The 300: Sharing the first chapter of my WIP

10 02 2014

300Recently, I promised that when my Facebook author page got to 300 likes, I would post the 1st chapter of my current Work In Progress.

Well, I reached that landmark today, so as promised, here is the first chapter. I hope you like it. Any comments or feedback are always appreciated

Chapter 1

I used to drive past the pristine homes, the well-manicured lawns, the white picket fences, and wonder what manner of evil really went on behind those walls, away from the prying, curious eyes of well-mannered society. Now, I wish I could go back to wondering.

My name is Mike. Mike Wise. And my personal nightmare started about five years ago. It was the summer after my grandpa died, a steamy July Saturday night with no distinguishing characteristics. I don’t remember the date anymore, but it doesn’t much matter, does it? That day might as well have been the first day of my life, because nothing has been right since.

I might not remember the date, but I will never forget what happened that night. Believe me, I’ve tried to wipe away the unbearable stain of the memories of that night, and all the craziness that has happened since, with an endless stream of alcohol and pharmaceuticals. But nothing has even made a dent.

Sorry. I’m not telling you this story to make you feel sorry for me. Only in hopes that you might understand me. And possibly understand yourself better. I know, lofty goals for a piece of literature most of you will dismiss as pulp fiction or the ramblings of the criminally insane. Let me tell you how it all started. I’ve always thought that was the best way to tell a story, don’t you?

In the last moments of my former life, I was behind the wheel of my recently-acquired prized possession, the 1969 Corvette my grandfather left me, with the windows rolled down and Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” blasting from the CD player I had just installed earlier that day. Hey, I like 80s rock music. I was a child of the ‘80s after all. Don’t judge me for my taste in music. I have much worse faults, as you will soon see.

My grandpa Joe had died of a heart attack about six months before and had left me the classic car in his will, much to my dad’s dismay. Dad always said grandpa had promised him the car, but apparently grandpa didn’t get the memo. It wasn’t the first communication problem between father and son, so it really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. In death, as in life.

The two had barely spoken, as far as I knew, in the last two or three decades, so I was really unsure why my dad had continued to cling to the irrational belief that the car would somehow make its way into his possession after Grandpa’s death. I guess sometimes our long-held hopes and dreams can blind us to the cold, stark visage of logic and reality that is staring us right in the face.

The ironic thing is I’m not even into cars. My dad can tell you the specifications of every car made in the last 50 years, but I can’t tell you the difference between a carburetor and a fuel injector. My previous car was an eight-year old Toyota Camry that I maintained to manufacturer’s specifications, but otherwise didn’t pay much attention. Like I said, I’m not that into cars. But you don’t have to be a car aficionado to appreciate the aesthetic value of a 1969 Corvette Stingray. The sleek lines. The lush curves. The way people watch as you drive by. Who couldn’t appreciate those things?

Not that I really care too much about such things. I’m a pretty simple man. At least I used to be. I live alone in my ranch-style 3-bedroom home on the edge of town. I go to work every day at Mansfield Plumbing, the local factory where I have worked ever since I graduated high school 18 years ago. Unlike most guys here in my hometown of Loudonville, Ohio, my idea of fun does not include hunting, fishing and drinking beer. I’m more of an intellectual.

Yeah, I know. What’s an intellectual like myself doing living in this Podunk town working a dead-end factory job? Life’s a funny thing. Like my grandpa used to say, life is what happens while you’re busy making plans. But this is really a nice place to live.

I love spending time among nature, either with a pen and paper in hand or a camera at my eye, and the nearby Mohican River and its lush ecosystem provide plenty of opportunities for me to enjoy the wonders of God’s creation. Plus, I’m not too far from the big cities of Cleveland and Columbus and all the wonderful opportunities they provide – museums, galleries, restaurants, coffee houses. So, for me, Loudonville was a perfect place to live.

That Saturday night, I was heading home from a day of photography and hiking at Mohican State Park. I was cruising along the lonely streets in my quiet hometown, watching as the current crop of hormone-driven high school heroes posed and preened in the sports cars that their daddies bought for them. All in the hopes of luring some unsuspecting prom queen or cheerleader into their web.

I’m not a vindictive, hateful person, but there was a part of me that wished that those pompous teens could get knocked down a peg and be forced to feel what real life is like for most people. Not all of us were born with a silver spoon in our mouths. I know I shouldn’t feel that way, but I just can’t help it. You know you feel the same way. Unless you happen to be one of them.

My family wasn’t poor, but we certainly weren’t rich, either. We were definitely what you would call a middle class family. My dad managed the business office at Mansfield Plumbing, keeping the company’s books. It wasn’t the most prestigious job in town, but it definitely paid the bills and kept us living in one of the nicer neighborhoods in town. The mayor lived on one side and the chief of police on the other side. Not a bad way to grow up.

That night, as I slowly cruised past the rows of two-story Victorian houses that lined my hometown’s narrow streets, my fertile imagination was busy creating nightmarish scenarios of horrific happenings in that serene, small-town setting. It was a little game my mind liked to play – imagining what atrocities could be taking place within the confines of the ordinary-looking homes that I drove past every day. Visions of abuse and neglect danced across the movie screen of my mind. Violent, tragic scenes played out against the idyllic backdrop of life along the Mohican River in rural Ohio. I know, it is a macabre hobby, but that’s just the way my disturbed brain works. What can I say? I get bored easily.

Of course I knew that in most of those houses, there was nothing more awful going on than old Bill Lewis forgetting to lower the toilet seat, pissing off his wife, Margie. Or poor Natalie Holtman sitting home alone watching “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” while her husband Mike was out late again, supposedly playing poker with his buddies, while he actually is busy playing a much different game with his alluring secretary, Val.

Most of my neighbors are relatively honest, law-abiding citizens who go to church, pay their taxes, love their spouses and kids and do their civic duty by voting at least once every four years. But for every Bill Lewis there was a Larry Wallace. Who’s Larry Wallace? Before that night, he was just another anonymous face in the small crowd that made up my hometown.

On that July Saturday night, I was driving past Larry’s house when it happened. What happened you ask? I can explain it to you, but you probably won’t believe me. Or you’ll think I need to see a shrink. Or both. And if I was in your place, I’d probably think the same thing. But I experienced it myself, so I am sure it really happened. At least as sure as anyone can be about that kind of thing.

It started as a quiet buzz, an insidious gnawing irritation that threatened to bore its way through my skull. The melodious sound of Kelly Keagy belting out the Night Ranger classic was cut short, replaced by the unexpected crackle of static. I glanced down at the CD player, ready to fix whatever problem had short-circuited my favorite song, when my windshield went from crystal clear to a sheet of impenetrable white.

My vision impaired, I slammed on the brakes, thankful to not hear the crunch of metal on metal, which meant there was no traffic behind me on the sleepy Loudonville roadway. I jumped out of the car and saw that from the outside, my windshield still appeared normal. I could see through the windshield into the interior of the car. Thinking that maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me, I got back in the car and looked out again, but still saw nothing but white.

That was when the little buzz in my head crescendoed to a deafening roar. For a second, all I could see was pitch black, then a few flashes of light. And then my whole world went dark.

When I came to, I saw that nothing had changed.  Except, everything had changed. I glanced down at the clock on the stereo. 10:30. Almost an hour had passed while I was unconscious. I looked in my rearview mirror, half expecting to see the flashing lights of some law enforcement vehicle parked behind me. How could I have been sitting here for an hour without someone noticing and calling the police? When I glanced back up at the whitewashed windshield, I wished I could lose consciousness again. Before my eyes, I saw a nightmarish scene being played out that almost defied description.

I saw a woman, fear clearly splashed across her visage, huddled on a tiled floor with her thin arms held defensively over her face. She was wearing a t-shirt with a redbird on it – the mascot for our local high school – and a pair of black athletic shorts. She appeared to be about 35 or 40, and I thought I recognized her but couldn’t quite put a name to her. I could see a white porcelain toilet with “Mansfield Plumbing” printed on its base behind her.

I recoiled as an arm flashed into the image from the right, sweeping across my view, followed by a red flash. The arm came back into view from the left, followed by more flashes of red. Blood, I realized. The hand was holding a knife or some other sharp object, and the crimson splashes were the blood spurting from the helpless female figure, now completely prone.

The woman’s mouth opened as if for a scream, but I couldn’t hear a sound, a fact for which I was very thankful. I could only watch the continuing bloodbath, which was horrific enough. The vicious slashes continued for at least 10 more seconds, and the torrent of bright red continued to spray across the windshield of my car.

It was like I was watching a silent horror film, playing out before my eyes in brilliant technicolor. I thought I must be losing my mind. What was I seeing? Was it a hallucination? A vision? A part of my mind was telling me to look away, but I was transfixed by the images coming to life on the windshield of my car. Yes, I know how absurd that sounds.

Eventually, the arm stopped its assault and the woman lay still, a river of blood continuing to flow from the slashes across her face and neck. Then the view shifted, as if a camera was changing angles, and I could see more of the bathroom where the scene was taking place. The hands that just moments before had conducted such a ferocious attack were now reaching for a towel, trying to wipe away the damning evidence.

The view spun a little further, now facing a plain white pedestal sink, as the killer turned on the water. He grabbed a bar of soap and began working it between his hands, building up a soapy lather. He feverishly attacked the bloody remnants of his assault, trying to wash away every last trace. But no matter how hard he scrubbed, there were tell-tale streaks of red left all over his hands and forearms.

He looked up from his scrubbing, revealing his face in the mirror. I had no idea who the man was, but he didn’t look like a killer. Whatever a killer is supposed to look like. I guess I’ve always had this idea that you can tell the good people from the bad people just by looking at them. Now I realize what a naïve idea that was.

With his close-cropped dark hair and goatee, the man in the mirror looked like any one of a thousand other average Joes who populated every corner of our country. He grabbed a purple washcloth from a rack next to the sink, passed it under the running water, then dabbed at a patch of red on his cheek.

And then, just as soon as it had started, it was gone. My windshield returned to its transparent state and the bloody scene vanished back into the netherworld from where it came.

The tiny sound of an approaching vehicle caused me to look down the road behind me. Two glowing eyes stared accusingly at me through the veil of darkness. I wasn’t sure what had just happened to me, but I really didn’t want anyone to see me sitting in the middle of the road in the dark. I threw the car in gear and slammed my foot on the gas pedal, spraying up a shower of stone bullets as the Vette pulled me away from what I hoped was just a momentary lapse of reality.

Dark Rising – An excerpt from my upcoming short story

15 06 2013

As I neared completion of my novel, I decided there was a part of the story that I wanted to tell but it didn’t necessarily fit within the novel. So I decided to write a short story prequel to introduce people to the world where my story takes place.

Today, I am sharing an excerpt from the first chapter of the short story which have titled Dark Rising. My story is a sci-fi action/adventure/thriller set in the very near future.

Any comments would be appreciated. I hope you enjoy this sneak peek and that it leaves you wanting to read more.


Mashhad, Iran

It is not going to end like this.

That solitary thought overwhelmed all others as Sgt. Brian Duncan fought to stem the steady stream of crimson that flowed from his shoulder. A jagged shard of shrapnel had slashed a ragged stream along his skin as it flew past him after the blast. The unexpected eruption had upended the truck he and his team had used to get from the Afghanistan-Iran border to the holy city of Mashhad, Iran.

Got to keep moving.

The acrid smoke burned his eyes as he struggled across the debris-covered earth toward the truck that had brought his team into this nightmare, one hand pressing a field dressing against the wound in his shoulder, and the other pulling him along. Bullets flew around him like a deadly blizzard of hot metal.

The bandage he held on his shoulder was stained a bright red, like the rose bushes he remembered his mother growing in her garden back in Royal Oak, Michigan, a vibrant suburb north of Detroit. She always took such meticulous care of those bushes, tending them with the same loving care she showed her two sons. But he quickly put those thoughts out of his head. This mission was too important to be distracted by thoughts of home. If his team failed, there wouldn’t be a home to go back to.

I’ve got to make it. Everything depends on it.

He looked up and felt a surge of hope. He was almost there. With a final, desperate tug, he eased his battered body behind the fiery remains of the truck, which now rested on its side. Brian shielded his face from the heat of the flames that roared from the engine compartment.

It had probably been less than a minute since his team’s mission had gone sideways but it seemed as if he had been crawling for hours. But there was no time to rest. He slowly poked his head up and saw their Iranian driver still belted in his seat. It only took a glance to see that this was going to be the young man’s final mission.

He risked a peek around the front of the burning truck and was greeted by another hail of gunfire. The barrage of bullets seemed to be coming from all directions at once.

How many soldiers are out there and where are they?

 “Ortega. Can you hear me?” No answer on his headset. “Mason. Jamison. Riley. Wilson. Anyone out there?” No one. Either all his teammates were dead or their communications gear was on the fritz.

Am I the only one left? Can I complete this mission alone?

Above the roar of the battle, Brian could hear anguished screams, maybe from one of his teammates. Another yell pierced through the tumult and bore its way deep into Brian’s frazzled brain. This wasn’t his first firefight, but that didn’t make it any easier to stay calm and think clearly when in the midst of the fray. Blood-curdling screams like those could rattle even the steeliest of men. Several deep breaths and a moment of stillness helped clear the surge of adrenaline that threatened to overwhelm Brian’s years of training and field experience.

With his thoughts a little clearer, Brian paused to assess his situation and see what his options were. His wound was serious but not life-threatening, and he would need both hands if he was going to survive this. Usually, someone else applied the trauma dressing, but since he was all alone, Brian removed the bandage from his first aid kid and did his best to apply the dressing one-handed. When he was done, he studied his handiwork. Not ideal, but it would do for now.

He had his Sig Sauer M11 at his hip and his HK MP5 over his shoulder, but only a few clips of ammo for both. He also had three grenades and two flash-bangs in the pockets that lined his legs. Better than nothing, but not much good against the horde of killers that had him pinned down. He had to conserve his ammo if he wanted to have any chance at survival. Once his bullets were gone, so was he.

He tucked himself tightly against the remains of the truck, trying to formulate a plan. His first order of business was to make his way to a more defensible position and attempt to locate the surviving members of his team, if there were any.

As he glanced again around the rear of the truck, Brian saw the gilded peak of his team’s intended destination: the Imam Reza Shrine. The “shrine” was actually the world’s largest mosque – a 1,300-year-old massive complex that was home to a museum, a library, four seminaries, a cemetery, and a university. Millions of Muslims made the pilgrimage to Mashhad and the ancient mosque each year.

Normally, the shrine was home to education, religion and peace. But if their intel was accurate, today, it was housing something deadly. No matter what had happened to the rest of his team, Brian knew that he had to make his way to the mosque and attempt to complete their mission.


Brian whirled, squeezing the trigger on his MP5. The approaching figure crumpled to the ground at his feet. He breathed a sigh of relief as he saw that the bloodied form was not one of his teammates, although he knew it could have been. He had pulled the trigger without even a thought; without even seeing who it was. That probably had saved his life, but what if it had been one of his teammates?

OK, get a grip! I really need to get out of here.

The end is in sight!

20 02 2013

For those of you who have been longtime readers of my blog, you know I have been working on my first novel for awhile. Now, I am happy to announce that the finish line is in sight. I finally am nearing the completion. With that in mind, I have started a Facebook author page where I will share more updates as I move ahead. If you haven’t yet, I would love for you to take a look and “like” it so you can keep up to date on my progress.

Some of you have read the first chapters of an early version of the novel. If you have, much of that content remains in what will be the finished product. There have been some additions, some subtractions, some parts rearranged. Along the way, I realized there was too much back story I wanted to include but decided it probably bogged down the action in the story too much. So I have decided to break out parts of the book and create a short story and a novella which will serve as introductions to some of the characters and ideas associated with the main book. I am going to give away the short story to anyone who helps me spread the word about my novel on Pinterest.

I will post one picture a week for the next eight weeks. Each picture is a clue or somehow related to my story. The first picture appears to be a DNA helix. But is there more to it than that? At the end of the eight weeks, everyone who has re-pinned all eight pictures on Pinterest will receive the short story for free as a special thanks for your help. To receive your free short story, please email me a link ( to the board where you re-pinned my posts after the eight weeks are finished. It’s that easy. Please take a look and tell your friends.

So what is my book about? Well I don’t want to give away too much about it because there are lots of twists and turns and mysteries and conspiracies. But I can tell you in a nutshell, it involves genetics, religion, covert agencies, the origins of man and much more. And it is set in a variety of locales, ranging from India to Cuba to Columbus, Ohio and more. It involves a reporter who discovers a centuries-old secret that could shake the foundations of all of the world’s governments and religions. But is it the truth or simply part of a conspiracy? Dark forces try to keep him from uncovering the truth before they can unleash their master plan. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. It is an epic story with a large cast of characters.  The story I am telling is sure to be controversial. But I am not writing it simply to stir up controversy. I am writing it because it is the story that I have been given to tell.

I have not decided yet what publication route I will take once I am finished. I would love to try to get an agent and get it sold to a major publisher. But every author knows that is a one in a million shot. But I am going to give it a shot. What do I have to lose? If that door doesn’t open, I still have the options of self-publishing or trying to find a smaller publisher. Those are decisions I must make soon, but I haven’t quite got that far yet. Whatever route the future may have in store for me, I know that I will have my book done and available for you to read in published form or on your favorite e-reader. The timing will be determined by what publishing decision I make.

Also, I am going to be starting a separate blog dedicated to posts about my writing and my books. I will be sure to share a link once that is up and running. I will continue to post my book reviews and posts on entertainment topics on this blog.

Thanks again to all of you who have liked my Facebook page. And thanks to everyone who has read any version of the stories over the years. I appreciate everyone’s support so much. I look forward to interacting with you as I give more clues about my book and really can’t wait to hear your reactions once you get the finished product in your hands.

About me

profiuleA veteran newspaper journalist, I have spent the last five years working in marketing communications for a major small appliance manufacturer, an HR communications firm and one of the top law firms in Ohio (the latter two I currently work for). My fiance and I also run Addison’s Compass Public Relations, from which we offer writing, marketing and editing services to authors, businesses and individuals. I graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1996 with a degree in journalism and a minor in economics.

Every song tells a story, don’t it

28 01 2011

Music is one of the biggest inspirations to my writing, and my life. I’ve written several times in the past about what music has inspired me. However, besides just inspiring me to think about certain subjects or to act, music also has been known to get my creative juices flowing, leading to story ideas. I have a whole gaggle of story ideas floating around in my head, several of which have been directly inspired by a song.

These songs are as varied as the artists on my iPod, which range from pop acts like Usher and Lady Gaga to rock bands like Creed and Shinedown to hip-hop artists like B.O.B. and Eminem to Christian artists like Switchfoot and Red to singer/songwriters like Howie Day and   Jason Mraz to 80s icons like Madonna and Michael Jackson. And everything in between.

I am toying with the idea of doing several short stories based on these songs and collecting them in one book. I’m still playing with a name for the collection. Obviously it would have to be something involving music and words and stories and inspiration.  

From my quick research and my own knowledge, I don’t think anyone has ever done anything quite like this. That doesn’t mean this is a great idea. Maybe it means it’s a really bad idea. Maybe no one has ever done it because it is a ridiculous idea. I’m not sure. But it seems to me to make sense, to collect them together since their inspiration all comes from a similar place.

And all the stories seem to have a similar tone or mood as well. They all seem to have a supernatural, almost horror, bent to them. Not horror as in hack and slash type of horror. More psychological, ghosts, people returning from the dead – that kind of thing. I have started writing one of them, and the others are still in idea form. But once I have the time to sit down and start writing them, I have a feeling I could knock out the whole collection of short stories in no time.

In this new age of multimedia and cross marketing and using multiple platforms to tell a story, why can’t music and the printed word work hand-in-hand? Some of the story ideas I’m working on directly play off the lyrics of the song, meaning they tell more of the story beyond what the song lyrics tell.  Others are simply story ideas that spun around in my head after hearing a song. Either way, it seems like there would be enough people who may be fans of a song that would like to read a story revolving around a similar idea. Of course licensing would be an issue, but it would be cool to include a CD featuring all the songs that inspired the stories in the collection.

What do any of you think? I’d love to hear what others think about this idea.

Reality bites – fiction rules!

17 01 2011

Last week, I read a blogpost by author Brad Meltzer about if fiction matters. The Saturday Evening Post had asked him to address the issue for an article in their recent edition.

At first glance, it seemed like an odd question to me. For me, it is a no-brainer. Of course fiction matters, and not just because I am a writer. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved immersing myself in a wide range of fictional worlds – in books, movies, comic books, TV shows, my own imagination. I think most people would agree that fiction matters. Otherwise, how do you explain the billions of dollars spent every year on movie tickets, DVDs, books, Broadway musicals, video games and other forms of fictional entertainment.

That’s not to say that fiction is important in the same way that life and death issues are important. Obviously health care, poverty, domestic violence, war, famine, sexual abuse and other real life issues deserve much more attention than Batman or Darth Vader or Sherlock Holmes. So, if you put escaping into fiction up against fixing real world problems, then of course, fiction pales in comparison. However, you certainly can’t just dismiss fiction as a waste of time simply because it is “make believe” or “not real.”

Why does fiction matter? Well, Meltzer puts it very well when he writes, “Fiction is how we share – and not just how we share our dreams – it’s how we share ourselves. And perhaps more important, how we connect.”

Fiction makes you think. For as long as men could communicate, we have told fables and morality tales and parables to show the danger of greed or gluttony or some other vice. Stories allow us to make a point in a way that simple factual statements or arguments can’t. No one wants to be preached to or harped at. But if you wrap your point in the auspices of an entertaining story, you might just get the attention of millions of people.

Just think of all the different books that have been used to touch on a sensitive subject like slavery or government control of the masses or terrorism or genetic manipulation. Anytime an issue arises in our society, you can be sure some clever, ingenious author is going to craft a story that makes us think about the subject in a different way, sometimes without us even realizing we were thinking about it.

That is why fiction matters – fiction writers have power. The power to effect change. The power to make people think. The power to explore new ideas. The power to pass on knowledge. And knowledge can be dangerous. How else do you explain all the banned books?

What do you think? Does fiction matter? Do you agree with my reasoning? Let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Of course, if you’re reading this, you probably are a writer or an avid reader, so I expect most of you will agree that fiction matters. But I’d still love to hear from you.

And while we’re talking about fiction, I’ll give a plug to Brad Meltzer’s new novel “Inner Circle” that released last week. I can’t wait to read it. The excerpts definitely got my attention.

Writing – It’s all in the family

7 01 2011

There is a saying that the family that prays together stays together. And there likely is a lot of truth to that. But what about the family that writes together? I only ask because, well, everyone in our family likes to write. I’m two-thirds of the way through the first draft of my first novel with several other Works in Progress in various stages of …, well, progress. Erin, my fiancee, is also a writer and is working on a children’s picture book, as well as a related chapter book for young readers. And all of our kids love to write, too. Even Addie, our 3-year-old, who obviously can’t really write yet, but she certainly can make up stories as she plays with her dolls or sings her stream-of-consciousness songs that certainly tell stories, too.

I am so excited about Erin writing her books. She had been wanting to write a children’s book for years, but the perfect idea had never presented itself until now. It is a great idea, too. She was inspired but things around her and things she knows, which is always a great thing. It’s great to see her so excited and on fire to bring her idea to life.  I can’t wait to see her finished product in print. I can already see what it’s going to look like and picture it on bookstore shelves everywhere. So be sure to be on the lookout for Erin Al-Mehairi’s books on shelves at a store near you.

In a perfect world, we’ll both end up with published books in stores everywhere by the end of the year or sometime next year. I can see us doing joint book signings around Ohio, heck, how about around the country. A guy can dream, right? I have faith in her and I have faith in myself. I know we can do it. It’s just going to take a lot of hard work and maybe a little luck to make it all come together. The hard work part we can do. The luck, well, that is out of our hands. All we can do is do the hard work and then pray. Together.

Getting your hands dirty in the name of art

5 01 2011

There are many different phases or steps involved in writing a novel. First you have to get an idea, then you have to nurture and water the idea and help it grow into a full blown story. For me, one of the most enjoyable parts is the research. I love getting my hands dirty and digging into a subject and becoming as close to an expert as one can by simply doing hours or days of research.

Recently, I have had to do research on the geography and weather in Iran, as well as the ferry to Liberty Island. For other parts of my novel, I have done research on India, the layout of early 18th century Spanish galleons, the Treasure Coast of Florida, and devices to create a large-scale EMP. And I’m sure I’ll end up researching other things before I finish this book.

For many writers, I’ve heard them say they hate doing research. All they want to do is write. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no rule even that you have to do any research before writing. For some types of books, especially if you are writing a book based on something you already know a lot about, research isn’t really necessary.

Personally, I’ve always been an information junkie. I want to know everything about everything. Just like Sid the Science Kid. And unless you have young kids in your house who watch PBS, you probably have no idea who that is. But that’s OK. I absorb as much information as I can every day. News, current events, research for my books, whatever. Unfortunately, the older I get, the less I actually “absorb.” Somedays it seems I can’t remember where I left my head, let alone anything I read that day. That’s why I bookmark lots of Web sites and make lots of notes.

I probably obsess over the details more than I need to. But i don’t want anyone to read my book and go, “Oh that’s not right. That’s not how you do that,” or “That’s not what that looks like.” I guess it’s a control thing. I can control getting as much information as possible and accurately putting it into my book as a way to deflect possible criticisms. It makes me feel better and more secure when I have all the facts.  And I’m sure all my years in newspaper journalism also plays into my attention to getting all the facts correct.

One chapter in my book is a flashback to the Spanish fleet that set sail from Cuba and crashed along the Florida Coast in 1715 with a vast treasure on board, most of which remains undiscovered. It took a lot of time and searching online but eventually I was able to uncover details I was searching for, such as names of the captains of the ships and officials in Cuba at the time. Unfortunately, some of the details I uncovered were conflicting, which forced me to make decisions about which ones I chose to include and which ones to leave out. In the end, I think I was able to paint an accurate picture of the people and places involved, with some artistic license taken. It was almost 300 years ago, after all. Not too many witnesses left to argue with me.

The one problem with enjoying research is sometimes I have to rein it in. Too much time spent in research takes away from time that could be spent writing or other things. Other times, my research branches off and I find new ideas for my current Work In Progress or maybe even a lead on a new story idea. So it’s a careful balance.

Time to go do a little more digging.  The ferry to Liberty Island is calling to me.

Dinner time at the writing table

4 01 2011

Yesterday, I found myself eating leftovers for lunch. Now, there is nothing remarkable about that useless bit of trivia. But what was remarkable was what I was eating as leftovers: sauerkraut and tortilla chips with a spinach artichoke dip. For those who have known me a long time, you may know there was a time when I would never have let sauerkraut or anything with spinach in it pass over my lips.

For years, my diet was very simple: pasta with red or white sauce, hamburgers, hot dogs, meatloaf, chicken nuggets and some fruit. Lots of peanut butter and jelly and lunch meat sandwiches for lunches. No vegetables, no chinese, very little mexican, nothing outside the very basic and boring. Then five and half years ago, I moved in with my fiancee Erin. She is a wonderful cook. She has opened my palatte to a whole new world of flavors and dining experiences. I’ll try just about anything now. No guarantees I’ll like it, but at least I’ll try it. And a lot of the things I have tried I have liked.

Now, I wonder why I wasted all those years eating boring, bland foods when I could have been trying new things. I still love some of my old favorites: meatloaf and spaghetti and pizza. But I’ve added some new favorites: enchiladas, shrimp pasta, and many more.

In case you couldn’t tell, I can be a pretty stubborn creature of habit. Once I get in my comfort zone, it can be very hard to budge me. But that’s something I’ve improved about myself in recent years in all areas of my life, not just my eating habits. That’s why I finally started writing again. For years I was too busy and too afraid of failure to really write. Now, in 2010, I finally got back to writing, with this blog and with my novel and other works in progress. It is a daily effort to keep myself motivated to pursue change, to not procrastinate, to tackle whatever challenge lays before me. That’s one of my big goals for the  new year – to keep moving forward, to keep writing and to make positive change for myself and my family in 2011. I plan to take a big bite out of life in the new year. I can’t wait to see what it tastes like.

Let me be your “candyman”

15 09 2010

On Friday, I received my first shipment of books to review from Suspense Magazine. Inside were seven “hits” of my favorite drug: books. As soon as I saw the box on the porch, my salivary glands started to kick into overdrive. As I tore open the box, my voracious appetite was almost too much to control. Quickly I pulled the contents out of the box. As I glimpsed the covers and read the titles, I was nearly salivating.

I’ve never taken any recreational drugs so I can’t say for sure, but I imagine the rush I get when getting new books is akin to the “high” drug users feel. You should see me in a bookstore. I’m like a kid in a candy store. You really should see me in Half Price Books.

For those of you who aren’t lucky enough to have the greatest creation ever in your area, let me tell you about Half Price Books. From the name of the store, it probably is pretty evident. It’s a used bookstore which sells most books for half price or less. So if the cover price of a paperback is $5, you can get it for $2.50. Hard cover books are usually less than half price. They also have clearance sections where you can get paperbacks for $1 and hard cover for as cheap as $3. It really is a haven for those of use who get our “highs” the literary way.

What is it about books that can create such a reaction in people? There are many reasons, but the most common one is the escapist value of books. When you read a book, you can go anywhere and become any one. Romance novels let you experience being rescued by a dashing hero. Mysteries let you solve  a murder. Science fiction lets you meet every manner of creature imaginable. Thrillers let you experience the thrill of being chased by sinister bad guys and in the end saving the day. In historical fiction, you can travel to any time period and feel what life was like.

Remember that “high” I was talking about earlier, when I opened the box of books? I want to help someone else get that feeling. I want someone to find one of my books on a shelf one day and feel that rush. I want someone to read my book and get so engrossed in the world I have created that they can’t wait to read my next book. I want someone to tear open a box of books, so hungry to get another “fix.” I want to be your “candyman.” Let me take you to another world. Let me engage your mind. Let me inform you. Let me make you question things. Let my books be your “drug.”

For anyone who wants a “hit,” you can head to where I have the first four chapters of my novel posted. I also have the first three chapters on my blog here. You just have to page back a few pages and you can find them. I would love for you to read them if you haven’t yet. And any constructive criticism is appreciated. I am trying hard to learn as I write this, both from my own experience, from articles I read from other authors, and from comments people give me about my writing.

I hope you enjoy what you read and keep coming back for more.

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