Wednesday, April 3, 2024

ISWG: Blogging--Jogging or Slogging?


This month's Insecure Writer's Support Group question is:

How long have you been blogging? (Or on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram?) What do you like about it and how has it changed?

I started this blog in 2011, but I pretty much stopped in 2015 and did not resume until late 2022. I like that I can share news, writing tips, and insights into one writer's creative process. I used to also do interviews with classic children's book characters and share trivia tidbits related to authors' lives and works. Nowadays, though, I just don't have enough time and energy to do that. I am trying to figure out something fun to write every so often. If you have any suggestions, p?ease leave them in the comments.

So, I guess that's one way it's changed for me. I think that now, any followers I have get news of me from the series' Facebook page rather than the blog. In years past, it was the other way around. No matter how it's done, I always enjoy making connections with anyone who is interested. It always gives me a thrill whenever I receive feedback, and it inspires me to keep going.

So, that being said, here's a post from bygone days-- an interview with an interesting character.

Between the Lines:  Tom Sawyer

It's a new year, so it's the perfect time to introduce a new series of interviews with famous characters in classic children's literature and fairy tales. The interviews with the characters from my book proved to be so popular, that I thought, hey, why not interview characters from other children's books?

Today, we're kicking the series off with one of my favorite characters, Tom Sawyer. Let me know how you like it.

Greg:  Welcome Tom, it’s great to have you here!

Tom: Thanks, Mr. Greg, sir. It were nice of ya t’ have me.

Greg:  Tell us a little bit about yourself, Tom.

Tom: Shucks, taint much t’ tell, really. I started m’ life very young, but I growed up. Now, I live free an’ easy, ‘cept when I got t’ go t’ that ol’ school. Aunt Pol’s always tryin’ t’ git me t’ go, but I outfox her more often than not. Got a nice place up in the piney woods. It’s a whole fort where I fight off injuns an’ hide treasure an’ such.

Sometimes I got t’ go t’ church, too. Go t’ Sunday school an’ larn Bible passages ‘n’ things. I won me a Bible oncet. Yep, I sure did. I got enough o’ them there tickets the Rev’rand give out for learnin’ Bible verses. I traded a whole pile of treasure with the boys in school t’ get them tickets. It was worth it, too. Preacher called me up, an’ I got me that Bible in front o’ the whole class, includin’ Becky Thatcher. I was slicker ‘n’ a greased pig, I can tell you.

I’m also good at fightin’. I just about licked every boy in school, an’ some o’ the girls, too. “Course that comes from m’ piratin’. Ya got t’ be able to lick anyone that crosses your path, iffin you’re a pirate. I recall the time me ‘n’ Joe Harper ‘n’ol’  Huck Finn run away t’ be pirates. Boy did we have a time!

Greg:  Where do you live, when you’re not terrorizing the seven seas, I mean?

Tom:  I live in the town of St. Petersburg, Missouri with m’ Aunt Polly, m' half brother Sid. I live next door t’ Becky Thatcher. We’re engaged, but don’t tell no one. It’s supposed t’ be secret. Keep it mum. Wouldn’t do no good if Becky was t’ get wind I told ya.

Greg:  In all of your adventures, what’s the worst thing you ever saw?

Tom:  I don’t rightly know. I seen a lot o’ worst things. I saw Injun Joe all laid out an’ starved t’ death after bein’ trapped in McDougal’s Cave. Me ‘n’ Becky was trapped in the cave with Injun Joe.

I s’pose the worst thing I ever saw had t’ be Doc Robi’son getting’ killed by Injun Joe. See, the way it happened was me ‘n’ Huck was in the graveyard with a dead cat tryin’ t’ catch some devils. All of a sudden, along come Doc Robi’son, Ol’ Muff Potter, an’ Injun Joe. Me ‘n’ Huck hid an’ watched as Muff ‘n’ Joe started to dig up a grave.

Well, when they got the body up, they all starts agruin’ over how much the doc was gonna pay ‘em. Before ya know it, the doc had whacked ol’ Muff Potter over the head with a gravestone, which was just a painted board. Then Injun Joe took up Muff’s knife an’ jammed it inta Doc Robi’son’s chest.  It chilled m’ blood an’ curled m’ toes. Me ‘n’ Huck lit out o’ there like the Devil himself was chasin’ us.

From that night on, I had t’ sleep with one eye open, on account of I was s’ skeered.

Greg:  What’s given you the most pleasure?

Tom:  I’d have ta say coming back in the middle of m’ funeral. Ev’rybody was so surprised. Me ‘n’ Joe ‘n’ ol’ Huck got so much attention. We was top citizens, I reckon. I was in m’ glory. Ev’ryone was fussin’ an’ carryin’ on. I aint never seen such a big t’ do.

I s’pose I should also say getting’ engaged t’ Becky Thatcher an’ findin’ all that gold were high points, too. But nothin’ can compare with the attention the town give me when I come back from the dead!

Greg:  Are you afraid of spirits?

Tom:   Shoot, spirits aint nothin’ iffin ya know how t’ handle ‘em. First, ya take a stinkbug an’ make him a leash out of a shoelace. Put the stinkbug on the ground, holdin’ the leash. Then, ya draw a circle around the bug in the dirt. Next, ya gets a pin an’ pricks your finger. Then, ya squeezes two drops of blood out of yore finger onta the stinkbug. Then ya says an incantation, an’ that’ll keep the spirits away the whole night. Simple as that, but I shore wouldn’t want t’ tangle with ‘em without the right gear.

Greg:  After all your adventures, are you ready to become civilized?

Tom: Oh law, I aint never gonna get civilized. Aunt Polly’s done tried, but she aint been able t’ do it. Aint no one gonna do it, not as long as I draw breath!

I tell ya the one I feel sorry for. It’s ol’ Huck Finn. The widder Douglas done took him in t’ live with her. I anyone’s gonna civilize a body, it’d be the widder Douglas. Ol’ Huck don’t stand a chance with that one, I kin tell ya.

She won’t let him go piratin’ or nothin’. Me, I done give Aunt Polly the slip agin, an’ if Sid don’t blab on me, I’ll be off down the Missisip’ on a raft an’ no one’ll be the wiser. Come t’ think on it, I still owe Sid a lickin’ for squealin’ on me the last time!

Mr. Greg, I sure have enjoyed settin’ here an’ talkin’ with ya a spell, but I got t’ get movin’. There’s ships t’ plunder an’ wayfarers t’ rob, an’ the night’s getting’ on!

Greg:  Sure thing, Tom. Thanks for taking some time to chat with us. Good luck with your adventure!

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Somebody Else's Interview

For a long time now, I've been planning to interview illustrator Emily Hurst Pritchett. However, being the procrastinator I am, I haven't quite got around to it. Now, I suppose the point is kind of moot as Annie's Book Stop of Worcester conducted a great video interview with her.

It's up on YouTube, but I've posted it below. The interview is really great. In it, Emily gives great insight into her creative process, her own personal taste in books and pastimes, as well as what it's like illustrating for independent authors, publishers, and what she's up to with her personal art. As you watch, you might even see a couple familiar books being flashed. 

Emily is working on illustrations and the cover for As the Owl Flies and I have started the Tales of the Dragon Islands book. I'll share more of that shortly.



Monday, March 18, 2024

A Writer's Week #129: What Next?

 As I noted in my last post, the Deliverers series is now complete. That brings to an end a huge writing chapter in my life. Leaving Eric, Kate, Stig and Hallo behind has been a very difficult thing. The question is, what to do next?

Re-opening the writing side of my life at the end of 2022 was a big decision. The main focus was to refresh the existing three books and complete the fourth. I accomplished that in 2023, and book four was released in February, completing the series. So, mission accomplished.

Greg & Abby writing at Hampton Beach, NH c. 2013

I guess that could be the end. I could stop knowing that there were no loose ends, no hanging threads. Actually, though, there is one thread still dangling. Years ago, when I was fresh out of college, before color was invented and everything was still in black and white, I was a youth advisor to my church's high school community group. It was there that I first started writing with the purpose of sharing what I wrote with others. I wrote a story for the group's Christmas retreat at the request of my deacon. I wound up writing a story every year for 15 years. I would read the story at the retreat and the teens seemed to enjoy them. Each one was tied to the theme of that year's retreat. I would also give copies out to friends and family as Christmas presents.

In a number of those stories, a white owl would appear to guide the main character. A couple years after I left the group and got married, I decided to write a book. As I was casting about for some sort of story idea, my mind strayed back to that white owl and I began to wonder just who he was and where he came from. That's when I discovered that his name was Stig and that he would be sent to help a boy named Eric.

So, there's the loose thread. I've decided to publish 12 of those stories, and I've made the decision to present them with minimal editing, keeping them the same as they were when I first read them all those years ago. This will be going out on a limb somewhat, as these are more spiritual/religious stories rather than straight middle grade fantasy. They are geared toward middle grade/teen readers. The best way to describe them are modern day fables or fairy tales with a religious or spiritual theme. 

Definitely a new market for me, and I hope readers of the Deliverers won't be put off and will give them a look-see. I have reached an agreement with Emily Hurst-Pritchett to design the cover and to do 12 half-page illustrations, one for each story. I'm hoping to release the book in early summer.

I am kind of at a loss as to how to market the book. I might start another blog, but that seems a bit much. For now, I will post updates on this blog and on the Deliverers Facebook page. The book also includes four of the poems I wrote in college. I've asked my wife to do some sketches for those. 

I'm kind of excited about the new project, but also a little nervous. I'll post an excerpt from a story and the artwork, once that's set to give you all a taste. What are your thoughts? Have you ever taken a chance and done something different? What were the results? I'll share what happens for me as this moves along.


Wednesday, March 6, 2024

ISWG First Wednesday: Monthly Question & a New Release!

Well, another month has come and gone. Right at the very end of February I had a significant event, but I will save that for after this month’s question:

March Question:

Have you "played" with AI to write those nasty synopses, or do you refuse to go that route? How do you feel about AI's impact on creative writing? 

No, I have not used AI for any element of my writing. I am hesitant to use it, even for synopses, because I think it’s sort of a slippery slope. So far, I’ve even held off using it to develop illustrations for my blog posts. It’s just not a place I’m comfortable going right now.

Will my outlook change as time goes by and the technology, and the ethics evolve? Could be. But for now, I’m going to keep it old school and wait and see what the future brings.

Now, on to more exciting things. Leap day was an exciting one here at Deliverers Towers. The final book of the series, Sparkling Mist of Time, was set loose upon the world.

So far, it's been well received. I've written before about what a convoluted process it was to complete this book. In the end, though, it was worth it all and I believe that I could not have ended the series any better than this. Many thanks to everyone who has assisted along the way. 

So what's next? I've already alluded to that. I'll have more info as things progress. The point is, the journey will continue and I will be following my own path. How cool is that? If you had asked me a year and a half ago, I would have said they journey was over. Just goes to show that you can never say never.

I'll be making another post soon. Until then, Peace!

Friday, February 9, 2024

A Writer's Week #128: The Circle is Now Complete

 It took a bit longer than I anticipated, but the Deliverers Series is now complete. Today, I submitted the paperback and Kindle versions of Book 4: Sparkling Mist of Time to Amazon. It will be published February 29. The Kindle version is available for preorder right now. Here's the cover--a big thank you to Emily Hurst Pritchett once again!

A lot of emotions flooded through me when I pressed the upload button. This series is something that has been a part of my life for over 15 years. When I started, I could not have predicted that I would conclude the writing journey here, now. If I knew how it would play out, I might never have started. It took over four years to write book one. It took 2-3 years to write books two and three. Then, I started book four. Book four was really the hardest test in the whole odyssey. 16,000 words in I kind of lost my religion, abandoned the task, and wandered about in the wilderness for about eight years. I had honestly thought the writing chapter of my life was closed. I had burned myself out trying to market my baby.

You see, I was under the impression that if I worked hard enough, I would be able to ditch my day job and make my dream of writing middle grade fiction full time a reality. When it didn't happen after three years of beating my head against the marketing wall at the expense of time with my kids, I gave it up. 

Now, I am older and (perhaps) a little bit wiser. I realize now that if some folks enjoy what I write, I don't have to be a best seller and make a mint to gain satisfaction from it. I owe a great debt to my father for reminding me of that, and for also suggesting refreshing the three existing books as I worked on the fourth.                                                                                                                                

So, a big thank you to all the contributors to the series over the years--Ana Vogel, Daniel Vogel, Jimm Singer, and Emily Hurst Pritchett. I could not have done any of this without your contributions throughout the years.

I also want to thank all of the fellow writers I've met along the way. You have always been one of my biggest sources of support. So, thank you Stephanie Robinson, Jessica Haight, C. Lee McKenzie, Karen Pokras, Margo Dill, and all the rest who have helped with reviews, feedback, and everything. I hope I've been able to return the favor.

What's next on my writer's journey? Look for a collection of inspirational short stories and poems later this year. They were my first foray into writing stories meant to be shared with others. After that, I think I will be revisiting the Dragon Islands, roughly 3,000 years before the events in The Golden Dragon of Ang. Seems like the inspirational well has not dried up after all. As things move forward, I hope you'll all come with me for the ride.