Nevermind

I just finished watching Celebrity Legacies, the Kurt Cobain episode. By my recollection, this was the second time I’ve seen it. It takes me back to a simpler time, before cell phones, before the internet, before everything meant to make our lives better but which often gets in the way. Nirvana was everywhere. The radio. The jukebox. The stereo. Everywhere. The early ’90s were an amazing time to be alive, and I’m so very happy I got to be a part of it.

If you were lucky enough to live in the ’90s, you surely remember those big CD cases that were kept in your vehicle. They held anywhere from 25-200 CDs. Most were leather binders that zipped closed. I had two of those huge 200-CD capacity binders and a smaller 25-capacity binder.

That’s right. I love music.

While I was riding around with a friend one night, she was on stereo duty and flipping through the pages of my binder in search of another CD to listen to. She saw Nirvana’s Nevermind and made a statement that I still think about. She said, “Everybody I know has this CD in their CD case.” You know what? She was right. I’d never thought about it before that night, but I started paying attention to everyone’s CD collection, and yes, everyone–whether they were grunge rockers or country fans, young or old–everyone had that CD. I assume most still do, though they might have traded in the physical CD for the digital version.

Nevermind is profound in many ways. But that’s looking back on it from the 2016 perspective, after seeing how it knocked the world on its ass. I can’t help but wonder if maybe the reason it touched all of us back then, in the moment, was not only because it was good music, but because we were aware even then that it was important. That it was changing things. That album pushed hair bands to the back of the line and brought forth a flannel-wearing grunge movement that would forever change the landscape of music. I think we knew that. I think that’s why we all wanted to have it, to own it, to hold it in our hands so we could be a part–however small–of that shift. Everybody wants to be a part of something bigger than us, some monumental movement, and I think that for us ’90s people that movement was Nevermind.

Nevermind

List of Things That Don’t Make You A Writer

Truth!

CLASH

When I moved to Austin, I was surprised to learn that every guy and gal hanging out at a coffee shop was a novelist, every barista was sitting on a few truly outstanding, and unpublished, literary masterpieces, and everyone with a beard, a bike or a flowery skirt was either a great poet, the next Flannery O’Connor or the creator of the most amazing movie script in the history of scripts. It took me a week to figure out it was all bullshit. Then I learned that it’s even worse online. To help you figure it out faster, and to clarify things for all the “writers” out there, here’s a list of things that don’t make you a writer:

  1. Owning a laptop.
  2. Going to a coffee shop.
  3. Owning a cat.
  4. Putting the word author in your Twitter bio.
  5. Drinking/talking about/enjoying coffee.
  6. Living next to a university.
  7. Hanging out with writers.

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Authors Reviewing Authors

A couple of years back, the news broke that certain authors had created fake or “sock puppet” accounts in order to a) leave fake good reviews for themselves and b) leave fake bad reviews for other authors. Deplorable, right? Shady, right? Juvenile, right? Yes, yes, and yes. I have never and will never do any such thing.

Since then, I have been in a bit of a quandary. I’d like your thoughts and opinions on the matter, so here goes.

What do you think about writers leaving reviews for other authors’ books? For example, when I read a book, I would love to leave a review. But then I remember all the hubbub over those fools who faked a bunch of reviews and I think no. I shouldn’t do that. Why not? Because people might think I did the author a favor or something by leaving a review, probably for a book I didn’t read (which I would NEVER do).

What I want to know is what you, the reader, think when you see that an author has left a review on a book. Do you think it’s honest and fair? Or do you think it’s some sneaky lie? Do you think authors should even leave reviews for books?

As a writer, I know just how important reviews are. If we were carpenters, reviews are our nails. If we were surgeons, reviews are our scalpels. If we were photographers, reviews are our cameras. Reviews are absolutely essential to what we do. Readers use them to judge whether or not the book is worth their time and money. Sometimes, when a reader is on the fence about investing so much of themselves into our work, those reviews are the deciding factor. Knowing this, it kills me to not leave reviews for fear of readers thinking it’s a fake, a lie.

It’s time to weigh in. Tell me what you think. And thank you in advance for your opinions.:-)

 

Weeping for Prince

It’s inevitable. In the wake of a famous musician’s death, they instantly become number one. This is true of both those who’ve been in the spotlight throughout their career, riding high on their fame and glory, and those whose shine has somewhat dulled. No matter where they are in their career, be it a high or a low, their death thrusts them to the top. Take Michael Jackson, for example. The molestation allegations had nearly devastated his career and reputation, yet the moment news of his death broke, he was number one again. His songs topped the charts, played on all the radio stations, and his CDs flew off the shelves.

2016 has thus far claimed the lives of far too many celebrities. The latest being Percy Sledge and Prince. For some reason, Percy Sledge’s death hasn’t garnered the same attention as that of Prince. But Prince’s death…boy, it has certainly hit the world right in the feels.

As is usually the case, the outpouring of grief among fans of Prince is amazing. People are crying in the streets. They’re writing tributes and painting pictures. In any way they can, people are showing their support and their grief over the loss of one of the most talented musicians to ever have lived.

And then, on the other side of the aisle are people asking why. Why do people care so much when musicians die? Why do people grieve so hard over a person they’ve never met? I have the answer to those questions.

Anyone who has a heart and soul knows how important music is. Every moment of our lives is tied in some way to a song. Drive down the road on any given day with the radio on, and nearly every song will bring to mind a memory, a recall of days gone by. Whether it be happy or sad, good or bad, songs make us remember. They make us feel. They were there when no one else was. A song was playing when you had your first kiss. When you had sex for the first time. When you endured your first heartbreak. When you were riding high in your youth. When you got married. When your child was little. When your parent passed. And no matter how long you live, how many songs are written in your lifetime, hearing that song will always transport you back in time and put you there again. Back with your first love. Back with your parent. Back with your baby. Back when you were young.

Not only are songs time machines, they are also personal. One song will mean something different to everyone. The lyrics touching us each on a different and personal level. We find meaning in the words depending on our situation at the time. This alone makes music magic. Musicians magicians.

To lose the person who gave us so much, the one who gifted us with the magic, is heartbreaking. We would have to be soulless to not weep at the passing of the time lords who gave us those eternal time warps, the ability to return to former days and relive our lives in three-minute snippets.

And maybe, just maybe, another reason it hurts so much to lose someone of such a caliber is because it reminds us all that none of us are immortal. If someone as great as Prince, someone dripping with so much talent, can succumb to death, then what chance do the rest of us have?

RIP, Prince

RIP, Percy Sledge

Remembering Columbine

On October 5, 1998, I gave birth to an amazing baby boy. Six months later, 17 years ago today, there was a horror in Littleton, CO. The Columbine school shooting. I remember watching the awful events unfold on the news, and I very specifically remember thinking, “Oh my god. What have I done?” And by that, I meant this: I had just brought a baby into a world in which he wasn’t even safe attending school.
 
Columbine was far from the first school shooting (it was the 256th school shooting in American history), but it was the first that I was aware of. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t a parent before Columbine so I didn’t think of things like that. Or maybe it was because I was only 21 years old and unaware of what a truly horrific place the world can be.

On April 20, 1999, Columbine made me aware.
 
To this day, any time I see photos or video footage of the Columbine massacre, I get chills. My heart goes out to the victims and families of not only the Littleton shooting but every shooting that has every taken place on educational soil. Schools are where we send our children to learn history and science and math. One thing they should never have to learn about at school is death.

There have been an additional 175 school shootings since Columbine.

81% of school shooters have warning signs that go unnoticed or unreported. Be aware and alert, and report those signs to the proper authorities.

#StopTheViolence

 *Note: During an interview regarding Columbine, someone on TV stated that before the Littleton shooting, there was only one school shooting. I urge you to peruse the list of shootings compiled here.

Keepin’ It All Straight

A friend once asked me how I keep all the different characters in my stories straight, how I keep from getting them all confused.

My reply came swiftly.

You have more than one friend, right? Of course you do. You probably have many friends. Each of them have very different lives with many different things going on. Do you get them confused? Do you mistake one friend for another or forget which friend is going through what? No. You keep them all straight. You remember that Pam got a new job while Brian is battling cancer and Joe just got a divorce. You remember these things because they’re real people with real lives. That’s how I see my characters. I created them from nothing so I know everything about them. If I live to be a hundred and create a thousand characters, I’ll always keep them straight and be able to tell them apart because to me, they’re real.

Writerly Advice

Earlier today, I was perusing the social media and came across an author who was complaining about receiving 1- and 2-star reviews for their book. So I decided to give a little advice to any other writers feeling down about bad reviews.

Reviews aren’t there to fill the dead space on our Amazon profile pages. They serve a purpose. Well, they actually serve a couple of purposes. And though you may feel that one of those purposes is to make the author cry, you’re wrong. That’s not one of them.

Reviews are there to help readers decide whether or not to buy the book.

Reading a book is a huge investment of the reader’s time. In a world where there are so many other things competing for their time, you better make it worth their while. There are far too many good books out there waiting to be read for them to waste their time on a bad one. If they read a bad book, they get upset about it. Angry even. And understandably so. Some of those readers are willing to take a little more of their time and warn other readers to stay away from your book. It happens. You can’t keep them from having an opinion, but you can change their opinion. How? By writing better books.

Reviews are there to help the author better their writing.

If you, the author, are reading your reviews, then you should be learning from them. Did the reader find a lot of typos? Hire a proofreader and get those suckers fixed. Did the reader find a major plot hole? Fix it. Did the reader think you use a certain word too much? Stop doing that.

Now hear me out. I’m not saying do what each and every review says. Reviewers are giving their opinion, and sometimes their opinion is wrong. BUT–if several readers say the same thing, then there’s probably some truth to it.

When I first started out, I got some bad reviews. Hell, I still do sometimes. And yes, it bummed me out a little bit. No one wants to hear that the thing they created from nothing and spent long hours and possibly years working on is bad. But after looking at the reviews of some of the best in the literary world–Koontz, King, etc.–I saw that even they get bad reviews. Yes, even the giants have critics. That made me feel better. Then I remembered the old saying you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

So yes, you are going to get bad reviews from time to time. Even if your book is perfect and flawless, there will be someone who doesn’t like it. You have to learn to deal with that. Do the very best you can and let the rest happen as it will.

The Criers Club Giveaway

There’s still time to grab your FREE copy of my latest novel THE CRIERS CLUB.

The Criers Club Cover NEWAdam Spencer, a happily married 37 year-old father of two young boys, has everything he wants. A successful business, a beautiful home, two cars in the garage, and a dog. What he doesn’t want is to die. But Adam doesn’t have a say in the matter. He just found out he has brain cancer.

Troubled by his newly-discovered death sentence, Adam joins a support group for the terminally ill. There, he meets six strangers who are struggling to cope with their own impending demises.

When one member of the group dies, leaving behind an unfulfilled dream, the others realize just how limited their time is. Now, as the youngest member nears the end of his short life, they become determined to make sure the boy’s dream comes true before it’s too late. Together, they embark on a road trip that will teach them all what it means to live, and to die.

FREE now at Amazon.

In Honor of Halloween…

For as long as I can remember, October has been my favorite month. I love the cooler weather, the beautiful foliage as the leaves turn colors, and of course Halloween. I get a tingle in the pit of my stomach as soon as the clock strikes 12:01 on October 1st. By the time Halloween rolls around, I’m giddy. Horror movies, costumes, scary stories, I love it all. So I thought I’d try something here. How about you share your scary story with us all right here on this blog? It could be long or short, true or false. It doesn’t matter. Give us goosebumps. Make us cringe in fear. Make us shy away from the computer in horror. I’ll sprinkle in my own stories from time to time. We’ll do this from now until November 1st. Sound fun? I thought so. Let’s go. I’ll start.

When I was a kid, we lived in a house where something strange happened every night at 10:00. From the kitchen, a loud pop sounded. It could be heard throughout the house, and not a night went by that it didn’t happen. I’d heard stories of what had happened in that house before we moved in, but who ever believes the things they hear? But once I put together the noise and the fact that only one wall in the kitchen had wallpaper–the only wall in the entire house to have wallpaper–I started to wonder if perhaps what I’d heard was true.

The story I heard was this: One night, a grandfather and his son had a fight that started when the grandfather bought the grandson a gun. The boy’s father didn’t like it, so he and his father argued in the kitchen. The boy got in between the two. A shot was fired. The boy was killed. At 10:00. Unable to cover up the stains on the wall because the blood kept seeping through the paint, they covered it with wallpaper. Now, as I said before, who believes things they hear? I didn’t. However, when I was older, in my mid-20s, I spent a lot of time at the library doing research for stories and genealogy and the like. I came across a very interesting thing. It was an article about the grandfather, the son, and the grandson. Apparently the stories I’d heard were true. The boy was shot in the kitchen. The wallpaper must hide the truth. What I wouldn’t give to be able to remove that wallpaper and see what lies behind it…

This story is true.

The Criers Club

Finally! My new novel is available for purchase. Be warned, this is not like HELD. This isn’t a horror novel. But I still think it’s a great story. Let me know what you all think after you’ve read it.

The Criers Club FINAL

Adam Spencer, a happily married 37 year-old father of two young boys, has everything he wants. A successful business, a beautiful home, two cars in the garage, and a dog. What he doesn’t want is to die. But Adam doesn’t have a say in the matter. He just found out he has brain cancer.

Troubled by his newly-discovered death sentence, Adam joins a support group for the terminally ill. There, he meets six strangers who are struggling to cope with their own impending demises.

When one member of the group dies, leaving behind an unfulfilled dream, the others realize just how limited their time is. Now, as the youngest member nears the end of his short life, they become determined to make sure the boy’s dream comes true before it’s too late. Together, they embark on a road trip that will teach them all what it means to live, and to die.

*Available now at Amazon for $2.99.

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