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Archive for March, 2012

On knowing when you wanted to be a writer

March 15, 2012 7 comments

Over the last several months I’ve expanded my reading to include blogs written by writers or other aspiring authors. After my first visit, I usually check out the “About Me” section so that I can get a feel for the person behind the blog. All well and good, and I always enjoy learning about other people with interests similar to mine (as in writing). But there’s one thing that I read in pretty much every “About Me” I’ve seen so far. And it kind of bums me out.

Everyone out there with a writing/aspiring author blog has known from a very young age that they wanted to be a writer. Seems like it’s pretty common for elementary age kids or junior high kids to somehow have been magically swept up into the dream of being a writer someday. When I was young (in those same age groups), I was a voracious reader of almost all kinds of books. But somehow, that love of reading didn’t translate into a desire to write. I don’t know why. I do remember, however, when I first became intrigued with the idea of writing.

I pretty much stopped recreational reading after graduating from college. With a full-time job and learning how to become a father, pretty much all my time was used just to keep up. But in 1986, for reasons I can’t remember, I decided to pick up a book and start reading. Perhaps it was the title, perhaps it was front cover, or perhaps it was the author’s name (well known to say the least). Or maybe it was just the sheer size of the tome that provoked a challenge I couldn’t refuse: read me, read me if you dare.

Probably everyone who doesn’t know me would find it pretty much impossible to guess which book I chose just based on the year. Well, here’s a hint: the cover consists of a gutter, a small, paper sail boat, and green fingers sprouting claws poking from beneath a metal grate. Need another clue? Ok, the title is one word and is a pronoun. Well, the final clue is the name of the author: Stephen King. The book in question? One of his greatest, and one of his longest at over 1000 pages. If you still can’t guess, I’ll go ahead and tell you: IT

From the beginning, this book had me hooked. Every spare moment I had was devoted to King’s latest novel. Most of this time came late at night after everyone was in bed. It was during one of these late night reads that King did to me what I thought no book could ever do: he scared the crap out me. So much so that I found myself looking around in the dark for a boogeyman. After that, I closed the book and tried to go to sleep, but sleep was a long time in coming that particular night.

Wow. Just through words alone, and a pretty good imagination on my part, I’d been frightened in a way I thought could only happen while watching a movie. Up until then, the only scares I’d encountered were through movies, so it came as a complete surprise to me that a book could elicit such feelings. I was hooked. Not just on scary stories, but on King himself. His writing, to me, flowed effortlessly from scene to scene and from character to character. He literally painted pictures in my mind of a place called Derry, Maine, and described wonderful characters (and a monster) to fill the story.

This amazing reading experience did two things to me: 1) made me a huge fan of Stephen King/horror; and 2) somehow lit in me a powerful desire to write. While the first one I understand, the second I don’t. I mean, why would getting myself scared by a book make me want to write those very same types of books? I don’t know the answer to that yet, but perhaps someday I’ll understand. Until then, I guess I’ll just have to be happy that I did catch the writing bug. I may never be a big time author, but it sure is fun trying.

–dp

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Categories: Life, Writing Tags: ,

Once a year addiction

March 10, 2012 3 comments

It’s a good thing Easter only comes around once a year. Otherwise, I’d likely weigh three hundred pounds by now. Why? Because of these insidious seasonal treats.

Addictive bunny time treats

And we’ve got another month to go before Easter? Oh man, I’m in big trouble.

–dp

Categories: Holidays, Life Tags:

Sign of the times

March 9, 2012 3 comments

I recently had the pleasure of stumbling across this old sign. It was taped to the side of a beat up trash container at a local Shell gas station. When I first saw it, I literally did a double-take. Then I stood for a moment and pondered just what kind of people must live in this city such that there’s a need for such a warning:

A sign of the times

Is this really necessary?

I’ve come to the conclusion that, to quote The Joker from the first Batman movie, “This town needs an enema.”

–dp

Categories: Absurdities, Life

My first novel: a retrospective – Part 5

March 8, 2012 Leave a comment

So I’d sent off my manuscript and felt like a real author. Yeah, I know. Dumb. But still, the mere fact that someone wanted to read more of something I’d written just made me feel so … well … good! Riding the wave of euphoria, I set off and continued writing my second book. Surprisingly, despite the rather ambiguous start, the new book went pretty smoothly and panned out in directions I never expected, which is typical of how stories work for me.

NOTE: Update to my previous post. My memory isn’t quite as sharp as it used to be, so forgive me for forgetting another piece of good news that had occurred back when I was shopping around my first novel. While a publisher had requested my full manuscript, what I neglected to include in part 4 was that an agent also requested my book. What great news for me, right? Not one, but two opportunities to have my book read.

Ok, back to the story. But first, a digression …

During the writing of my second book, I took a few breaks from pounding on the keyboard to search for places where I could submit some of the stories from my small but growing collection of shorts. Back then, it was pretty difficult to find appropriate magazines. There was no internet to speak of at that time (it was still mostly limited to computer companies and universities), so I had to rely almost entirely on a very thick book entitled The Writer’s Market. It listed the magazines and periodicals that accepted unsolicited submissions, and for each of these, what kind of stories they wanted. For someone like me, I was looking for those interested in the horror/thriller genre. After I’d settled on several good prospects, I submitted requests for copies of the magazines so I could scope them out and see if they were worthy of my work :S) (yes, that was sarcasm … see the emoticon 🙂

After subscribing to, and reading through, a number of horror magazines, it became clear to me that I should submit a few of my stories. I was convinced, of course, that my work was at least as good as anything I’d just read. So, just as before, I printed a copy of what I wanted to submit, typed a few intro letters, and sent them off to several magazines. To make a long story short (pun intended :-), while I got very good responses from the various editors who’d looked over my stories, in the end all of them declined publishing them in their respective magazines. After a go around of several of my favorite shorts, I decided to call it quits for a while on the short story publishing effort and went back to banging on the keys for my second novel.

So I wrote, and I wrote … and waited (anxiously) to find out something about my first book, all the while spurred on by the fact that someone, somewhere liked the first twenty or so pages I’d written. After some time had passed, I began receiving letters from some of the publishers I’d contacted. While I’d been hoping for the best, all along I was mentally preparing myself for the worst. And the worst came true for almost all of my queries. However, there was one piece of mail I received that was different: it was from the publisher who’d asked to see my entire manuscript.

Finally!

I was nervous, but excited, as I stared at the letter. While my mind wandered off to the possibilities of what was inside the envelope, I enjoyed every second spent daydreaming about what wonderful news it must contain. So I waited quite a while, relishing the moment, before I got the nerve to open up the letter. I didn’t get what I’d hoped for, and I didn’t get what I feared.

Inside the self-addressed envelope I’d provided, a representative of the publisher had hastily scrawled a note on the bottom of my most recent inquiry. It said, in part, “Sorry – we’ve been forced out of business …” It then went on to say that my manuscript would be returned if postage had been supplied. Bleah, bleah, bleah.

What? I spent months fretting over the fate of my book. And for what? Went out of business? Are you kidding me? Man, this was a disappointment of the sort I’d not prepared for. Rejection I was ready for (sort of). Acceptance I was even more ready for. But neither had come my way. Instead, the end of my book’s first submission journey had ended in nothing more than a whimper. To be honest, I think I would have preferred a flat rejection over “going out of business”. Well, maybe not. But still …

Anyway, after a brief bout of depression, I continued my writing and waited — would you believe patiently? I thought not — to hear back from the agent.

–dp

Categories: Writing Tags: