As a matter of fact, I do. It was a short story titled 'Dark Glasses', about a homeless man who finds a pair of, what else, dark glasses. He puts them on and everything that's going on around him changes; the weather, the people walking by - but the time of day remains the same. He happens to be standing near a newstand and realizes by looking at the papers that when he puts the glasses on, he can see exactly 24 hours into the future.
A couple of years ago, I was cleaning out some old file folders and came across the first 3 pages of the story (which, if I remember correctly, was 6 or 7 in its original incarnation). That story, heavily rewritten some 30 years after the original, became the lead story in my first release, "Dark Glasses and Other Tales".
What is your writing process?
Ha! My writing process is a textbook case of 'How Not to Do It". I have a terrible habit of constantly correcting, adjusting, adding as I go. Most writers I know write straight through (pretty much, anyway) the first draft, then go back and start fixing it, sometimes a dozen times or more. I write, rewrite, spell-check, everything on the first go-round. I still go back afterwards and edit and rewrite, but a lot of the 'lesser' errors (spelling errors, punctuation, repeated words) are already fixed (mostly!). Once I'm done, I format the manuscript into a book template and order a proof copy. When I get the proof, I go through it carefully with my trusty red pen and find as many errors as I can. Then I fix all the problems I've found and order another proof copy. Usually by the third or fourth proof, I'm satisfied and the book is released through my own darkglassespublishing.
What do you read for pleasure?
Usually stuff by the biggies: Stephen King, Dean Koontz, John Grisham, Ron McLarty, Stuart Woods. I also read things that I think might spark a story idea, such as local history and ghost stories, things like that. On occasion, I read biographies as well, especially anything about Walt Disney.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing in the mid-seventies, but shortly thereafter, I became interested in songwriting, which I was active in until 2008 or 9. In 2011, I rewrote a short story I had written in the seventies, then another, then started writing all-new material.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My younger daughter attends the University of Hartford, in Connecticut. This past June, my wife and I brought her to the school for freshman orientation. The students were expected to stay on campus overnight, but the parents were not, so we headed home. On the way, I missed a turn (something I do with alarming regularity) and we ended up lost in Windsor, which is, I believe, about 9 or 10 miles north of Hartford. (We live almost directly east of Hartford, in case you were wondering.) As we were driving through some very pretty countryside, we kept seeing these huge barn-like structures. We were curious what they were, and I finally told my wife I thought they might be tobacco sheds. (Don't ask me how I knew this, because I'd have to make something up. I honestly have no idea.) As it turns out, that's exactly what they were. I did a little online sleuthing and found out that part of Connecticut, known as the Tobacco Valley, grows what most cigar aficionados consider to be the finest tobacco in the world. Called 'shade tobacco' because it's grown under cloth canopies (which raise the humidity and the temperature), it's used for the outer wrapper of fine cigars. I believe it's also used for the inner wrapper, or 'binder', as well.
Anyway, this whole idea of tobacco plantations in New England fascinated me, and I began to do research into the tobacco industry in Connecticut. I started thinking it would be a good setting for a book. And since the book I was planning was a murder mystery, the story became "Murder in the Valley", my 4th book and 3rd novel.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Impatience, basically. After each of my first two manuscripts were done, I spent a lot of time researching agents because I figured that was the best place to start. I also researched how to write queries, which are the letters (or emails, in most cases) that you send to an agent (or publisher, if you're so-inclined) introducing yourself and hoping to interest them in both you and your book (actually, your manuscript at that point).
What I found was that more than half of the agents I queried never even responded to my emails and, of those that did, all I got were stock replies telling me they weren't interested. No, I take that back. One agent requested, I believe, the first 30 pages, then told me my story had already been done before. Repeatedly. As a songwriter, I sent out a lot of cassette tapes and, later, CDs and I got my share of rejection letters, as does everybody. But, when I was dealing in the music industry, absolutely every person I sent songs to responded. The vast majority said 'thanks, but no thanks' (not everybody, though), but at least they responded.
I also discovered, again through online research, that, if you're fortunate enough to sign with a publisher who agrees to release your book, the time between inking the deal and the book actually turning up in print can be 12-18 months. 12 months from now, I'll be surprised (and disappointed) if I haven't released 4 more books, never mind 1!
It's not easy wearing every single hat; besides the writing (the fun part!) I do most of the editing, marketing, cover design, layout, maintain a web presence, set up appearances, you name it. If I had a budget (I don't; well, I guess I do, but it's $0) I could farm out some of the work, most notably the editing and marketing, maybe covers, but that's not an option. I'd like to be able to spend all the time I spend not writing, writing.
So despite the small annoyances, like marketing, I feel like being an indie author is the best fit for me.
What are you working on next?
As I wind down on my 3rd novel, I'm also working on a novella, which will be part of my 2nd short story collection. I hope to release it in time for Christmas. (Books make great gifts!!!) It's the story of a best-selling horror author who's suffering from a terrible case of writer's block. His wife arranges for him to spend a month at a cabin in the words, where he finds himself in a real-life version of one of his own stories. That one is called "The Cabin in the Woods". Other stories in the book will be "Van Tiner", the story of an incredibly-arrogant action-movie star; "A Case of Mistaken Identity" (which will probably be published with a different title) about a man who spots a picture of his wife on Facebook. With another man; and another as-yet-untitled story about a star baseball player who is involved in a horrific accident.
Do you have any advice for people who want to write?
Yes. Write! Seriously, it's that simple. If you want to write, just do it (my apologies to Nike for stealing their slogan). Just write. Ignore the naysayers, ignore the people who tell you that the odds of ever being successful are stacked against you, associate with other writers, and learn how to deal with criticism because, let's face it, we all get it and sometimes it's very helpful. Carve out some time -every day, not once a week- to sit down in a quiet corner and write. In my case, I do the majority of my writing either in the morning, when the house is pretty much empty, or late at night. (And I do mean late; it's 4:14 right now. Yes, that's AM.)
If you want to write, you have to make time and do it. It really is that simple.
Describe your desk
My desk is a beautiful wooden writing table, sitting in my office. It's uncluttered, holding only my laptop, a banker's lamp on the left and a legal pad and pen on the right. Usually, there is a cold drink handy (Coke Zero or Pepsi Max, whichever one was on sale this week). My mouse pad and my mouse are there, as well.
Actually, that's my fantasy desk. My actual 'desk' consists of a section of kitchen counter, where I have my reference materials (thesaurus, maps, etc) a slew of notebooks, all of which are being used at the same time, a pencil cup filled mostly with red; red pencils and red pens. (I use A LOT of red.) There's a shoebox with the postcards in it that I use for each new book to let every library in Rhode Island know that I've released one. There's a box of trash bags and a roll of paper towels, although I don't know why. There's a lamp and two bottles (Jose Cuervo tequila, unopened, and Jose Cuervo margarita mix, also unopened) that I'm using as bookends for my reference books. There's also a file card box that contains index cards for each and every character in my new novel. And one of my most-prized possessions, a Howard Johnson's ashtray that I bought on eBay.
Someday (maybe) I'll have a big boy desk.
What's your opinion on writer's circles?
Writer's circles are a great way to meet other authors, share tips (or horror stories), and receive feedback. Of the three, I would rate feedback as the most important reason for belonging to a writer's group, but only if you know what to do with it when you get it.
First, and perhaps most important, you have to understand that a critique is someone's opinion; nothing more, nothing less. There's no such thing as a right or wrong opinion. It's what someone THINKS, not necessarily what IS. I've seen too many people who take critiques from their peers to heart and feel like they've failed miserably because one person in the group criticizes their 'baby'. Whoever said "you can't please everybody" knew what he (or she) was talking about. No matter what you do, somebody somewhere is not going to like it. There are people who think Stephen King is a lousy writer. That's just the way it is. Personally, I think he's a genius, but that's just my OPINION. It doesn't mean I'm right, it just means that's how I feel.
If you wrote a story and ten people critiqued it, one person saying some aspect of your plot isn't working is that person's opinion. You MAY have a problem, but then again, you may not. Take their criticism and look at your story from their point of view. Sometimes you can use a critique, sometimes you can't. Now, if six out of the ten people make that same criticism, it's pretty obvious you DO have a problem. But again, take a new look at your story from their points of view.
It's also helpful to add a suggestion to the criticism. A good critique gives specifics: "I didn't feel like your plot twist worked too well for me because it seems unlikely that the dog could dial the telephone to call 9-1-1. Maybe you could have him lick his master until he wakes up and have the man dial 9-1-1" is a helpful critique. On the other hand, "I didn't like it" with no other explanation is NOT a helpful critique.
So, bottom line, if you want to meet some cool people and get some honest feedback on your work, consider joining a writer's circle. You can usually find one through your local library. And if there are none in your area, think about starting one.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Wow, it's tough to pick one thing. I get a lot of joy from seeing an idea turn into a written page, or 10 pages, or 100 pages. There's something inherently cool about creating something from nothing.
I enjoy when a story takes a sudden turn and seems to head off in its own direction, almost as if it has a will of its own. (As you've probably guessed, I don't outline.)
I find a great deal of joy in finishing a story and seeing the first print copy, holding it in my hands and knowing that this is something I created, a whole world populated with characters who didn't exist until I thought them up.
But, the most joy comes from someone sending me a message on Facebook, or an email, or calling me and simply saying, "I really enjoyed your book." There aren't too many things that can top the feeling I get when that happens.
Is there anything you'd like to ask of your fans?
Yes. Independent writers face an uphill battle when it comes to getting their name -which is basically their brand- out there. The best way to do that is with reviews. The problem is, the vast majority of people who read your book, even if they say they will, almost never write reviews. So, I would ask everyone who reads my books (or any indie author's books) to take a couple of minutes and write a review, whether it's on Amazon.com, or Nookpress.com, or Goodreads.com; wherever. It's the most helpful thing you can do for an author and it is ALWAYS appreciated.
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