pulling back the veil… How More Than A Memory came to be.

The past seven weeks have been a whirlwind. While I am enjoying the success More Than A Memory is experiencing, I really wasn’t prepared for the amount of work that goes into promoting a book.

dog bed

This is cute. I’m a mess in the morning…

Coupled with a busy work and family life and there are honestly times when I want to pull the covers over my head and stay in bed all day and let just this one day go by…

Then I remember why I am doing this.

The story within beckons; the characters prod me one at a time that not everyone knows about them. So again, on a day just like today, I throw back the covers and leave my stuffed animal to fend for himself while I use the minutes – sometimes seconds – in between the rest of life’s demands to spread the word as best I can.

I owe Devin and Sera that much.

During these walkabouts, both virtually and physically, I get asked how did I write this novel. From what genesis did I create a story and characters so memorable?

In no particular order as they are all highly important:

Immersion. our-insanity-is-not-that-we-see-people-who-arent-there-its-that-we-ignore-the-ones-who-are-quote-1I felt the character’s turmoil, anger, angst as they would. You can’t interpret it – that is filtering. You must be the conduit. I’ve had conversations with my characters. Do I hear voices? If I am doing it right I do. I see them standing before me, nervous ticks, doing things they are prone to do; they are living, breathing entities. I’ve written a scene and had them tell me it wasn’t how they would have reacted. Their insistence sent me back to change it.

Total. Immersion.

Have a beginning and an end with a lot of ideas to fill the middle. You can’t have a great sandwich without something between the bread.

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You don’t need the fries when the sandwich is this good.

You need more than a slice of cheese and two pickles otherwise the sandwich will be discarded and forgotten the first time it is picked up. The meat is as important as the bread. Don’t forget that – not more important however. In the interest of instant gratification, the beginning has to hook or you’ve lost half of your readers by page 5. While I stress this I have to admit I don’t let it drive my story away from what I intend it to do, what they want it to do. The prologue of More Than A Memory was intended to create a slow burn, enough to get the reader curious, because I knew the subsequent chapter would be spent laying the foundation of a twisting turning story to come.

That said, I approach a new novel with pages and pages of notes and ideas – things that I don’t even intend to have happen a hundred or so pages from now. They don’t all make it in, but I don’t strike down a good idea because I’m not ready for it yet.

Don’t force a story down a path it was never meant to go. You’re invested in these characters. You have a goal you want to accomplish with them.

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“Not all who wander are lost.” – Gandalf

Never lose sight of that as the words appear one by one from your fingertips; keep this not in the back of your mind, but in the front, as you create. If the idea is strong enough, take it there, but don’t fully commit – releasing all that was planned before – until you know it will still get you to the other side of the sandwich, the bookend piece of bread. If you find yourself bending timelines or showing square pegs into round holes, let it go. No matter how far off the beaten path you’ve gotten. Find your way back and continue on as intended. Save the knowledge of the way that didn’t work. It just could be your sequel.

Find what inspires you.

Let it be the epicenter from which the tale pours forth and the rest will fall into place.

-P

writing wrongs

Making mistakes, admitting to them and making things right again.

When weaving a new novel I try to be conscious of mistakes in word placement and grammar: semicolon here, a properly conjugated verb there. For better or worse, a plethora of today’s commercial fiction holds the rules of high school grammar at arm’s length. If I had my way no one would get to see my occasional dangling participle – so embarrassing! – but it happens.

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Conversely I would never want to sacrifice the story as it pours forth by stopping the flow to be sure a dash is needed and not a comma. You have a message, a picture you want to share, that ultimately doesn’t hinge on the proper syntax of a sentence. A comma where a period should be, a question mark gone missing, a completely misused; that’s unforgivable.

Where am I going with this? Good question. I am glad you thought of it. Hell if I know.

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Okay. That’s not true. I’ll use the subsequent paragraphs to right my wrong.

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs you know I seek new ways to tie a life of writing to the life we collectively live and breath each day. This time is no different.

We’ve all done wrong. Yes, even you. Stop shaking your head. You know it’s true. Remember that time last week..? You lost your temper and said or did something you didn’t mean. (Yes, we’ve all been there.) Did you go back and fix it or did you leave it as is assuming the person on the other end knew you were just having a bad day?

Don’t have the gumption to do so? It takes a lot of strength to look someone in the eye and admit you were wrong. And mean it. And if you just can’t do it? Write it down. No not one sentence. They deserve more than that.

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You may have made that mistake, but it isn’t permanent until it goes to print. Edit your life and your actions. You can accept some things as simply acceptable according to today’s “commercial fiction” but if they don’t sit well with you, insist on being part of your story and how it flows, right them. Or write them as it were.

I know at times these posts can seem corny, possibly even sophomoric; I’m saying what most of us already know.But then I look around at the world. I read the news. I hear it and see it in my day to day. Somewhere along the line, in our masses, we’ve lost sight of the common core prerequisites for living together in peace and harmony.

If I can make a difference in some small way with a few words on a webpage then I am going to do it. If I can’t..? Well, I am still going  to try.

-P

all that echoes (even a duck’s quack)…

Who were we a thousand years ago? Who will we be a thousand years from now?

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Thinking grand scheme can make anyone feel insignificant. We get one shot at this  (unless you’re Shirley Maclaine); one shot to make our mark create something everlasting.

Everlasting. At first blush the word seems impossible. You can build a steel bridge for all to cross a river and yet one day that bridge will be gone. Most city skyscrapers have been standing tall and strong for decades upon decades; somewhere in the future, most likely not your’s or mine, they will be gone. Our oceans are changing. Glaciers once carved their way across our Earth to form lakes and valleys; there are many scientists who believe we will see such transformation again.

So how do we live on long after we’re gone?

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Hint: It isn’t in photo albums or even your Instagram page. (Hard to believe, I know.)

The solution is simple yet so hard to execute in this day and age. In a time when we can reach people far and wide with any message we wish, the absence of the most useful communication, the most powerful, appears to be buried beneath the hate, the misguided and the hurtful.

One word, one I’ve spoken of – can I call this speaking? – many, many times before: LOVE.

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Love and the sharing of stories of love. Throughout my life I’ve had people go the extra mile, touch my life so deeply that it lives on long after we’ve parted ways. An act of kindness, love, giving. This is the seed planted that can grow into FOREVER. To cultivate that flower, that tree into the next millennium, you must share that story, reciprocate that act of kindness.

I don’t want to go off on a rant or climb onto a soapbox, but today’s media sensationalizes all that is wrong in the world; they leave a feel good story for the end of their hour only if they have time at the end. I challenge them all to lead with that story. Lead. And others will follow. The things that impact us should be reported out, but a balance of the random act of kindness or senseless act of love should always fill the opposite scale.

That’s where we come in.

Our duty as parents, as human beings, is to share the love we’ve seen over the years, pass it on and append our own acts of love to each other before we are done.

That’s how you leave your mark.

When we are gone we live on through those we left behind, those whose lives we’ve touched and left a lasting, loving indelible mark.

Do that and even a quack will carry on if you really want to find a way…

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-P

exposing myself

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There is a certain vulnerability opening to the world something that is so close to your heart. Laid bare, opinions invariably scrutinize as much as they commend. That revealed nerve feels all at a heightened level; a level I didn’t fully appreciate until I put myself out there.

Yes, I exposed myself.

More Than A Memory. When you believe in something so completely, as I do this novel, the choice between keeping it hidden or sharing it with the world became clear no matter how scared I was. The main character in this novel overcame so much; I knew I had to do the same.Or at least try.

I’m not going to lie. I’m scared as Hell. But when I can’t believe in myself, I tirelessly believe in the story. The commas, the quotes, the periods. Somehow they all tie together a tale that lives and breathes. When I wrote More Than A Memory  the characters were real. Their pain was real. Their triumphs were real. Their love was real. In truth, it wrote itself; flowing forth as fast as I could get it down.

feels real

As you know, I pride myself on brevity, being as succinct as possible.

So where am I going with all of this?

Besides the shameless plug for my book that drops on June 20th, I wanted to share the new truth I’ve found. To feel the exhilaration that comes with putting yourself out there you have to put yourself out there. Find something you believe in with all your heart and soul. Breathe it. Drink it. Feel it. When you’re failing to find where you end and that something ends: you’re ready. Then what?

   Share it with the world. I did.

1st Poster Ad Front Cover Image HQ

-P

 

I fear change


   To paraphrase Heraclitus: the only thing that remains the same is change itself.

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I avoid change in my daily routine at all costs; the same breakfast, the same lunch with a small variance at dinner. I would change the dinner to something always the same but that would be… change. I fear change so implicitly that I don’t even carry coins in my pockets. The routine I so heavily lean on for comfort was vetted and tested over time to ensure maximum efficiency and keep me tethered to sanity.

Some of you are shaking your heads, chuckling at my expense; the rest of you are nodding emphatically. This incessantly spinning world introduces so many variables on a daily basis that relying on tent poles crafted from consistency only makes sense. Right? Wrong? It’s up for debate – just not with me. Follow your bliss, embrace change; there is no reason the two have to be synonymous!

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Okay, so maybe this is closer to the truth. Change is the unknown, the scary thing just out of sight, waiting around the next corner to jump out and make you wish you’d thought to wear Depends that day. The truth is change is inevitable, except from a vending machine. We must change as human beings or we’d all still be in diapers, sleeping all day, being fed and cared for by people who love us and protect us. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? 🙂

Growing is part of living, interacting with the world and the world interacting with us. Not all of it is pretty. Not all of it is kind. But those are the things that change us, make us who we are. Time travel hasn’t been introduced to the general public yet so there is no way of knowing what will happen next. Even if we had a crystal ball – would you really want to know what comes next?

Consulting Crystal Ball for Future of Earth

A man is consulting a crystal ball to foretell the future of planet Earth. Earth image courtesy of NASA http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/

Where am I going with all of this?

I cope with change through the people I create in the worlds I forge and forever seal in time on pages, in chapters, filling books. Characters put through an emotional gamut cannot remain unchanged when they come out on the other side. So how could I expect to do the same?

Change is good. Sure there is bad change. But if you’re looking, eyes wide open and patient, you can avoid the bad for the most part. You’ll grow, prosper, discover and… change. If you never changed you would still be in those diapers – and that would be weird. (I promise I’m not judging.)

I know one day I will put myself out there, step into the darkness without a flashlight, take a leap of faith not fully knowing the ramifications. I could do that today, but given my current overwhelming view on the subject, I know that step would mean… change.

And we all know how I feel about that don’t we?

-P

Editing Myself

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So it has been a while. Believe me, I want to blog more often than the frequency in which you need to buy dryer sheets or go to the dentist for a cleaning. I’ve been a little distracted with this whole writer/editor/cover designer/publisher role I’ve taken on. The hard work and countless hours are coming to fruition but I am amazed the time it takes to edit a 209,000 word book.

If you’ve read more than one of my blog posts you know I have a penchant for using metaphors; I love to take a common practice of a writer and draw similarities between that and living life. Today is no different.

Writing, editing, designing, publishing is a full time job. For four people. And yet we, as human beings, do this in our everyday lives when you stop and think about it. In our mind’s eye we gather the world we see before us, collect the details, and process. We write our response, edit it, design it so that it comes across correctly and then publish it from our lips.

   Oh if we could only edit a little better. Am I right?

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The book I am editing is my own. It grew from me, pencil to paper, keyboard to word processor, and yet I am still finding a plethora of places where I’ve made changes or corrected glaring imperfections.

Where am I going with all of this?

All too often we speak off the cuff; we let our emotions trample of stream of consciousness with flippant insults or fire off the first thing that comes to mind because our feelings are hurt. What if we all stopped before we spoke, before we acted? You’re hurt, your’re feeling ultra sensitive, you want to spew the most hateful thing you can think of.

If only we could have this sign flashing in neon before the words slip out…

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My point, and I do have one, is this (and I’ve promised myself that if there is ONE thing I teach my children before they are an adult it’s this): Stop And Think. S.A.T. Consider circumstances leading up to where you are in that moment. Think about what would happen if you truly said what was on your mind. And if you still want to say/do it? Take the time to find a way to phrase it so the words are how you feel – not how you want to make the person feel from what they’ve done to you.

You can’t go back. You can’t edit what you did/said in the past. You can posture, you can try to make up for it, but you can’t go back. Consider this for just a few moments each morning before you start your day; face the world with your editor on, speak in your final draft, love as you would want it in print…

It will be hard. Writing, editing, designing and publishing is a four person job after all…

-P

A Book and The Cover Can Be Two Very Different Things…

In George Eliots’s The Mill on the Floss (1860), Mr Tulliver uses the phrase “don’t judge  a book by its cover” in discussing Daniel Defoe’s The History of the Devil, saying how it was beautifully bound. As it was then it is now, it is a metaphor to be applied to a great many things: a person, many a inanimate object, a group of people, a situation, a book

I beseech you to find anyone who hasn’t heard the phrase before. It is up there with sliced bread and Taylor Swift. (Probably after Taylor Swift.) Where am I going with this? Too often in our busy lives we rush. Rush through work, rush through play and rush to judgement.

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Life doesn’t slow down, but you can.Promise.

In doing so, you not only stop and smell the roses (yet another timeless metaphor), but you take the time to dig a little deeper, see what lies beneath the crust of life. When that happens all of our snap judgments melt away by default. Choices in life become clearer, reasoning less cumbersome. Most decisions in life don’t have to be made in seconds; take your time. Consequently, those books covers will get more than a passing glance. Those people, those situations, will become clearer; you can start to see all that you missed.

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What does this have to do with writing? Peter, you always find a way to tie life back to writing. Right. I almost forgot. In the hustle and bustle of today’s literary world I truly believe authors such as myself are getting passed over and not really looked at simply because it is a numbers game, too many inquiries and too little time.

So I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands. After hearing my novel is “too long” or “simply not what we are looking for right now”, I’ve decided to self-publish. If others won’t take stock in what I’ve written, then I will. My hardcover creation may never make the NY Times Bestseller list, but it WILL make my coffee table at home.

Maybe, just maybe, through word of mouth, the right person will hear about it and scoop up a story I believe could stand up against 99% of all new fiction sold on today’s bookshelves. If literary agents won’t slow down to get past the cover(letter), I will make my dream come true on my own. It goes against the grain. People may see me waving my novel from a local street corner or find me peddling it via social media and think I’ve finally lost it. If you do, do me a favor: slow down, give it a read – don’t just a book by its cover.

2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - Arrivals

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – FEBRUARY 28: Taylor Swift attends the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted By Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)

   T-Swift. Just because I can.

-P