Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February Means 500 -- Again!

The first time our daughter stole the truck, she was twelve. Scott was in North Dakota. I was at a weekly writers’ group meeting, one of the few activities that used to get me out of the house. My phone was on, but in my purse at my feet. Shortly before the meeting was over, I looked down and noticed I had eight missed calls. Half were from Scott, half from the Palm Springs Police Department.

She was cited for (1) driving without a license, (2) not wearing a seat belt, (3) having a passenger without a seat belt, and (4) operating without headlights in the dark. They should have added one for being a dumbass for driving past the police station. The truck was parked in the lot, and they detained the girls outside while they waited for me to pick them up. It wasn’t my first parental consultation with an officer of the law. The same daughter scratched 13 cars in our townhouse parking lot with a rock when she was three. Around age ten, she was spotted spray-painting the sidewalks, court markers, and at least one fence. That news came directly from the officer who stopped by the house to say he’d received a report of a “little blonde girl with a paint can,” and he thought  he’d check our house first to see if she was home.

There were other cases, mostly minor, like the chalk incident. And, since that first joy ride, she’s confessed to borrowing my vehicle “more times than she can count.” Makes one reconsider the ACTUAL benefits of sleeping all night. One instance in particular, which began with a second “operating without headlights in the dark” citation, cost us $700 in fines and impound fees.

For years, we’ve played an endless game of tug-of-war with our daughter. We give her a little slack, she pulls us into the mud. We pick up the rope, reign her back in, hold her steady for a while, get comfortable, give her a little slack, and … she pulls us into the mud. She’s 17 now. Her latest stunt involved taking a group of friends 4-wheelin’ Friday night. She called to tell us about it at 8pm on Sunday. One missing side window, a detached spare tire, a broken taillight, and a shit load of scratches along the passenger side and across the hood later, she’s living in fear and refusing to come home.

We’re gonna miss her.

This is the climate in which my husband and I will be attending Sunday’s Daytona 500. Last year, I broke my ankle the Friday prior and had to navigate the unforgiving grandstand stairs on crutches. The year before, I was wandering the stands, taking in the event while looking for a Jack Daniels vendor I didn’t need, and missed the end of the race. This time, like our first, I’d like to enjoy myself AND see the winner win. Which reminds me: It’s a Daytona tradition for fans to sign the checkered finish line. Having never been a NASCAR fan, and maybe catching the equivalent of a race and a half on television up to that point, I wasn’t aware of the tradition ‘til our first trip in 2006. I’ve made it a priority ever since, even ditching the crutches last year and wincing against the pain to get there. Should you happen to watch the race, be on the lookout for the words “DAWN WAS HERE!” in one of those checkered boxes on the pavement. It’ll be next to “GO SMOKE!” and “I’M IN DAYTONA, BITCHES!”

My strategy for 2011 is to (a) not break anything this week, (b) pace myself at the open bar, (c) make fewer trips to the Jack Daniels trailer, (d) be in my seat for the final lap, a.k.a. pay attention if it rains, and (e) don’t think about the teenager or the truck or the possibility that she and her 24-year-old brother, who came home from the Army last month, will forget to feed the dog, leave the front door open for the rabbits and raccoons, burn the house down, and leave us a mess to clean up on Monday.

Oh, and (f) forget we don’t have liability insurance.

If I survive, I’ll be back with stories and pictures. If I don’t, could someone please stop by and feed the dog?

~ Dawn

Sunday, February 13, 2011

CKR: Nov - Dec 2006

(continued from CKR: October 2006...)


“CKR” Diary Post No. 10
November 16, 2006
There's not much to report, but it's been a while since I updated you all on the progress of this novel. Well, "progress" probably isn't the right word, but it will have to do. For now...

At Randy's suggestion, I was supposed to have read the first 3 chapters of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, then re-write the first 3 chapters of CKR, switching from third-person prose to first-person. Well, since I haven't been able to concentrate for long stretches, I can't really write anything of substance. So, instead, I ended up reading the entire book. AWESOME comes to mind. Brilliant does, too. I wanted to dig in and really study it, mark up the pages, highlight the good parts, slap post-it notes on exceptional passages. But I didn't, for fear that I might accidentally "steal" something. I don't mind being influenced by talented artists, but I don't ever want to be accused of plagiarism. But back to CKR:

I'm expecting to dive into the manuscript again in January. My debut novel, IMMORTAL BONDS, is due for editing any day now--possibly any minute--and everything else will have to take a back seat 'til it's finished. I'm crawling out of my skin with anticipation.

The publisher still doesn't know CKR exists, so the only deadline I have for this book is my own. Even after all this time, the story is still driving me, but knowing all of you are waiting for it sure does boost the level of expectation. No pressure, right? Sure. My ass.

I'm still haunted by the idea that I'm making a mistake by writing a book outside the genre of the first one (paranormal). The fact that I'm a chick attempting to write from a man's perspective doesn't help. But why does it have to be black and white in publishing? Why can't I be "That writer who dips into everything," from paranormal to mainstream, horror to erotica, historical to romance? Who says I have to stick to one thing? Kid Rock doesn't stick to one thing. He's a "funky, country, rock, soul, singin' MC." A "long-haired, redneck, rock 'n' roll son of Detroit." Saying fuck a lot, along with an occasional suck my dick, doesn't get him much radio play, but, all-in-all, he seems to be doing okay for himself. What's wrong with following his lead? Isn't that why he "chased me" around Florida for four days, inspiring me to write CKR in the first place?

The plan to contact him is still a go. Professionally, I don't believe I can use his name in the title without permission. If I didn't plan to promote the book, I probably wouldn't need it, but how's anyone going to know about the damn thing if I don't plaster the words "Chasing Kid Rock" on every piece of paper, posterboard, website, postcard, bookmark, and t-shirt that isn't nailed down? But, although I certainly don't know him personally, I've spent enough time researching his career to assume he'll be okay--and possibly flattered--with this book. And I can't believe he'll be any less excited about it than I am. When the "big day" comes, you can bet I'll run straight to the keyboard and tell the world!

As soon as I have a draft of the "new" first chapter, I'll share both the original and the new versions, so you can see the metamorphosis first-hand. Until then, keep checking the blog for updates on the release and availability of the first book and, of course, more P-List (and other) posts.

“CKR” Diary Post No. 11
November 30, 2006
Have you heard the news? After THREE weddings (because, apparently, one--or even two--wasn't enough to prove their love to friends, family, and the rest of the stunned world), Pam and the K-I-D are calling it quits. They made it a whole four months. I thought for sure they'd last at least six. (Did anyone have a pool going? Who won?)

Perhaps the bigger news though, in my opinion, anyway, is Borat. According to reports, the couple's screening of the movie was rumored to be the "final straw." Ordinarily, I wouldn't give a shit. I haven't seen it yet, but I'll be going ASAP, because the premise of "chasing Pam Anderson" sounds a bit familiar.

Of all the celebrities, models, bimbos, and trailer trash starlets that Borat Sagdiyev (aka Sacha Baron Cohen) could have had the hots for, he had to pick the one Kid Rock wanted. THEN, to give the knife in my back a little twist, he made Pam look like an idiot (in KR's opinion) and pissed Rock off enough to call the marriage quits. What do you think my chances are, now, of getting Pam's ex to support a literary project titled Chasing Kid Rock?

Thanks a pant-load, Mr. Cohen. Nice fuckin' timing.

I feel a lot like I did when I was working on Immortal Bonds and hurricanes kept trashing my settings; first West Palm and the rest of South Florida, then New Orleans. It seemed like every time I finished a chapter, mother nature flipped me the bird and sent me back to the keyboard. In the end, everything worked out, but it was stressful. I thought I had enough to worry about these days. Guess that's what I get for thinking.
It's possible that the controversy stirred-up by this movie could work in my favor. Eventually. But things look pretty lousy right now. All I can do is plod on, finish the manuscript, and hope for the best. Tell you one thing, though: I'll think twice before I ever consider writing another novel with a celebrity's name in the title.


“CKR” Diary Post No. 12
December 9, 2006
I was recently given the opportunity to pass a personal message on to Kid Rock. Of course, the offer came from a new friend here on MySpace—this virtual community hasn’t yet ceased to amaze and surprise me. I’d mention his name, but I don’t want him bombarded with mail to the point that he changes his mind. If he DOES want to reveal his identity, I’ll let him do it himself. Needless to say, I was immensely appreciative. And terrified near the point of unconsciousness.

Faced with the question, “What do I say to Kid Rock?” a blur of responses filled my head: I love your music—I admire your style—Your drive and business sense inspire me—So much so that I’ve written a book with your name on it—It’s called CHASING KID ROCK, but it’s not what you think—It’s not about you, it’s for you—And I’m really proud of it. In the end, I said something that I later thought was lame and uninspired. But I kept thinking of the question. And the answer. So, I went back to the Diary, the step-by-step account of the literary journey that started back in February of 2006, and reminded myself of how far I’ve come on this ride. In the process, I stumbled across an entry I made on Sunday, May 7, 2006:

Scott and I sat on our patio until 2:30 last night (or would that be this morning?), talking about the book and what I hope to get out of it. Because my husband’s not a big reader—I joke all the time about his reading only Florida Sportsman and Fortune magazines and having zero interest in fiction*—the fact that we discussed the book for a couple hours is amazing in and of itself. But he knows me better than anyone (sixteen years of marriage will do that), and, like me, he’s a Kid Rock fan, so he understands how deeply personal this project is and how passionate I am about it. He also knows that I know what I’m capable of. Of course I want a bestseller, what author doesn’t? Of course I want it to be well-written and funny and explicit and controversial and everything that Kid Rock is, but, at the end of the day, this book is really just a big “Thank You” note to express my gratitude for filling the last decade of my life with a kick-ass soundtrack. And for inspiring me to fast-forward through confidence and bravely embrace Cocky, because I know I’m good at what I do and “it ain’t braggin’…if you back it up.” If that makes me a groupie, so be it. And if I sell a million copies, even better. Fuck the critics and the people who will think I only wrote this book to make a buck. They have no idea what it’s like to be not merely inspired but driven. To lose sleep, skip meals, ignore family and friends, and let everything around me go to shit because I believe with everything I am that I can take this book where it needs to go. And, despite the obvious commercial possibilities, I’m doing it for only two people: the man who rattles my car speakers every day and the man who shares my bed every night. I wouldn’t be where I am without either one of them…and it’s payback time.

I’m asked all the time, “What’s CKR about?” The title lends itself to a great deal of speculation, but it’s not anything that anyone will expect. And I like it that way. The style, storyline, and theme are 100% Kid Rock-inspired, but readers won’t have to be fans to enjoy it. In fact, introducing him to non-fans is kind of the point. I want people who don’t know him to have a new appreciation. I want people who don’t like or understand him to learn there’s more to his over-the-top, profanity-filled stage persona than meets the eye. If through literature I can introduce this man to a new audience and send a new legion of fans his way, then I will have done what I set out to do. But, if all that happens is he reads it—and likes it—I will consider it a success. Next time someone offers to pass a message to him for me, that’s what I’ll say.

** NOTE, 2/13/11: By the way, Scott’s read a boat load of books since then, from 1776 (non-fiction) to A Face Without A Heart (fiction). Reading more was his 2006 New Years’ Resolution and he’s done very well. Of course, flying around the country every other week helps. Just thought I’d let you know...

(to be continued...)

CKR: October 2006

(continued from CKR: September 2006...)


“CKR” Diary Post No. 8
October 11, 2006
I'm editing Chapter 10 today, which is set in an Orlando hotel room. No sex, just three guys talking--sorry. Since it's mostly dialogue, my focus on this edit is making sure I get my point* across through inner dialogue and body language. (*Every chapter in a novel MUST have a point, meaning it furthers the plot by contributing some additional piece of information.) So I have my work cut out for me, considering inner dialogue and action are not my strong suits. And speaking of action...

The primary action in this scene is the passing of a joint between the three friends and this activity has prompted me to ask myself: Will there be consequences to my omission of consequences in this book?

On the one hand, I understand the "rule" for drug use in fiction: If a character uses, he should face consequences to underscore the widely-supported theory that Drugs Are Bad. M'kay? But what if nothing bad happens to the characters? What if things, in fact, end surprisingly well for them? Will that turn readers off, perhaps even subconsiously? Will it turn critics off? If Ted, Alex, and Jimmy smoke pot, should they be punished? And, considering they're representing middle-aged, working-class America, will knowing this secret about them influence the reader’s opinion of their characters? In what way? The answers would certainly help make this story believable.

“CKR” Diary Post No. 9
October 23, 2006
Chasing Kid Rock is on hold for a little while, until I finish my good friend Joe's book (he'd probably prefer I not share the title until it's in print, so we'll just call it Mercy Fuck for now--I know he'll like that). I'm loving every word of it. Since he's ready to start shopping it around to agents and publishers, I feel I should give it priority attention. So I am.

Speaking of good friends, I had lunch with Randy today and he gave me some serious points to ponder with regard to CKR. Starting with the idea of changing it to a first-person narrative. Hmmm. Imagine re-working 300 pages from third person to first. He also recommended I read Nick Hornby's High Fidelity. Specifically, he's suggested I read the first three chapters, then go re-write the first three chapters of CKR. He believes it will make a noticeable difference. If you'd like to "play along," I've picked up High Fidelity and will likely be starting it in a week or two, as soon as I finish with Mercy Fuck. Details to follow...

The most important thing Randy stressed today was the importance of VOICE and BACKSTORY (hence High Fidelity). It was funny he'd mentioned it, because I'd been thinking of both myself for the past few weeks. CKR's backstory is progressing as I learn more about Ted and I feel I made a breakthrough last week with Chapter 10. But once Randy had mentioned finding my voice AND using a first-person narrative in the same conversation, something struck me like a crescent wrench to the head after an all-nighter:

The blog.

Yes, the blog. This blog, here on MySpace. I've worried for months that these posts might swallow too much of my time. But, since I haven't been altogether healthy these past few weeks, the blog has been the ONLY thing I've been able to work on. And in planning and writing the last three posts, I noticed something was starting to click for me. One of the most difficult things a writer has to overcome is finding his or her voice. I believe the blog is doing that for me--right now, as we speak. And that voice is exactly the voice I need for CKR.

For a while, I'm going to catch up on my reading and work busily on transforming my novel from a third-person POV to a first, hopefully improving the narrative along the way. I won't update you on the little stuff, but when something significant happens, I promise you'll be the first to know.

In the meantime, although it may be a while 'til you see another "Diary" post, rest assured there will be other blog posts forthcoming. In fact, I've got one nearly ready to go this afternoon, so check back. It's a continuation of the P-List* series, which focuses on experiences that changed my life, but this one will be available to anyone who wants to read it, rather than only those on my "Preferred List." I figure if I'm going to talk it up here, making it unavailable to most of you would make me look like a shit--that's not good for either one of us.

But the majority of the series will have to remain accessible to only pre-approved readers, specifically people 18 and older who are not related to me. I have my reasons. If you fit the criteria, all you have to do is send me your email address--the one you use to login here--and I'll add you to the list the next time I'm online. Which is probably about 5-10 minutes from now.

As always, y'all, thanks much for sharing the ride.

** NOTE, 2/13/11: On the MySpace blog, “P-List” ONLY (or Preferred List) posts are/were available to a limited number of readers, specifically those 18 or older who I manually “approved” and added to the list. At its peak, the P-List hit 300 followers. It was fun while it lasted. Lots and lots of fun...

(to be continued...)

CKR: September 2006

(continued from CKR: August 2006...)


“CKR” Diary Post No. 3
September 1, 2006
I picked up a copy of Lewis Black's book, NOTHING'S SACRED, last night and the giggles started with the first sentence. If you're a writer and you happen to be at a bookstore, pick up the paperback and skim the "Introduction to the Introduction"--here's part of it:

"...for those of you out there who are thinking of writing a book...don't./You'd be better off chopping off your hands and learning a new skill./...you try to think about other things, but all you see in front of you are empty pages as far as the eye can see. It's like every day is Sunday, and it's seven o'clock, and you have just finished dinner, and your mother is screaming from the other room: 'HAVE YOU DONE YOUR HOMEWORK?! NO?!? THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS!'/Writing a book is like having homework all the time. And no one needs that, especially at my age."

I can SO relate.

Last night, I fed Chapter 7 to the wolves (aka The Bloody Pens) and, believe it or not, they didn't "eat" it. It's a critical chapter, because it's the first time in 13 years that Ted (the main character) considers cheating on his wife. A lot of things go through a person's mind at that particular juncture, so I want to get it right. (Looking for a challenge as a writer? Try making a guy who's thinking of cheating on his wife LIKEABLE. Good luck.)

The Pens pointed out a few things that were missing, like more internal dialogue, but, overall, they seemed to be okay with the chapter. I figure that could mean one of two things: they either really liked it (which is good), or they've decided as a group not to bust my balls so much (which is potentially bad). My opinion is that it's a combination of the two and I can live with that...for now.

I may have said it before, but one of the biggest advantages to having a writers' group at your disposal is that they remind you (regularly) what THE POINT is. It's great fun writing playful scenes set in obscure places, but every scene has to further the plot and support the theme. An "average bear" reader might not notice if the writer's fallen short, but a group of other writers pick up on that stuff and pounce like starving cheetahs. Doesn't sound pleasant, does it? But, if you want your material to be GOOD, you need to bleed a little.

So, next week I'm going back to the re-write, starting with Chap 10, with a pretty good feeling that I'm on the right track with this story. Hopefully, I can get the Pens to review Chaps 8 and 9 next Thursday, so I'm not too far ahead of them. (Remember, the first draft of the book is 100% finished, but the re-write is where the Pens weigh-in the most.)

Everyone, please cross your fingers that we don't have another hurricane (or tropical storm or depression or tornado warning) so I can get some work done next week.

“CKR” Diary Post No. 4
September 5, 2006

The following Chapter Clip excerpt is taken from the last page of Chapter 10. The scene takes place in an Orlando hotel room and I was editing this particular section, trying to finish the chapter, when my twelve-year-old daughter came home from school today. Think about that as you're reading and we'll chat...

But what was he thinking? What about Kate? His wife. And Dillon? Wasn't Ted's number one priority this weekend coming up with a Forgive Me speech to rock the ages? How the hell was he thinking of new pussy--or any pussy for that matter--while he was supposed to be working on getting his family back?/But, then again, there was no rule that said he had to bang her./"I gotta be fuckin' nuts," Ted said, standing at the door, "but I'm in."

It's a good thing I had enough presence of mind to minimize the screen before my daughter walked in, greeted me, and glanced over my shoulder at the computer screen (which had been replaced with my MySpace home page). I thought maybe that example would give you an idea of what it's like to have your head in one place while your body and attention should be in another. So goes the existence of a writer.

But I'm not bitching because I got a lot of work done today. I polished off two letters I'm sending to prospective "blurb" writers--people I'm hoping will write a short endorsement for the back cover of IMMORTAL BONDS. I ran a couple new book title ideas for CKR by the Pens, but they're in unanimous agreement that I should keep the title...at least, for now. I did a "shallow" review of Chapters 1-9, to add a few things that have been rolling around in my head, plus I wanted to be sure everything was flowing well. Then I read through Chapter 10 and changed a few things, but not near as much as I thought I'd have to change.

All that means I have only 18 chapters to go in the re-write. I may or may not get to Chapter 11 tomorrow, because I've got a doctor "thing" in the morning, but I'll do what I can. And, if I get ANYTHING worth mentioning done, I'll be sure to pass on the good news.

“CKR” Diary Post No. 5
September 10, 2006
With the exception of Peter--who arrived late, talked on the phone, and left early--only three of us attended the Pens meeting last Thursday. But Prudy brought a couple chapters of A Grave Injustice, one of the novels she’s working on, so, along with my chapter, we had enough material to fill the time. And she and Tina had nothing but positive things to say about Chapter 8 (the last scene at Pleasure Island and Ted’s first taste of forbidden fruit), offering only minor suggestions for improvement. When feedback is good, the shot of whiskey after the meeting tastes much sweeter. (When feedback is bad, it helps dull the pain.)

The drive to finish this book is still undeniable, but I’m sleeping much better these days and the focus of the nagging little voice in my head has shifted from getting the story down to getting it right. So it’s time to ask the important questions: What’s my protagonist’s biggest conflict? How does he plan to overcome it? Does he succeed? Are there people or circumstances that help him? What issues put him there in the first place?

Unlike David Milch (creator of Hill Street Blues and HBO’s Deadwood), who writes with a “transcriptionist” and an audience, writers generally work in a vacuum. I see everything clearly in my mind—every setting, every emotion—but the reader needs to see it, too, and the disconnect between my vision and theirs isn’t always obvious. So, conversing with someone about characters and the hurdles they overcome brings a different perspective to the table. An outsider’s perspective. (Yet another reason I’m thankful for The Bloody Pens.) I’ll give you an example:

My main character is on the brink of losing everything--his wife, his son, his home, his job, his friends, and possibly his interest in the music he enjoys most--and he knows it. As a result, his thought processes aren’t rational and his decisions hurt more than help. Although I knew that instinctively, it took Prudy and Tina’s questions to make me realize Ted’s dilemma wasn’t coming through in his thoughts and dialogue. I knew how he felt, but the readers missed it, because I hadn’t “connected the dots.”

Armed with this new information, I’m looking forward to diving into edits again next week. My goal is to get through Chapters 11 through 15, which include the book’s only sex scenes and the Daytona 500. Let’s see how I do…

“CKR” Diary Post No. 6
September 21, 2006
Finished the edits/re-write for Chapter 12 this afternoon, making the chapter a bit longer, despite removing a sizeable chunk of the porn. (Have no fear, there's still enough to scare God-fearing Christians.) I like the length, though, and Ted's inner dialogue is fascinating. Men are amazing creatures.

He ordered room service and pulled a chair up to the table, where he first reviewed the letter he'd started at the radio station, then ripped it from the tablet, crumpled it into a ball, and dropped it to the floor. His words needed to be persuasive, not desperate.

Someday, somebody is going to ask the question, "Are you supporting unprotected, extramarital sex by including this scene?" If they do, my answer will be: If it helps lower the 50% divorce rate, I'd have to say yes.
Tomorrow, I'd like to take Chapter 10 to the Pens, but, as always, I'll need to review it first to delete obvious errors and make sure it's not a waste of their time. The fact that I've re-written it twice already makes no difference. In a group like ours, where we regularly discuss structure and craft, there's no excuse for bringing in material with, among other things, POV violations or chapters that don't further the plot or support the theme. And since my weaknesses (in case you didn't know) are description, thought/inner dialogue, and action, I pay special attention to those areas before I consider a draft "finished" and ready for the Pens.

In other news, I'm getting ready to tell "The Man" about the book. Calm down. CALM DOWN! We all knew it would come to this one day, so you should have prepared yourselves better. I did. And I'm c-c-calm as a cu-cu-cucumber. It won't happen this week or next, but it'll be soon. Keep in touch to hear the latest.

“CKR” Diary Post No. 7, or “How Kid Rock Killed The Bloody Pens”
September 27, 2006
Last week, while chillin’ with Scott on the patio and discussing the complex, multi-dimensional character of Dr. Gregory House, I started thinking about how Prudy has been urging me to crank-up the “likeability” level of CKR’s main character, Ted Seever. I’ve been through the first ten chapters three times in an effort to address the problem, but week after week I fall short. “I’m not seeing his struggle,” Prudy says. Tina agrees, saying that—even after nine chapters—she’s unable to relate to the character and admits she doesn’t like him either.

Well fuck me runnin’…

So, I took a good look at House and asked myself the question, “What makes an arrogant prick like Dr. House likeable?” The writers obviously pulled it off, because Scott and I love him. He’s flawed and miserable and treats everyone like shit, including his best friend, yet there’s something about him that makes me want to be like him. Makes me want to say and do the things he says and does. If Gregory House can be likeable, then I should think Ted Seever could be, too. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it since last Friday when my writer’s group, The Bloody Pens, took a nose-dive into the critique of no return. Which reminds me of a House episode, dealing with the five stages of death…


...[inserted 2/13/11] The remainder of this extraordinarily long and bitter post has been omitted to protect the guilty; to the best of my knowledge, the innocent don't give a shit. Suffice it to say that, amid the turbulence of critiquing CKR, the Pens dissolved and re-birthed later without me. The whole thing was juvenile. I'll get them back, though...which is not juvenile at all...

(to be continued...)

CKR: August 2006

(continued from CKR: July 2006...)


Thursday, August 3, 2006

I gave CKR a rest for the past couple of weeks. Taking what the Pens said to heart, I let it simmer for a while, because I was getting full of myself and totally strayed from the REAL story. It happens now and then. No big deal. Sometimes you get too close to a story and it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. For me, it helps to stand back on occasion and look at the big picture (sorry for all the clich├ęs), which is where a synopsis statement (or hook—there’s that word again) is helpful. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to do just that while replying to a message from a MySpace pal, Emily (Hi, Kid Rockin’ Mama!). Here’s the new and improved “HOOK,” which answers the question, “What is this book about?”:

In a nutshell, the book is about a 40-yr-old radio show writer/producer, Ted Seever, and the dysfunctional relationships he has with his wife, his boss, and his two best friends. Beginning a few days after Ted's wife files for divorce, Ted's convinced he can change her mind if only she goes to a Kid Rock concert with him. But, first, he's got to get through a long Daytona 500 weekend with his friends.

It needs some tweaking, but I think it’s much better than the first hook I came up with, which had way too much of the “action” and not enough of the plot/theme. So, thanks, Em!

NOTE: This is where I stopped using the FreeWebSpace.com site and began blogging, posting “CKR Diary” entries on MySpace, and talking up the book to generate interest and feedback. As a consequence, the style and format of entries changed a bit. The added “work load” (aka, the eternal distraction that is MySpace) also made it difficult to write updates as frequently. But, since I slowed progress on the book, there wasn’t much to tell. What follows are all blog posts relevant to CKR, whether formal Diary entries or general, related posts…

Adding MySpace Friends to the Book
August 7, 2006
So, I got this idea: Mention a few MySpace friends in my next novel, CKR. But which MySpace friends do I mention? Should I get their permission, first? And, I probably shouldn't name too many, but how many is too many? To be honest, I haven't a clue.

But, what the hell, adding a MySpace element to the book sounds like a great idea to me. Good, strong fiction imitates life, giving the reader a kind of "snapshot in time." What better snapshot is there than a social networking site? (Okay, there's the war and global warming and all, but "CKR" is a novel written for people who want to forget that shit for a while.)

I can't proceed willy nilly, however, so there should be a few ground rules for choosing who makes the cut and gets into the book:

1. Must be my "friend"--that's a given.
2. Should be a subscriber to the blog--not a requirement, but I'll be posting updates here and it's only fair I give "props" to people actually interested in the story and the process of writing it.
3. I have to be convinced you deserve it. And, yes, that's totally vague and subjective, but you'll know who you are.

I expect to be finished with the first draft of the manuscript in about a month or so. Many thanks in advance for joining me on the ride.

** NOTE, 2/13/11: This book has been written, so the contest is long over. But you can still suck up. :)

“CKR” Diary Post No. 1
August 10, 2006
For my first "real" day at the keyboard in weeks, I added a scene yesterday to Chapter 5 (Ted, Alex, and Jimmy's drive to Orlando) and incorporated the first of several MySpace friend mentions. (You'll have to wait 'til the manuscript is finished before I reveal any names.) Initially, I worried that adding a MySpace element to the story might be regarded as gimmicky, but the Internet plot-line in "Immortal Bonds" ended up being a critical part of the book. So what the hell. Let people think what they think.

Today, I'm editing Chapter 7 (the follow-up to the strip club and the first chapter set at Pleasure Island). Tonight's the Pens meeting, so I'm hoping to bring both chapters 5 and 7 and am prepared to have my ass critiqued off. But that's the price I pay to yank the good stuff out of me. (And, for those of you who aren't familiar with The Bloody Pens, they're my writers' group.) If I still have an ass left tomorrow, I'll let you know how the critique went.

“CKR” Diary Post No. 2

August 17, 2006

The process of writing a novel, at least for me, starts with an idea that becomes an outline and grows from there. Shooting for a finished product of roughly 90,000 words, I write until I get to the end of the story, to the final sentence. With CKR, that took me only a few months. But I'm always thinking of changes and additions, so I write them down on the outline or some scrap of paper somewhere. Then I compile all my critiques and edits and do a re-write of the entire book, from page 1, to clean up errors and to make sure it has a consistent theme and sufficient word count. That's where I am today with this book.

I've been working like a fiend for the past few days and, as of yesterday, the first re-write is finished through Chapter 9. Only 19 to go!! The Bloody Pens didn't get to tear into Chaps 5 and 7 last week, so I'm trying again tonight. You'll be the first to know how it works out.

I also met with a friend yesterday who, among other things, pointed out that I might not want to put Kid Rock's name out there so much--to avoid looking like an opportunist. He made a good point and, to anyone who might think I'm attempting to ride on someone else's fame, all I can say is "I'm sorry, but that's not what's happening here."

So, if you've been following along for a while, you might notice I've changed all the subject lines and headings of my posts and will no longer refer to the book as anything but "CKR." Better safe than sorry, right? I don't want to do something stupid and jeopardize this project. I know my intentions, but not everyone will take my word for it.

You know?

(to be continued...)

CKR: July 2006

(continued from CKR: June 2006...)

JULY 2006

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Took in my second NASCAR race this evening: Daytona’s Pepsi 400. We sat on the back-stretch behind Turn 2 in what they call the “Superstretch” seats. Unlike February, the weather was great and, since we faced west, we watched an awesome sunset unfold behind the seats we’d sat in at the 500. Of course I cheered for Tony Stewart and I’m sure that’s why he won (she said with heavy sarcasm). I also took notes this time, so hopefully I can add enough detail to the Daytona chapters to make them come alive now. Wonder what “notes” look like? Here’s what I brought home:

hang tags
Target – 10 yrs?
Checkers, Pep Boys, B.W.
no napkins
last car – root for
cheer for wreck
cell phones
park at Target, tailgate
8 lanes
cement entry
plastic seats, metal steps
tattoos, merch
drunk guy, wrong seat

The key to taking good notes is not to get lost in them. You won’t remember anything if you’re constantly scribbling. Be alert and watch what goes on around you, then jot down a trigger word when you get a chance. Take the last entry, for example. Shortly after we found our seats, a guy in the row ahead of us stood up, turned around to face the crowd, and shouted, “Okay, everybody, I gotta know who your favorite racers are.” Then he pointed to people, one at a time, and asked individuals who they would be cheering for. He was swaying, slurring, drowsy-eyed, and holding a can of Coors Light wrapped in a nylon koozie. Someone a few rows back asked him why he wanted to know and he said he was wondering who he’d be punching in the face later. Then his friend walked up, tapped him on the shoulder, and told him he was in the wrong section. We watched him follow his friend down the row and over to the adjacent section. Ten minutes later, he was talking to the crowd in his new section. It was hilarious. It was also a perfect example of the camaraderie of NASCAR fans. Nobody yelled at him or told him to sit down and shut up. Everyone interacted. And laughed. It was pre-race entertainment.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Been writing like a fiend to get this book done before the edits for Immortal come in, so I’m behind on this Diary. But finishing the book IS a little necessary. Hopefully, I can get back into some kind of routine soon.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Last week, I discovered MySpace. HOLY SHIT! is all I have to say. If you’re not there yet, stop what you’re doing and go. NOW. I’m serious.

(to be continued...)

CKR: June 2006

(continued from CKR: May 2006, Part 2...)

JUNE 2006

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

After a quick review and a bit of polish to this Diary, I sent an email to about 50 people (some friends, some family, some merely acquaintances, but NONE are writers) and asked them to critique it in its “beta” version. With the feedback I get from them, I can hopefully make this monologue interesting enough to stir up a buzz. (The last thing I want to do is turn you OFF.)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Finally met with the radio GM today. Despite broadcasting to Palm Beach, the station’s way up north, so it was a three-hour drive, round-trip. But I’m so glad I went. Not only did I get a lot of info and a tour, I met the radio guys I listen to all the time—Hi, Love Docs! (Who says this business doesn’t have perks?) The book doesn’t delve too deep into the radio industry, but I need the flavor, because my main character devoted so much of himself to his career, it cost him his marriage. For him to be believable, there’s gotta be radio-related detail in the story. Once the info I got today settles, I’ll start writing my two missing chapters (22 and 23), probably next week. And then it’s done. Well, at least the first draft will be done.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I’ve been busy for the past few days, but not working on new CKR material. Instead, based on the feedback I’ve gotten so far (and it’s not much, but it’s something), I’ve gone through all the Diary entries here, did some editing, and added the BOOK NOTES and CHAPTER CLIP sections. I’ve also been reading other writers’ blogs and getting an idea of what’s out there already. I hesitated doing it, because I’m always afraid I’ll absorb something I shouldn’t, which can mess with my style and pacing, among other things, but I wanted to be sure I wasn’t doing something that was already being done. Or figure out a way to do it better. I also wanted assurance that I could “swim with the big dogs.” There’s a monstrous amount of competition out there for a new writer, so there’s huge pressure to get things right. Plus, the thought is always in the back of my mind that Kid Rock’s manager (or producer or barber or pet psychic) could read this blog before I’m ready and develop an immediate opinion that could make or break the success of this novel. No pressure there.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Worked on the remaining unfinished chapters (22 and 23) last week, so the first draft is a scene or two away from being complete.

Let this be a lesson to you that the last chapters of a book are not always the last chapters written.

That was the fattest line of bullshit he’d fed himself in quite a while.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Finally got a positive response from the Pens where CKR is concerned. They like the re-engineered first two chapters and they agree the set-up for Chap 3 is much better. I’m psyched. Of course they had suggestions for improvements, but they always do.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

One of the Pens who didn’t get a chance to critique Chap 2 last week gave me his suggestions tonight and he sparked a great idea with respect to the wall clock in Ted’s apartment. One of the many things Joel’s good at is symbolism. I also think I’ve solved the problem I was having with Jimmy. I wasn’t getting to know him as a character, and I realized on the drive home from the Pens’ meeting tonight that one of the reasons I was struggling was because I had his musical preferences wrong. Jimmy wouldn’t listen to gangsta rap and buzz music, he’d listen to something more subtle and unexpected. Phil Collins. The Carpenters. Maybe John Denver. It’s amazing how the smallest character trait can change a personality.

(to be continued...)

CKR: May 2006, Part 2

(Continued from CKR: May 2006, Part 1...)

Monday, May 15, 2006
If anyone thinks writers only write, they’re sooooo mistaken. Our hats are many, and real success requires competence in sales, promotion, marketing, target marketing, public relations, accounting, economics, networking, advertising, speech writing, public speaking, and patience. Lots of patience. And I wish I could concentrate on one project at a time, but I can’t neglect Immortal Bonds, the Pens’ Anthology, my web site, my other web site (TheOfficialRealm.com), or my house and family. Or my mother. Or my grandmother. Or my friends. Or my writer’s group…Plus I try to submit short pieces to contests or magazines now and then, to get my name out there. So I submitted my short story “The Pens” to an Open Fiction contest today and did some research on potential web sites for promoting my stuff, including this blog (which, as of this date, hasn’t been “officially” posted online yet—but it’s happening soon). The money’s steeper than I expected, but you get what you pay for, right? And I trust the guy behind my web presence with my life, so that’s a bonus. (How many people can say that about their web designer?)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
My head is much clearer than a week ago. And I don’t feel like throwing up. Out of curiosity, I Googled myself (in quotes) and got 7 results. Got 179 for Scott, but—as far as I could tell—only one of them was actually my Scott. I tried The Bloody Pens, too, but only got a couple actual reference pages. (If you’re interested, our freebie homepage is at http://www.TheBloodyPens.FreeWebSpace.com, and that’s my plug for the day.) I also worked on Chapter 25 (formerly 23), where the protagonist weaves through yet another unfortunate predicament.

So what if he worked on some stupid radio show, he was still the guy in the back seat and not the one up front with ready access to firearms.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Worked on the concert chapters (26 and 27, formerly 24 and 25—God, this is confusing). I’m pushing hard to finish this manuscript draft, because I’d like to lead a normal life again and I don’t think that’s going to happen until I’m done. I’ve got the framework for the scenes, but I’ll definitely need to go back and add detail. Plus I could use a visit to the amphitheater here in town. As many times as I’ve been there, I don’t remember many specifics about the layout. But detail is my biggest weakness in the first draft, nearly every time. Right next to “add more action to the dialogue” and “show more of the characters’ thoughts.”

When people discover you’re a Kid Rock fan, they automatically assume you’re a foul-mouthed, stoned redneck who doesn’t have a pot to piss in but still believes his shit doesn’t stink./And in Ted’s case—especially at this point in time—they’d be absolutely right.

Thursday, May 18, 2006
When I set a goal for my first book, I chose $30,000—the amount I could have earned in a year working a “real” job—which means I’ll have to sell roughly 15,000 copies to consider it a success. But with CKR, the goal has to be bigger to reflect my expectations. Last night, I decided my goal for this book is to sell more copies than Paris Hilton and her dog (meaning no disrespect, of course, to Merle Ginsberg and Jeff Vespa who wrote Paris’s book, nor to the ghost writer who penned “The Tinkerbell Diaries”). I’m not sure what that number is exactly, nor do I ever expect to discover the actual sales figures, but the heiress’s memoir was at the top of the NYT Bestseller list for five weeks. Which says something sad about our culture. I mean, come on! Are people really that interested in a clueless, skanky blonde whose best publicity came from a leaked sex tape? Oh, wait—that could apply to more than Paris Hilton. Forget I said it.

Friday, May 19, 2006
Say you’re a chick getting ready for a party. You spend two hours fixing your hair and makeup, slip into the red dress it took you months to find, and stand in front of the mirror. Everything looks perfect, you think. Won’t everyone be impressed? When you get to the party, your friends squeal with delight over your new dress. “It’s beautiful,” they say. “You must have spent a fortune.” But, then one of them asks, “Why didn’t you buy the blue dress?” And that starts the flood. “Yeah,” someone agrees, “blue is a much better color on you.” “And why put your hair up when it looks fine draped over your shoulders?” “Can you move the hair clip to the other side?” “Did you want that much cleavage showing?” “Shouldn’t you have worn different shoes?” Makes you want to run, crying, all the way home. That’s how my critique went with the Pens last night and all we read was the Book Proposal and Synopsis. They haven’t seen the new first chapters. But, as hard as it was to hear, their suggestions were “spot on.” There’s an underlying theme to the story that’s not coming out. Maybe I can see it, but the Pens can’t, and that’s a big deal, because that means the reader (that’s you) won’t see it either. I make jokes about this book, saying I’m creating a new genre (a.k.a. Redneck Fiction) by targeting people who don’t read (it’s a huge untapped market!), but, obviously, it still needs to meet the criteria of a “sell-able” novel. The story has to arc, meaning it needs an obvious beginning, middle, and end. The protagonist has to develop and change, based on the experiences he has throughout the story. It might be entertaining to drag a character through strip clubs and NASCAR races and rock concerts, but each scene has to contribute to the plot. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t belong.

Saturday, May 20, 2006
Scott put Live Trucker back in his truck. I knew he wouldn’t last long.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Worked on Chapters 27 and 28. The big finally. I’m not liking the way the narrative is unfolding, but I’ll go back later and smooth it out. I’d rather get the story down first and edit later. I do like the ending, though. It was a surprise even to me, because I’d planned to do it differently. I’ve mentioned it before, but, sometimes when I’m writing in the zone, the characters start to talk and move and think on their own. It’s hard to explain. And, no, I’m not schizophrenic. Although, I do feel a little “off” most days. I also mulled over a few suggestions from the Pens concerning the hook, which, as expected, is nowhere near what I started with. It will now most likely be something like this: Ted Seever was devastated when his wife asked for a divorce, but he’s got one last chance to get her back. All he has to do is make it through the weekend.

You can’t put the name “Kid Rock” in the title of the book and NOT have a concert scene. Anyone can go online and read reviews by music critics for nearly every concert he puts on, so I’m not giving up anything new. However, I hopefully added something to the experience that most fans don’t get to see.

If Ted had a dime for every stupid thing he’d done in his life, he’d be sitting on a nice nest egg. Or at least a couple hundred bucks.

Thursday, May 25, 2006
The Pens tore through the new first chapters (1 and 2). It was relatively painless, so I have to wonder if they’re not feeling sorry for me at this point. General consensus seems to be that I’ve got a much better beginning than the first go-round, though, so I’m encouraged that I haven’t written 200+ pages of crap (which would suck). Someone in the group pointed out that there’s an overabundance of cursing, even in the narrative, so I’ll likely edit a good chunk of the profanity out. But there’s plenty. I read a while back in Stephen King’s On Writing (and I’d quote it, but someone’s borrowed my book) that you can’t be afraid to tell the truth when it comes to dialogue. If you hit your thumb with a hammer, what word jumps out of your mouth? It’s been my observation that even the most religious souls will scream “SHIT” in that situation. But I also don’t want to curse simply for the sake of cursing, especially if it detracts from the story.

Sunday, May 28, 2006
I have to say I’m feeling almost “normal” again, if there is such a thing. Being on the boat today helped. I also forced myself to go for a walk a couple times last week. (This profession is great exercise for the mind, but it does nothing for the ass.) I’m eating better, sleeping better, and have reconnected with my family. When you’re overwhelmed (okay, obsessed), it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. Last week, one of the Pens made the comment that I’m “so caught up in the cuteness and pizazziness that [I’ve] created, [I] have lost sight of the most important, fundamental part of the book: the relationship and the complications surrounding that,” and he was absolutely right. It took a few days to sink in, but I see now that too much of my focus lately has been on the novelty and promotion of this project. It was a nice detour, but I need to get back to the story and start crafting it like I know what I’m doing. Besides, who ever heard of promoting a book before the damn thing’s even finished?! But I’m not totally off track. I had the opportunity last night to chat about the book for a few minutes with Scott and one of his life-long friends, who, like Scott, is not a reader. He is, however, married (with child) and a fan of racing, fishing, Coors, and everything else in this story. In other words, he personifies my target audience. He asked good questions and seemed genuinely interested in the concept—and that’s the stuff that keeps me believing I can pull this writer thing off.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006
I wrapped up the last chapter (28) today. All I have left is the Epilogue and the two chapters I skipped (22 and 23) because I haven’t met with the radio producer yet. (It’s a long story that involves my not having a car for 3 months.) It’ll be great to have the first draft finished—maybe within the next couple of weeks—but I know I’m a long way from done. As I write, I jot down notes on my chapter outline, so I can go back and add, delete, or change things when I do the first re-write. Some notes are chapter-specific, but others (like lines of dialogue, scene or character descriptions, etc.) might simply be something I’d like to add “somewhere” in the story. It’s easier than trying to play catch-up every time I have an idea, although I do plenty of that as I’m writing, too. Not everybody edits as they write, but I do. It slows the process (a lot) a bit, but it makes edits and re-writes easier because I’ve already got a good foundation to work with.

You might think you know how it ends, but don’t be too sure.

“Nice fuckin’ hat.”

Wednesday, May 31, 2006
I thought I’d take this opportunity (while I’m not writing the book) to address editing a little more, because, when I first started taking my writing seriously, editing was the part I understood the least. If you think writing is all about creativity and using your imagination, throw that thought out right now. I mean it. Sure, the writing part is important (duh!), but no piece is finished until it’s crafted, and that’s where the real work comes in. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure there aren’t glaring typos or grammatical mistakes, but you also want your story and your characters to develop gradually and logically. And you don’t want to begin a chapter with your character in a green shirt then end with a red one—unless the character changed clothes, of course. If you’re serious about writing, you MUST learn the craft, which could mean joining a class or a writers’ group or simply subscribing to Writers’ Digest or participating in one or more of the online communities on the Web. Crafting—polishing, editing, re-writing—is not an option, it’s a necessity.

(to be continued...)