Before the Darkness: Thoughts on Earlier Writing

Don’t ever let them tell you life is short, Ty. Life is long and people do lots of things. Some of them good. Some of them bad. And sometimes these things catch up to people. And sometimes that takes a long time.  – Evelyn Kydd, from Then Came Darkness

The arc of a writer’s life is long, too. You have to write a lot of bad stuff (and read a lot of good stuff) before you learn how to write well.

I’ve been writing since I was seven years-old (my first story was a melodrama about a jewel heist) and I’ve shoveled my fair share of crap, including countless twisted tales during middle and high school, and three highly questionable and amateur novels I rushed to market during the infancy of the self-publishing craze right after college before I finally wrote some good stuff, The Thief Maker. I’d like to think my latest, Then Came Darkness, is good stuff, too. It laid dormant for a number of years as my favorite unpublished work, and then on a delirious whim fueled by exhaustion and inspiration while on parental leave last year, I thought to myself, “What the heck, let’s dust this off and publish this thing!” It was equal parts a lark, and a test of the new waters.

A lot has changed in the twelve years since I self-published my first bit of good stuff, The Thief Maker. In the years between that and Then Came Darkness I’ve been busy with blogging and short stories (some which have been published), and big life stuff like advancing in my corporate career, multiple trips to Europe, getting married, buying a house, and having a baby. It’s easier now than ever before to self-publish thanks in large part to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program, but it’s probably ten times as hard to find an audience as it was twelve years ago (not that I was very successful then either, though the small audience I did find for The Thief Maker seemed to like it).

I was honestly lost this time around until I found the #WritingCommunity on Twitter and started making use of my neighborhood Little Free Libraries, which I have tirelessly stocked with autographed copies. The one at the end of my street has been re-stocked at least five times…so thanks, neighbors, or whoever you are out there reading Then Came Darkness!

The early reviews from fellow indie authors, book bloggers, and readers have been slow to come, but mostly positive. People seem to love the characters (which brings up a feeling of pride second only to having my actual child praised by strangers), and my favorite blurb thus far has come from C. D. Tavenor, who stated “the rising conflict and relationships between characters reminded me of one of the classics I read in high school, but this time, I was reading it for pleasure!” He also loved the cover designed by my wife (thanks, hun!)

All of this made me want to take a little trip up to my attic full of boxes which store much of my earlier writing, which as terrible as most of it is, was fun as hell as to write at the time. I fondly remember the days of middle school friends fighting over who got a character named after them, and furious scribblings in notebooks during torturously boring high school classes that got passed around like gossip. Many of the techniques used, character types birthed, and themes explored later were present there from the start: fractured non-linear timelines, unreliable narrators, feisty women, tortured men, and resourceful orphans all trying to survive personal tragedies amidst larger chaotic (often apocalyptic) events.

So here, for fun, are some delicious tidbits from all that crap I had to write then to get to where I am now. Continue reading

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Of Al Capone, The Thief Maker and Death by Baklava

On a whim this Saturday I decided to take a friend on a Thief Maker Reality Tour by visiting the famous Philadelphia neighborhood where the majority of my book was set, touring Eastern State Penitentiary and dining at one of my all-time favorite restaurants.  

It had been a well over a year (maybe even two) since I had been back to the Art Museum District centered around Fairmount Avenue (and I’ll be there again next weekend for the Late Renoir Exhibit at the PMA).  Though I’ve only ever been a visitor to the area, it was like returning home as it had lived in my imagination for so long and served as the inspiration for the primary setting of my “first” novel, which now seems like such a distant memory.  It was great stomping around my old haunts, and for the first time, I played the part of a true tourist by paying to enter the famed Eastern State Penitentiary – former home of Al Capone. Continue reading

The Spiral of the Seasons

A photo I took someplace way outside of Wilmington, North Carolina.

During my senior year (2001-2002) at Elon University I took a year-long seminar course called “Quest for Wholeness”.  It was one of those courses that had a bit of a cult following on campus.  People whispered about it — I hear it lasts two semesters and there are no tests! — former students wrote about it, and there was a buzz to sign-up for it, especially among those in the Philosophy department.  The course was the brainchild of John G. Sullivan, PhD and his wife, Gregg, who had co-taught the class with him for many years even during her own battle with breast cancer.   Continue reading

Revisiting Paris, Texas — The Best Film of the 1980’s

Let’s go for a drive.

…Paris

 

Texas!

 

Paris, Texas

Putting the two words together is something of an oxymoron.  A comma between them becomes a pregnant pause.  Two places couldn’t be further apart than Paris and Texas.  We can’t seem to come to terms with its existence as a real place…but then we see a picture of that barren stretch of land.  For a man named Travis and his son Hunter it becomes the center of their universe, the origin of all things, a place achingly unreachable, alive only in their dreams where they long to be with a woman named Jane in a faraway land where the purchase of a remote plot of dirt represents the key to a happiness that could never be.

It’s a place that can only exist as an “idea   ——-   of her…love…family…redemption…the movies.” Continue reading

Well If You Must Scream

We can scream if we want to!

We can scream if we want to!

Inspired by the current polling going on at Wonders in the Dark  (which for my money is the best movie blog site on the web right now) concerning the Best Films of the 1970’s, I decided to catch up on some of the great films from that decade I had yet to see.  One thing led to another, and there I was with the obscure Edvard Munch sitting atop my Netflix queue.  Directed by renowned forefather of the docudrama, Britian’s Peter Watkins, this complex and nearly four hour long biopic of Norwegian post-Impressionist painter Edvard Munch was originally made as a miniseries for Norwegian/Swedish TV in 1974.  It was released theatrically around the world in 1976 and was recently done up as a two-disc special edition on DVD.  I watched it in those two parts over the course of two nights and was completely transfixed.

Brazenly presented in the style of a documentary, Watkins’ film begs you to feel as if his cameras were literally there from “moment one” in Munch’s childhood during the late 1800’s all they way up through the abrupt close of the film half way through his life around 1910.  Continue reading

Contest Winners Archive

In November of 2007 I was prompted to give away autographed copies of my acclaimed independent novel, The Thief Maker, to five lucky readers in my first ever book drawing.

The response to the contest was so great, that starting in January of 2008 I began to have a drawing to win a personally autographed copy of The Thief Maker at the end of every month.

Sadly all good things must come to an end, and after a run of 15 months straight, the drawings came to a close in March of 2009. In all, 21 lucky readers from across the globe won free signed copies of my novel.

Below is the archive of those lucky winners.

Thank you to all who entered over the many months and congratulations to the 21 who won.

________________________________________________________________

November 2007 winners:

Carmen, Jersey City, NJ

Angela, Montgomery, AL

Rake, Gilford, NH

Darshan, Altadena, CA

Lita, Auckland, New Zealand (The Thief Maker goes international!)

________________________________________________________________

2008 Winners:

January: George, Waltham, MA

February: Ana, Luquillo, Puerto Rico

and “The Pear Lady”, Pearland, TX

March: Erin, Savannah, GA

April: Chris, Wenatchee, WA

May: Sonja, Toronto, Canada

June: Shirley, Black Creek, GA

July: Jane, Wasola, MO

August: Liza, Taylors, SC

September: Melissa, Virginia Beach, VA

October: Eleanor, Greenville, PA

November: DeeAnn, Pottstown, PA

December: Jill, Lexington, KY

________________________________________________________________

2009 Winners:

January: Scott, Toronto, Canada

February: Jeane, Mesquite, TX

March: Christina, Virginia Beach, VA

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The Thief Maker Named Finalist in Eric Hoffer Awards

Nearly a year and a half after its publication, my novel The Thief Maker continues to accumulate accolades.

The Thief Maker was recently named a Finalist in the 2008 Eric Hoffer Award for Independent Books.

Though it will not be taking home one of the grand prizes, being named a Finalist places The Thief Maker in “the top 10% of entrants to be considered for prizes…Less than 50 books each year are dubbed with the title of Eric Hoffer Award Finalist.”

 

Click here for the complete list of finalists.

Grand prize winners in each category will be announced April 22, 2008.

Eric Hoffer was one of the most influential American philosophers and free thinkers of the 20th Century.  His books are still widely read and quoted today.  Acclaimed for his thoughts on mass movements and fanaticism, Hoffer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983.  Hopewell Publications awards the best in independent publishing across a wide range of categories, singling out the most thought provoking titles in books and short prose, on a yearly basis in honor of Eric Hoffer.

 

The Thief Maker To Be Honored by Writer’s Digest

The Thief Maker will be awarded Honorable Mention in the Genre Fiction Category in the Writer’s Digest 15th Annual International Self-Published Book Awards.

A complete list of winners will be forthcoming on the Writer’s Digest website and the books will be promoted in the March/April 2008 issue of Writer’s Digest.

The Thief Maker is on the shelves at Philadelphia and South Jersey area Barnes & Noble stores and available for purchase worldwide through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.

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The Verdict on Self-Publishing and The Thief Maker

Earlier this month The Thief Maker was reviewed by Floyd M. Orr, an author of several non-fiction titles who reviews exclusively books published by iUniverse on his blog under the penname, Tabitha.  Orr’s reviews are of special note for authors who have used iUniverse’s self-publishing services as he thoughtfully critiques not only the content and quality of the writing, but also the quality of the physical book–i.e. the cover design, interior layout, and how well the book was edited and/or proofread.  In bold fashion, Orr passes judgment on both the author and the publisher.  Currently iUniverse is the largest and most well known provider of POD (print-on-demand) self-publishing services in the U.S. Continue reading

A Twisted “Moment” for The Thief Maker

Last month, my novel The Thief Maker was featured by “Book of the Moment.”  The novel was yet again praised for its shocking plot twists and multiple-point-of-view style of storytelling:

full of twists and turns, July 3, 2007

By  book.of.the.moment “reviewer” (USA) – See all my reviews

I finished reading “The Thief Maker” about an hour ago, and since then have been turning over in my mind ways to go about adequately summarizing and reviewing this book…its a twisted complex story and therefore, tricky to effectively summarize in a brief way.

The characters in this story intertwine in a way that leaves me at a loss for words. Like I said, its complex, and very twisted. Through the whole story I kept shaking my head…I knew there was a kick coming, but I couldn’t quite figure it out. And when it did come, it was like a slap in the face, and suddenly all the actions and motivations of all the characters became crystal clear.

“The Thief Maker” is a story about losing your identity and struggling to find redemption and revenge in a cold harsh world. The characters are fatally flawed and at the same time, tragically endearing. While they possess characteristics that are far from admirable, a reader can’t help but identify with them — be it through sympathy, empathy or downright admiration. I enjoyed this book from the first page.

The story is told through alternating characters, and sort of jumps back and forth in time. Through the alternating time settings we are filled in on the childhoods and pasts of the present day characters we are following. The chapters in the past help set the tone for the characters’ overall personality and motivations–and will leave you shaking your head at times. While the story is told in both alternate times and through alternate perspectives, it is an easy one to follow, and you’ll soon be caught up in its pages.

Learn more about BOOK OF THE MOMENT by visiting:

http://www.myspace.com/book_of_the_moment

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