Sunday, April 29, 2012

Status Update and Cover Sneak-peek

I haven't posted any status updates in a while, for those who might want to know what's going in the world of J.R. McLemore. Let me appease those few people now. If you recall, I posted a while back a list of projects I was working on. Well, that list has changed.

I'll get to the changes in a moment, but first, let me assure you that The Old Royal is still slowly marching its way toward publication. It is currently in the hands of a third beta reader and I am anxiously awaiting feedback. Hopefully, there will not be any major changes needed. I'll review the feedback, make the necessary edits, and hand it over to a fourth beta reader. When I receive the story back from that last reader, I will go over it one final time and then publish it. I know this sounds like a lot of beta reading, but I want it to be the best story I can deliver and I feel that having more people look at it and point out faux pas for me to address is the best way to ensure a quality story.

In that previous post mentioned above, I said I had a southern Gothic book called Lathem's Lament that I needed to edit. This has not changed. Nor, I am sad to admit, have I done any editing on this story. I promise, though, I will. My thought was to release Lathem's Lament simultaneously with another book, which I will mention in a moment. Since Lathem's Lament is not crime fiction, I was hesitant to release it separately. I thought it would be better received if it was released along with a crime story for those readers who don't care to read southern Gothic. We'll see what happens closer to the release date. Maybe I'll release it separately, maybe not.

And now for the change. But, first, let me be open here and confess that I tend to flip-flop between projects. I will get excited by a story idea before I finish outlining it, only to start writing prematurely. Once I realize that the story needs more time to mature, I abandon it with the intention of returning to it later. I've done a lot of flip-flopping during the previous months. I finally settled on a story called Carniville that has been lurking in my Story Ideas file for a while now.

I turned the plot over and over, filling in obvious plot holes and sketched a cast of characters that I felt comfortable with. I pitched the idea to friends who provided enthusiastic feedback and, after feeling comfortable with the notes and outlines I've made, decided to proceed. Carniville is a locked-room mystery. It is the story of a murder that takes place at a small apartment complex in Florida where sideshow freaks live when they are not touring the carnival circuit. When the fat lady is murdered in her apartment, and her husband becomes the prime suspect, a resident name Blake feels obligated to expose the real killer in order to clear the husband's name.

I'm not very deep into the story--only about 50 written pages so far--and I am very excited by what I currently have. I've never written a mystery, especially a locked-room mystery, so this is a real challenge for me. I feel that it's coming along very nicely. In fact, I'm so excited about it, I've already developed the cover, which I've included below. I welcome any and all feedback regarding the cover and what you think of my short synopsis. Does it pique your interest? I hope so. Also, I hope you'll stick around to read it and The Old Royal when I publish them. Thanks for dropping by!

Friday, April 27, 2012

My 40th Birthday

Today is my birthday. I turned 40. *Sigh*
To me, age is nothing but a number. Well, it used to be that way. Actually, it kind of still is just a number. I mean, I don't really feel any older. Truth be told, I feel like a kid trapped in an adult's body most of the time, something I think many adults won't openly admit. But, as 40 drew nearer, it made me think of my goals in life. And, then I realized that FORTY years of my life have passed!

It's a little bit daunting to think that you're getting closer and closer to those final days. But, on the other hand, 40 isn't like turning 70 or 80 (I hope I'll be around to celebrate those milestones. Hell, why not even 90 and 100!) It's just a number that sets the mind to thinking about the future. There are still a lot of books I hope to write, masks I want to make, and things about our world that I want to learn.

I don't feel any different now that I've reached my 40th birthday. I still feel like a kid held hostage in an adult body. I like living life and I try to have fun doing it. I intend to continue living that way, with optimism instead of pessimism. I don't usually celebrate my birthday with cake and gifts or big gatherings. Since entering adulthood, I've treated my birthday just like any other day. I'll do that today. I'll celebrate by working on my current book, Carniville, and cooking out this evening.

Thanks for stopping by! I'll leave you with a little humor from Louis C.K.'s perspective of turning 40:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Why I Write

Because, I can!

Seriously, that's not the only reason I write. And, while there are many different reasons I write, some of them are for deep and philosophical reasons. I have a creative mind and I have to let it stretch its legs and run once in a while.

I wrote my first novel, The Shadow People, back in the early 2000s. It still hasn't seen the light of day, but I promise, I will publish it in the near future. I had such a wonderful time writing that story. It was during a time after I had just started work at a new company. I spent my lunch hour reading in a nearby Barnes & Noble. One day, I forgot to bring the book I had been reading, so I decided to pick one up off the shelf. At the time, I was a big fan of Stephen King. I found his book, On Writing, and sat down with it. I ended up buying the book before leaving the store. Stephen King made the process of writing sound like a wondrous escape from reality. Getting lost in the worlds of your imagination appealed to me at that time for reasons I can't explain. Although, if I had to guess, I would say that deep down, my subconscious knew something was amiss in my marital life before I did; my ex-wife and I were still married at the time.

As I read On Writing, a story idea began to develop in my mind. I ran with it, thinking about it as I commuted between my job and home. Shortly after finishing reading the book, I decided to sit down and write the story using King's advice. I tried committing myself to a thousand words a day, which is easier said than done, especially for a beginning writer who hasn't the discipline to follow through. There were days where I didn't write anything. But, I vowed to make them up the next time I sat down to write. And, for the most part, I did! There was one day in particular where I had five days to account for. I managed to write just over five thousand words.

Sometimes, those days of writing were a painful, grueling slog when the ideas were hard to come by. Other days, were sheer delight as the story played out in my mind like a movie and the words flowed easily. I managed to write the story. I believe it was somewhere in the neighborhood of ninety-thousand words. Then, my marital life ran aground. I put the story aside. I didn't revisit it until a year later. I found it to be atrocious when I first re-read it. So, I rewrote it. And, I rewrote it a third time.

Like I said, it hasn't seen the light of day. But, it will. Since then, I've written numerous short stories and a couple of books, some of them still in various stages of the writing/editing process. I enjoy the sensation of escaping reality to spend time in worlds I create. I enjoy the experience of walking in my characters' shoes. In addition to writing the story, I have discovered that I love the whole process of creating a book from cover to cover. Having complete creative control is invigorating. But, there's nothing like hearing the readers' reactions!

Not many writers, especially independent writers, get to enjoy this. I feel lucky, though. Most of my colleagues are also readers who have read my books. When they discuss the story with me, I'm on cloud nine. I love hearing their reactions to what I've written. Even if they don't quite like some aspect of a story, it's great to hear their feedback. Most of all, I like their differing opinions about my stories. I would say that this is the main reason I write! As long as I can keep conjuring new worlds with characters to fill them and spin an entertaining yarn, I'll continue to write. I write for the readers. The readers are my friends. I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into why I write. Thanks for stopping by.

Book Review: Blabbermouth

Today, I bring you yet another book review. This one is called Blabbermouth by Joel Travis. I'll be honest up front, I don't read many independent authors' books. You might think this is because I, like many people out there, don't trust them to write a quality story. If this is what you think, you're dead wrong! That's crazy because, I am an independent author! I read for two purposes, in this order: to be entertained and to learn different writing techniques.
I managed to get a free copy of Blabbermouth during one of Joel's marketing promotions. It is available on Amazon in digital format as well as paperback. Last I checked, it was also available on B&N. Currently, the digital version is $2.99 and the paperback is listed as $13.49. When I saw the cover, I was apprehensive. This is the first book in a series for a character named Brit Moran. Like I said, I got a copy for free. You can't beat free, right? Especially, if you're on the fence about it. I had never heard of Joel Travis, but he already had several reviews. When I got my copy, they were all nearly 5-stars. That many positive reviews was persuasive. So, I decided to try it out. (I'm not the type of person who snatches up free books only to have them taking up space on my device. I don't get those people's mindset. I suppose they're just hoarders. If I get a book, it's with the intention of reading it, and fairly soon.)

Blabbermouth begins with Brit making a confession on, what he thinks is, his deathbed. Of course, he doesn't die from his injuries and he's already let the cat out of the bag about some questionable acts he's committed. This obviously lands him in some hot water with some nefarious characters he has worked with. However, things take a different turn when Brit becomes the main suspect in a murder investigation. Brit sets out to clear his name by solving who the real killer is.

In addition to humorous narrative and dialogue, there is an element of a locked-room mystery, which I really love. At first, I was torn between whether or not I even liked the main character. His personality is a bit grating at times. His interactions with friends and family is sometimes interesting and questionable. However, by the end of the book, I was still rooting for him to clear his name.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and found Joel's writing and character development to be above average. If you enjoy mysteries with humor and a solid, well thought out plot, then I encourage you to read this book. I really think you'll enjoy it. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

How to handle a bad review: What, me worry?

Okay, so this topic is nothing new among writers. I mean, if you want to be an author, you're going to have develop a thick skin, suck it up and drive on, etc. I know there have been countless blog posts written that offer the same trite advice. I figured I would go ahead and throw my hat in the ring and tell you how I deal with readers who don't like what I write.

For those that know me, I'm probably perceived as incredibly laid back and don't ruffle easily. I strive not to dwell on the negative and choose to let shit roll off my back. Life is just easier that way.

I suppose this carefree attitude came from my years spent working as a firefighter/EMT. I saw a lot of tragic nonsense, a lot of death. That kind of stuff will definitely change you when you see it day in, day out. You've got to distance yourself from it emotionally or it'll ruin you. Now that I work a nine-to-five job in an office, there's nothing that really bothers me emotionally (aside from the stupidity I witness). There's nothing really life-or-death there.

Writing, for me, is the same as the office environment. There's nothing to worry over. Okay, you're probably waiting for me to get on with how this ties in to coping with bad reviews. Well, I self-published a short story, Hush, Hush, My Love, as a way to test the self-publishing waters. It was an experiment to learn the ropes and determine if this was an avenue I wanted to pursue. I chose this story because it was the first I had published professionally. In addition, I thought it was one of the best short stories I'd ever written. Many of my friends who'd read it agreed. To this day, it's still one of my favorites!

I tried publishing the story for free. I didn't want people to pay for something so short (it's only about 1,200 words long, barely more than flash fiction!) I released it out to the various distributors I typically use: B&N, Amazon, and Smashwords. On Smashwords, it received several 4-star reviews. I was extremely happy. Later, readers from B&N weighed in. The first was from some reader who obviously hated it. It received its first 1-star review with: "This is a short story right out of a sick man's nightmares." I was upset when I first read that comment. It was like having someone punch your child in the head after sending them out into the world. How could they berate something I created?

Easy. That's how. It's like the old saying, "You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time". I don't know who actually said that, but it's so very true. Despite my classifying it as a horror short story, I guess the person who left that (as well as the others who weighed in with one-stars and no comments) mistook it for a romance or erotica story by the cover. I won't speak disparagingly of any of those readers because I don't know them. For all I know, some of them might be geniuses. I just chalk it up to the fact that I couldn't please them. It happens. Perhaps, they'll enjoy one of my other stories.

James, a colleague of mine, said that the negative responses only showed that my books were doing what art is supposed to do: striking a chord with people. After all, isn't art supposed to illicit an emotional response? I couldn't agree more with my friend. I believe he's absolutely right.

The bottom line is that you can't please everyone. And, it hasn't stopped me from writing stories that I want to write. I don't write for the masses. Sure, I want as many people as possible to enjoy my work, but that doesn't mean everyone will like it. As long as there are some people out there who find it entertaining, then I guess I'm doing all right. So, my advice is this: Write what interests you and what you enjoy. Somewhere out there are like-minded individuals who will be glad you didn't let a bad review stop you from pursuing your goals.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Finally, it's over...for now

Yesterday, I did something I always dread doing. I mowed my lawn. Doesn't sound like an ordeal, does it? Well, for me, it is. See, I'm lazy. I work at a desk all day where I program computers. Not to mention, my yard is a bitch to mow. The front yard is easy. It's pretty much flat. However, the back yard has an odd slope and drops off where the previous owners had an above-ground pool. In addition to this odd slope/cliff, I'm convinced there is radioactive waste buried out there because the grass (dare I call my weeds grass?) grows ten times faster than the front yard or our neighbors' yards. In a weeks time, I can look out and see a pasture that requires a bush hog to clear. Oh, and I only have a push mower. There's no way you can cut the back yard with a riding lawn mower. Unless, of course, you fancy yourself Evel Knieval.

So, since I'm lazy, I do not enjoy nor look forward to cutting my grass. My neighbors all seem to be over achievers, wanting to keep up with the Jones's and out do one another. Needless to say, they've all cut their yards since spring has sprung. To hell with all that! I was the only holdout on the block with my yard that looked like a jungle. I swear I saw monkeys out there a few days ago.

I'd finally had enough and vowed to mow the grass yesterday (as well as perform some other chores I tend to put off). I wasn't looking forward to any of this work, though. And, it saddened me to know I was going to piss away a beautiful Saturday doing stuff I hated. Anyway, I just bit the bullet and did it. It only took me about two hours. It would've been less had the lawn mower not refused to crank near the end. Of course, that's my luck. I had to remove the spark plug and clean it to get the damned thing working again. I may be lazy, but I can't stand do do a half-ass job. (Although, I did not mow the lower section of the back yard--this will require more effort to knock down some bushes that decided to Hulk out during the winter. I'll tend to those next week.)

Once it was over, I enjoyed a revivifying shower, took a load of recycling to Berry College where I enjoyed watching my wife's dance performance. When that was over, I returned home and relaxed on the sofa with a beer (actually, several). I had the house to myself when my wife and daughter went to Atlanta. During that time, I watched several Twilight Zone episodes from the box set I own. That was very enjoyable. It's been a while since I've watched any of the old black-and-white episodes and I love the twists even though I know them all.

Today is April 1. A relaxing Sunday. A new month. I hope to get some writing done. It feels good to have the first mowing session of the year behind me because it's always the worst. The sad realization is that there are plenty more days ahead to mow the grass and it will be miserable in the summer when Georgia temps soar near the triple digits. Too bad it won't kill the grass.