. To enter to win, leave me a comment with your favorite audio book. Now that I’ve taken the plunge, I’m curious.

(Because Audible is world rights, this is open to international folks, too.)

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I’m officially kicking off my wild sighting giveaway!

Book plate signed

To get your own signed bookplate, you have to do three simple things:

  1. Find a copy of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things out in the wild (your local bookstore, your library, public transit, etc.)
  2. Take a picture. You with the book, if you’re not shy, or just the book, if you are.
  3. Post it on whatever social media site you prefer, tell where you found the book, and tag me. I’m on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Ello, and this here blog. If you post somewhere else, just send/post a link.

I’ll get back to you to find out where to send your signed bookplate. I’ll give signed bookplates to the first 50 wild sightings I get, and I’ll pick five random winners to receive additional book swag in the form of key chains, necklaces, and mix tapes.

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