Moving Right Along

Recently, I took my 12-years-old Honda Accord to the dealer to have a dead headlight and a failed brake light replaced.  The technician said it would take about an hour, so I just turned over the key, and retired to the customer waiting area, which had comfy sofas and chairs and a big screen TV.  I took with me some writing materials because I wanted to work on a few details for my fourth Thomas O’Shea novel, Of Mists and Murders, details I hadn’t ironed out yet, in my iron head.

An older woman soon joined me, asked if I would care if she turned on the TV.  I was fine with that.  The lady, who looked like an octogenarian Hobbit, settled into a sofa and began watching “The People’s Court,” a show I had never seen before.  It was distracting, but I worked hard to ignore the peculiar people on the tube.  What was even more distracting was that the local advertisers for the show looked like twenty-something blondes with Barbie figures enhanced by implants.  And they were advertising for personal injury local lawyers.  Every single ad had the same kind of woman, whose feet never get wet in the shower, promoting one lawyer or another who really, truly, cared about me.

The aging Hobbit had zoned out, staring at the screen, mouth slightly open, nearly catatonic, taking it all in.  I fought off my tendency to be judgemental, ignoring the court cases, sneaking a peak at the commercials.  If I ever need a personal injury lawyer….

GOOD NEWS ALERT! I now have my very own website! From now on, you can catch my blogs and lots of other information about my work, and me a little, at http://www.johncarenenwrites.com.

For that, I am entirely grateful to my Book Concierge, Rowe Carenen, and David Garrison, genius website guru.  Come see!dad_and_roxie_-_photo_for_back_cover_and_website

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The Bison Codicil

“Codicil: an addition or supplement that explains, modifies, or revokes a will or part of one” (Oxford English Dictionary).  Now, why would I start a blog with a definition?  Hang tight, dear reader, and I will explain.  Some of you know that my long-suffering wife and I took a little road trip in September.  It turned out to include 20 states, 4 time zones, 5,000 miles, and a variety of experiences.  Overwhelmingly good ones.  However, there was an exception.

The exception took place one evening as we drove back from a day at Yellowstone National Park.  It had been fun bumping obnoxious tourists into the hot springs just to hear them scream, encouraging teenagers to throw rocks at bears to get their attention for a better photo, and telling children that the bighorn sheep liked to be petted.  It was dark out, and we were slowly heading for our cabin when, quite suddenly, an enormous mass came into view directly in front of us in the road.  It was a bull American Bison and I was looking up at his backside.  My catlike reflexes had us swerving quickly around the land mass and back on the road, a good thing because on one side of the road was a sheer rock wall and the other side was an abyss.

I could not believe we had missed the bison.  If we had struck him, all 2,000-plus pounds would have ended up in our laps, thrashing about, swinging his horned head and hooves.  I am confident that would have left a mark.  Once we realized we weren’t dead, a kind of giddy relief came over us from the near-death experience.  I talked to a Park Ranger the next dead and he said bison occasionally get struck by cars at night and it usually turned out badly for the people in the cars.  I wondered why I didn’t see the big buffalo until the last moment, and the Park Ranger went on to say that the hide of the American Bison absorbs light, rather than reflects it.  Oh, and coming up behind the impediment meant we didn’t have any eyes or horns to reflect illumination from our headlights.  Good to know.

Back to the codicil.  When we realized we weren’t dead, but could have been, we also realized that parts of our last will and testament were incomplete.  We do have a will, but we suddenly realized it was not specific enough, and that for our two daughters’ sakes, we needed to be clearer.  So we have set ourselves to the task of defining which daughter gets what, after consultation, so when we move on to the true country, there won’t be any confusion about our villa in the south of France, our offshore accounts in the Bahamas, or the Lear jet.

We have peace of mind now about our assets, and, in a way, we can be grateful to the assets of the bull American Bison for helping us focus.  The codicil attached to our will shall be known, officially, as “The American Bull Bison Codicil”.bull-american-bison-in-rut-hayden-valley-yellowstone-national-park

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Have Yourself an O’Shea Christmas

Now that Thanksgiving Day is past, and so is Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you will continue to be deluged with ads on TV and radio extolling all the “perfect Christmas gifts” for your loved ones.  Everything is “that perfect gift.”  For example, a six-pack of Tidy Bowl is perfect, and so is a new Lexus. Diamonds, dog beds, electric toothbrushes, ear wax remover, exercise equipment, Omaha meat,and Michael Jordan underwear all seem to qualify as that “perfect” gift.

Now, to be transparent, I am going to make a suggestion for a nice gift for Christmas; really a stocking stuffer kind of gift, not guaranteed to make your significant other fall in love with you or simply smother you with kisses. If you have someone you care about who is a person who reads lots of books, I suggest two.  Both of them were written by me, and are the first two in a series about Thomas O’Shea and his adventures.  (The third in the series is done and due to come out in early 2017, and I’m working on the fourth.)  Their titles are Signs of Struggle  and A Far Gone Night.  They combine mystery, intrigue, romance, and homicide with humor in a small town in northeastern Iowa. Really.  You’ll like them, and your friends and family will, too.  You can purchase them on Amazon, hard copy or e-book.

Whether you purchase these books or not, I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. But if you do buy the books, you won’t be sorry.  Way better than a pair of red and green boxers, or a Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer car freshner. Seriously.

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That which we call a rose…

I offer a free service to friends and acquaintances.  It is this: I offer to name their babies for them.  So far, no takers, even though some of my offerings were as follows:
For girls: Chalice Hulga, Blanche Tiffany, and Maude Ivy.
For boys: Oscar Dudley, Zeno Horace, and Manly Francis.
I’ve always been fascinated by names, whether it be people, book titles, countries, or anything else with a name.  Even medicines, like FloNaze.11537430_10152822245841266_6397126838995832991_o

So when my long-suffering wife and I were out early on our big road trip in September, I was impressed by two towns in Mississippi through which we passed.  One was named Bovina and the other was Chunky.  I am not making this up.  Being one who enjoys sports, I ruminated over what the schools’ teams might be called.  I thought about the Bovina Bulldogs, but a former colleague of mine said that would be cross-species and wouldn’t work.  I thought and thought about it.  Finally, I came up with the Bovina Buttercups which, I think, honored the bovine in all of us.  The town named Chunky provided a little more room and, thus, required less thought, which always appeals to me.  “Chunky Chubbies?” Nope on that one.  I would hate to hurt the feelings of any snowflakes in that school.  “Chunky Chickens” was a nonstarter.  I finally turned to the “Chunky Cherubs” which would not strike fear in the hearts of their opponents on the football field, but would certainly lull them into a false sense of superiority.

We finally crossed the Mississippi River at Vicksburg and made our way to a lunch date with friends in the Natchitoches, Louisiana.  Their public high school calls itself the “Chiefs” in honor of the Natchitoches Indians indigenous to the area.  I’d prefer they call themselves the “Natchitoches Neanderthals,” or “Natchitoches Knuckledraggers.”  Much more intimidating than “Chiefs.”  Maybe if they called themselves the Neanderthals, they’d be having a better year, but nobody asked me.

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Agent Unawares (For Now)

For all practical purposes, I have finished the “big” novel I’ve been writing to you all about.  Thirty-eight chapters ast it turns out, thoroughly reviewed, critiqued, and edited by my stellar book concierge, and studied by my writers group, “The Write Minds.” I enjoyed writing the book, enjoyed the several revisions, enjoyed the outcome of the story that has redemption in it for a very troubled protagonist.the-end-14647704807tq

Now the hard part sets in, the “corrosive self doubt” that I wrote about earlier that all writers feel.  It isn’t any good.  It might be good but no one will want it.  Is it the best I can do?  Did I waste my time?  What will my 6th grade teacher at Hawthorne Elementary School in Clinton, Iowa think of it?

Something even harder begins now, and that – finding an agent.  I published my first two novels, and the third to come, without an agent.  So, why do I need an agent for this book?  Because there is a whole business side of publishing that I know nothing about and that my current publisher does not pursue.  How to push the book.  How to get rave reviews.  How to boost sales.  How to expand author’s rights into foreign sales, getting into big bookstores, even movies.  How to, I tremble to mention this, how to make some money at my craft.

I have writer friends who have written wonderful novels and can’t get published.  I have writer friends who got published but have made less than $500 in royalties over two or three years.  I have writer friends who despair and give up, but I’m not doing that.  I wrote a good book.  I hope to find an excellent agent who will boost my career.

I will keep you posted, dear readers.

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The Day Old Faithful Wasn’t

On a recent road trip that found us in Yellowstone Park, Wyoming, my long-suffering wife LIsa and I were sitting on benches with hundreds of people from all over the world, waiting for a geyser to erupt. The geyser was “Old Faithful,” so named because it goes off regularly, day after day, year after year.  The Park Rangers set up a bulletin board that tells you when the next eruption will occur.  Typically, Old Faithful spouts off every 90 minutes, more or less. The “more or less” part is ten minutes either side.

So there we were, waiting. Patiently waiting.  Idly waiting.  Waiting in anticipation.  Then, as the time drew near, there was a faint rumbling and finally the eruption, which did not draw gasps and shouts from the bystanders.  It was, in a word, “Underwhelming.” No big deal. A man near me said, “I came all the way from Finland to see that?”  It wasn’t much, for sure.

Everyone grumbled or laughed and the group split up and drifted off into different directions to be mangled by a bear or trod under by a bull bison, or to buy souvenirs.  Lisa and I headed for the nearby Visitors’ Center to be educated at various displays telling us we were standing on a volcano that could erupt horrifically any time.  While Lisa was learning things at various displays, I noted that the Ranger Station had posted the time for the next eruption, which by that time, was close.  The time came and went.  The “more or less” ten minutes passed, and then some more.  Old Faithful was late.  The crowds waiting for the next eruption grew and grew.  I watched from the vantage point of the Ranger Station at the Visitors’ Center.

Then it happened.  A distant rumbling followed by an eruption of the first magnitude as the geyser shot nearly 200 feet into the air and continued to do so for 10 minutes, thrusting thousands of gallons of water into the sky.  When Old Faithful stopped, there was applause and satisfied people moving on.  I don’t know where Old Faithful was hanging out when it should have been performing, and I guess we’ll never know.  Let’s just say it was worth waiting around for the real thing.

Hope the guy from Finland saw it.old-faithful-geyser-and-rainbow

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Taking a Page from Stephen King

Some famous author once said that when a writer finishes writing their novel, a sort of depression sets in, not unlike the postpartum blues women suffer from right after having a baby.

I can’t relate to postpartum depression, nor can I say rightly that I get down after completing the last chapter of a novel.  you see, I just finished the last chapter to my work, a 97,000-word “upmarket commercial” effort.  And I did not get depressed.  What I wanted to do was immediately start revising, so I did, looking specifically for two of my blind spots – passive voice and “echo,” a term we writers use to describe using the same important word twice within close proximity of each other.  That proximity blind spot can be annoying, a speed bump interfering with the reader’s flow and proximity to a smooth narrative.

So I did that, weeding out my blind spots.  What’s next, you may ask?

When Stephen King finishes a novel, he sets it aside for a month or more and does something else, such as going for long walks or watching Boston Red Sox games, or reading what other writers are publishing.

My urge was to get back to working on my fourth Thomas O’Shea novel, since the first two are published (Signs of Struggle 2012 and A Far Gone Night 2014) and a third (The Face on the Other Side) is scheduled for an early 2017 release.  So I plan to get after number four in the series, Of Mists and Murders.

I am a professional writer, so I have a compulsion to write, and I am itching to produce that next O’Shea novel, and it nags at me.  But first, I am going to follow King’s example and take some time off, starting with a long road trip with my bride, watching college football on TV (especially my Iowa Hawkeyes), and enjoying the changing of the seasons leading into my favorite month – October.

I will, however, keep a notebook in close proximity at all times, just in case I need to jot down a piece of dialogue that comes to mind, a vivid setting, or a conflict among my characters I had not thought of previously.

So, no more blogs for a while, but please look to hear from me and my writer’s journey when the leaves turn to gold and orange and red.king

Posted in A Far Gone Night, Of Mists and Murders, The Face on the Other Side, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment