It’s almost back to school time here in southeastern Pennsylvania, which means the kids will be terminating their summer brain dumps, rushing to catch up on assigned reading and trying to remember how to convert improper fractions to mixed numbers. That usually means time for the grownups to start getting their acts together, too.
I admit that I’ve slacked off this summer in a few areas – writing every day being one of the biggest. But where spring has always been the traditional time of renewal for nature, back to school time is, for kids and adults, typically the start of something fresh. It’s an opportunity to establish new routines and actually stick to them because so many other scheduled events depend on things running smoothly.
Yeah, this summer my word count for Novel #2 has fallen off, but I’ve also gotten the chance to do some things that will help make that book better even though I’ve spent a few weeks not actively banging away at it. One of those weeks was spent at our family’s own summer place, this one deviating from past years by switching the Outer Banks of North Carolina for Folly Beach, S.C.
New places equal new inspiration, so in lots of respects it was a worthwhile trip. I’m hoping it ends up as a salable travel story for the freelance writing side of my work, and there are always little details I can pick up from somewhere new to add into a story. Plus, as someone who sets his books in South Carolina but is based full time in Pennsylvania, it’s good to get back once in a while and get in touch with the people you’re writing about.
It’s also been good to go down some roads in my own reading that I don’t often travel. I tilted more toward the fantasy side of things with Fran Wilde’s Updraft and delved into the world of the Mafia – particularly as it relates to Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del. – in Charles Brandt’s I Heard You Paint Houses (look for an upcoming story on Charles and the forthcoming film version of his book in September’s Out & About magazine).
Novel #2 includes more of a criminal enterprise subplot, so it was great to read Brandt’s book and get a window into mob life beyond that provided in the Mafia film pantheon of The Godfather, Goodfellas, etc. And it’s always interesting to see what styles other writers adapt. Wilde’s is lean and tight, which keeps her sprawling, world-building tale to a reasonable and accessible length. While I’m not creating new universes out of whole cloth this time around, I’m trying to keep things leaner myself, so reading other writers who can do so is a bit like taking a master class in how it’s done.
So, here’s to parlaying my non-writing experiences and unassigned summer reading into some good, solid work on Novel #2 once everyone in the house gets back to their school year schedules. It might not be lounging on the beach or by the pool, but there will be plenty of that again next year.
I know this will come as a shock to many of you, but I’ve decided to forgo any additional work on my second novel and leave Codorus Press.
I appreciate that many of you enjoyed “Immaculate Deception” when it came out back in 2010, but the truth is that on the side sense then I’ve been earning an additional living as a closeted writer of erotic Scooby Doo fan fiction. Continue reading
With the new year, lots of folks cast their minds to a life change. For many, that change involves leaving the 9-to-5 working world and becoming a freelancer.
A while back, I was supervising my son at a birthday party for one of his elementary school classmates. The birthday boy’s father and I got to chatting about work, as dads often do in social situations, and he revealed that he was an engineer. He asked what I did, and I told him I was a freelance writer. When he probed for details, I shared my relatively flexible, work-from-home lifestyle as his eyes widened in awe.
“Oh, man! You’re living the dream!”
I demurred, as I often do when confronted with others’ disbelief, because I know in my heart that as good as freelancing sounds to people who don’t do it, it can have some pretty big ups and downs for those of us who make a living without being tethered to a single employer.
Sometimes I’m asked what the “secret” to a freelance career is. Truth: There is no secret. But there are a few commonsense steps you can take to prepare yourself if you’re seriously considering breaking free of the corporate cubical farm and going out on your own. Here, then, are my five things to do before you become a freelancer. Continue reading
Call me an overachiever.
It’s not enough for me to just imagine characters and settings and plot and all the tasty ingredients that typically go into a novel. No, I’ve got to go the extra mile and imagine what those characters are listening to, what music might be playing the background of a given scene and what songs would accompany the film version of the story that I spend years imagining in my head.
And yes, I do it all for you, my beloved readers.
OK, not really. The fact is, I can’t help it. I’m an annoying hipster’s worth of musical knowledge packed into the body of a middle-aged prepster. The combination of the words and the music is just there, and there’s really not much I can do about it. Continue reading
Spring means many things – renewal, the promise of a fresh start, the fragrance of blossoming flowers – but for the under-20 crowd the only scent during this time of year is the reek of fear sweat and desperation.
Yes, it’s graduation season. Welcome to the real world, kids.
Appropriately, I’ve been chatting with lots of parents (as a 40-ish fellow, I know precious few college-age folks anymore) who have kids either headed to college or making their way into the real world. A common thread among those headed to college is “What shall I study,” while the folks leaving college are asking themselves, “What now?” Continue reading
Back when I wrote a weekly column for my home town’s newspaper, I took it upon myself to occasionally add a hefty dose of weird to my readers’ lives. Many times, this was accomplished simply by my being … me. I could take a while to list all the ways I never quite fit the male ideal for small town Southern life, but that would bore you. Suffice it to say that it seemed like many folks had never read anything quite like the things I wrote, and had a tough time placing me into a box that would make them more comfortable.
After a particularly freaky column – in which I remember invoking the power of George Clinton‘s Parliament-Funkadelic and its funk/sci-fi hybrid Mothership Connection to bring about world peace through a global funk invasion (really, it was magnificent, and for the life of me I can’t lay my hands on it) – one reader pulled me aside that day and said, “Whatever drugs you were on when you wrote this, I want some!” Continue reading