Monday, November 30, 2009

Now I Know How Sally Field Felt

I'm a winner! I'm a winner!

I'm picturing Sally Field's famous "You like me! You really like me!" line from her Academy Award acceptance speech as I write those words except, well, I'm an unknown male writer and not a world-famous female actress. Plus I didn't really compete against anyone except myself, which is a lot different than winning the votes of influential people in your profession, like Ms Field did.

Now that I think about it, there's really no comparison at all. Forget these first three paragraphs.

But I am happy to report I won NaNoWriMo 2009, by completing 50,000 words of a novel in the thirty days of November. Now the novel is not finished - if it's anything like my first three manuscripts it will end up somewhere around 85,000 to 90,000 words - and it's only a very rough first draft, but it's there and it's taking shape!

The actual, official number of words completed in November was 51,497 and when I look at that total it still amazes me, even though this is the third time I've managed to win the National Novel Writing Month competition. That's a lot of freaking words and even if only half of them make sense, that's pretty incredible. I mean, I can fix the other half on my rewrites and edits, right?

Hopefully it's not a situation where every other word is the one that makes sense, but I wouldn't be too shocked if that were the case.

Anyway, I'm going to celebrate my big victory by watching Monday Night Football in a few minutes, which is probably pretty much how Sally Field celebrated when she won her Oscar. Oh, and if I was supposed to do something this last month and it slipped through the cracks - okay, if I blew you off - please accept my heartfelt apology. I'll try to do better going forward.

Although I do still have a book to finish, you understand.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, Now Take a Hike

I miss my dad more at Thanksgiving than at any other holiday. You might think it would be Christmas, or his birthday in July, or maybe the anniversary of the day he died, which was late in the month of January, 1998.

But no.

It's not that I don't think about him at those times of year, or all of the other times of the year, for that matter. I like to think we were pretty close and even though he's almost twelve years gone I still think about him a lot. I believe - or at least hope - I've become someone he would have been proud of, most of the time anyway, and it seems to me most young men (and women too, for that matter) look for the approval of their fathers.

I look back on most holidays from early in my marriage as kind of a blur. My wife and I moved around a lot; we called seven diferent places home in our first eight years as a married couple. Most of the holidays from that time were pretty similar, too - a drive either north or south, depending on where we were living at the moment, to southern Maine, which was where both my parent and my wife's parents lived.

We would hit her parents home and my parents home and maybe one of our siblings' homes for good measure, in kind of a Thanksgiving or Christmas marathon of well-wishes, dinners, desserts, presents and then drives back north or south. Needless to say it was not exactly what you would call particularly restful or festive; mostly it was hurried and harried.

But one thing I actually do remember about Thanksgiving at my parents' house is the walks I used to take with my dad after eating dinner. He was a guy who loved being outdoors, and after enjoying the obligatory cup of coffee following dinner, we would grab the dog and head outside for a walk. Depending on the weather conditions that walk would take place either through the woods behind their house or on the road around the neighborhood.

Sometimes everyone would go, other times it was just me and my dad, but we always did the walk. It might be sunny with temperatures in the mid-fiftes, or it might be spitting snow and in the thirties, but was always went for the walk.

I'm not exactly sure why I miss that so much. It's not like we had any deep philosophical discussions or came up with the cure for cancer or even solved the problems with the Red Sox starting rotation. But it's what I remember, and it's what I miss. Most of the time we took the walks at Christmas too, but then it was usually too cold to enjoy as much as Thanksgiving.

Now that my kids are getting old enough to actually be away and return for Thanksgiving, I think I have a better understanding of how much it meant for my parents and my wife's parents to have us back, even if it was only for a few hours. The idea of everyone gathering in one place to commemorate a holiday is really special.

Happy Thanksgiving, and don't be shy with the hugs for the people you love.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Cat's Meow

There aren't many things a writer appreciates more than positive feedback. Well, okay, there might be a few I could think of, like say a three-book contract with a half-million dollar advance, or a single-digit number on the New York Times Bestseller List. Maybe a call for advice on a thorny writing issue from Stephen King or Dan Brown. A spot on Oprah's Book Club.

Okay, there are some things better than positive feedback, now that I really think about it. But for most of us who aren't Stephen King or Dan Brown but are just struggling along, writing deep into the night after getting home from work or early in the morning before the kids get up or frantically typing away on our lunch breaks, the prospect of a little positive feedback is pretty cool in itself.

I've been fortunate in that regard, having had my first-ever published story included in Wolfmont Publishing's Ten for Ten, a collection of ten of the top stories culled from the Crime and Suspense Ezine which was published in the summer of 2008. And having two stories simultaneously end up as finalists for the Best Short Story Derringer Award this past spring.

But sometimes you have to wonder whether anyone is really paying attention, especially if you're not particularly adept at marketing yourself in an age when anyone and everyone seems to be screaming "Look at me!" at the top of their lungs.

That's why it was gratifying to find out this past weekend that my story, "PussyKat," which was featured in the premier issue of the online magazine House of Horror, has been selected to appear in a three hundred page anthology titled House of Horror Best of 2009. This book will be packed full of stories from some of the top up-and-coming horror authors and I am pleased and gratified that Sam Cox from House of Horror has chosen to include my little tale of an extramarital dalliance gone wrong.

My understanding is that this book will be available shortly, and although I have some other short stories out on submission to venues that I am awaiting decisions on, this news is a very pleasing way to end what has been an exciting and productive 2009 for me. I hope to continue the progress I have made over the last couple of years in 2010, and would be humbed and thrilled if you wanted to come along for the ride.

Thanks for checking out this post, and if you have taken the time out of your busy life to read even one story of mine, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. You rock!