A Writer’s Wednesday

In my previous offering, I wrote about what it’s like, a little, as a full time writer. I also alluded to the fact that I was about to write the final chapter of my most recent novel, which would have been Chapter 35. Guess what? Well, I did finish the novel last night, but it was Chapter 37. Things happened that I didn’t expect, including a blizzard and a puppy and a couple of scenes in a pub. If you’re a writer, you know how that happens. If you’re not, let me try to explain.

People say, “How in the world can something can happen in a story you, the author, are writing, and how can you be surprised? Aren’t you in charge? This doesn’t make any sense!”

They’re right and wrong. Yes, I am the writer and I am in charge, and responsible for, what I write. But no, I’m not surprised when something happens I didn’t plan on happening. How does that happen? Well, if I’m writing regularly, and I’m talking about several pages or even a full chapter, then the story sort of writes itself, in a sense because the story is happening inside my head, and things can intrude – scenes, dialogue, action – that I didn’t plan. I do not outline. I do not write the last chapter first. I don’t even know how the novel is going to wind up when I start. In this case, I did know that there would be redemption at the end, but that was it. How was that going to happen? Don’t ask me. I can’t answer the question.

So, how does it feel to have finished? It’s good and bad. It’s good because I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. It’s bad because it’s over, the relationships I have with the characters and the story. What’s next? I’ll set it aside for a while, several weeks maybe (Stephen King sets his aside for three months), but I’ll still be thinking what I’m going to do to make it better. I’ll get ideas, I’ll jot notes, I’ll answer questions that should have been answered in the book (why does that guy bite people instead of say hello?) and so forth.

In the meantime, I am going back to Of Mists And Murders, #4 in the Thomas O’Shea series set in fictitious Rockbluff, Iowa, which is what I was working on when the idea for this other novel shoved its way into my schedule. In other words, when I finish writing something, I write something else. Grand, isn’t it?

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Tomorrow may be Hell

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I was going to write series of postings about my work as a writer.  I have published the first two novels in the Thomas O’Shea series with #3 to published, I’m told, in December.  I was working on #4 when I felt I was a bit stale, and besides, there was an idea for another novel, a different kind of novel, that my imagination thrust upon me.

So I wrote it.  I don’t like the working title, but I must say I am pleased with the novel.  It’s in the genre called “upmarket fiction” which is supposed to be a combination of literary fiction and commercial fiction.  It’s supposed to be 35 chapters.  I have written 34.  But I don’t know how to finish the book.  So, I have gone back and revised, hoping to unlock the key to that elusive last chapter.

Nevertheless, the last three days have been very good writing days as I have struggled to make chapters better.  Neil Gaiman said, “Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.”

The last three days have been good writing days.  However, I must say that other things matter, so there.

After several hours writing and revising today, my brain is tired and I plan to take a nap, enjoy dinner with my bride, play with my dog, Lily, winner for the second consecutive year as “Best In The Universe” at the Intergalactic Dog Show on Pluto.  Maybe watch some episodes of “Hell on Wheels” on Netflix.  I recommend the gritty series about building the transcontinental railroad, a project I remember well, my 4th grade class taking a field trip to see the progress out of Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Writing is hard, but I love it.  More later on when and if I can write Chapter 35.MV5BMjM5ODQ5Nzc3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTQzMzM4NjE@._V1_

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Thomas O’Shea for President

Don’t like Donald Trump? Ted Cruz? Hillary? Bernie? Well, I can tell you someone you will like, and his name is Thomas O’Shea, and he’s the tough but tender, wise-cracking protagonist in my first two novels in the series, and you WILL like him.  But you can’t like him if you don’t read about him.  And I have good news.  My publisher, Neverland Publishing, has told me that the third in the series, The Face on the Other Side, will be published in December.  But why wait for #3 if you haven’t read the first two?  So, let me encourage you to pick up the first, Signs of Struggle.  I am confident you’ll enjoy it and then you will want to read the second, A Far Gone Night.  I believe you’ll enjoy it as well and then you’ll be ready for #3 when the weather grows colder.

The first two are available on Amazon.  If you live in the beautiful Upstate of South Carolina, you may find autographed copies in My Sister’s Store, As the Page Turns, Fiction Addiction, and The Cafe at Williams Hardware.

These novels will make outstanding summer reading choices for you and your friends. A pleasant and entertaining diversion from politics, violence, and heat waves.  Maybe even therapeutic.

Also, I have been informed by my Book Concierge that I haven’t been blogging much lately.  True, I’ve been working on Thomas O’Shea #4 and another novel, completely different.  What I’d like to do, besides send out puns and corny jokes from time to time, is send send out an occasional blog about the joys and frustrations of being a full time writer.  My hope is that those blogs will be interesting, along with other blogs on some unrelated topic.  Maybe snakes.

So, for now, go ahead and order the O’Shea books, stay inside by an A/C vent, put your feet up, and enjoy.

That’s it for now, but I promise there’ll be more later.

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Writing Wednesday Writer’s Plug

Now that Memorial Day is over and June is here, many of you are planning vacations – to the beach, to the mountains, to the back yard.  When that happens, a grand old American tradition is to get one’s hands on novels with page-turning plots, colorful characters, humor, and maybe even a bit of mystery and action.  Ideally, romance is sprinkled into the mix with healthy portions.

I would like to make two recommendations, knowing that these novels include all of the above ingredients for a good read.  I know this because I wrote them, and here they are:  Signs of Struggle in which the protagonist, Thomas O’Shea, who has lost his family in a tragic car accident, comes upon a beautiful woman, bloody and screaming, running down a country road.  He considers not helping; after all, he has his own issues, but his heroic side wins out, one thing leads to another, and he discovers an enormous plot to sell tens of millions of dollars’ worth of prime Iowa farmland.  He starts snooping into the situation and then people try to discourage him.  Attempts are made on his life, but O’She is a tough guy with nothing to lose as he struggles with the loss of his family, drinking, women, and his guilt for precipitating so much violence in the little town where he now lives.  Ron Rash (Serena, The World Made Straight, Above the Waterfall, The Cove) says “Signs of Struggle is both a gripping murder mystery and a compelling study of one man’s recovery from tragedy.  John Carenen is a gifted writer and his novel is an impressive debut.”

My second recommendation is the sequel to Signs of Struggle and is entitled A Far Gone Night.  Suffering from insomnia, O’Shea goes for a late-night stroll and finds himself pausing on a bridge over the river that runs through the peaceful Iowa town of Rockbluff.  When he glances downstream, he sees the body of a dead girl. Teaming up with his friends Lunatic Mooning and Clancy Dominquez, an old buddy from Navy SEAL days, the men set out to bring justice to the dead girl, a quest that takes them to the Chalaka Reservation in Minnesota, seedy businesses adjacent to the Chalaka Casino, and straight into the world of organized crime.  Quirky characters fro my first novel, a fast-paced story, and laugh-out-loud moments continue to enliven the complex world of Thomas O’Shea.  Wendy Tyson (Killer Image, Deadly Asset, Dying Brand, A Muddied Murder) says, “Carenen has done it again.  Beautifully written … A Far Gone Night doesn’t disappoint.”

So, whether you are headed for the beach or just enjoying your front porch, I am confident these two novels (the third in the series is at the publisher) will bring pleasure to your summer reading.  You can find them at Amazon books, of course.  If  you I’ve in the South Carolina Upstate, where I live, you can pick up both novels at both Fiction Addiction and Joe’s Place in Greenville and My Sister’s Store in Travelers Rest.  Also in “TR” as we call it, the novels are available at As the Page Turns (Southern Writers section) and The Cafe at Williams Hardware.  Just ask if you can’t find them.  They’re there.

So, I hope you’ll pick up these novels, enjoy them, and say “I’m Facebook friends with this author!”

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Blogging, Snake-style

I hate snakes.  I don’t even like the useful ones, like blacksnakes, who supposedly eat rodents, copperheads (folklore, I believe), and ATF employees because the main purpose for all snakes is this – scare the bejeezus out of me the instant I see one.  I don’t want to see one, but I am ever vigilant that there is a snake somewhere just waiting to jump out at me and say, “Aha!” at which point, as soon as my heart starts beating again, I go get a shovel, hoe, or gatling gun to KILL IT.  But by then it is usually gone, blogging to other snakes about what fun it was to make me wet my pants.  I hate snakes.

So, when my long-suffering wife, Lisa, came in the house to tell me there was a snake in her little vegetable garden (one of only two manmade creations visible from outer space the other being The Great Wall of China), I asked, “Do you want me to kill it?” she replied, “No, I want you help me to free it.”

“Free it?”

A simple, non-assuming, modest rat snake, about 3-4 feet long, had gotten itself entangled in a roll of mesh Lisa uses to cover our blueberry bushes to keep the local birds from ripping us off when the berries are ripe.  The poor snakey-wakey was twapped and couldn’t get fwee!  I told Lisa I’d go get a shovel and put it out of its misery.  I mean, it was a freaking snake, not a bunny wabbit.

My wife, The Snake Whisperer, prevailed.  While I used a long stick to pin the snakes little noggin, Lisa took a pair of clippers and snipped away at the mesh, holding the snake by its tail as she did so.  Finished, she let go and I let go and the snake slithered away, no doubt giggling about more opportunities to sneak back and surprise me.

I hate snakes.sp_blackratsnake006

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If you buy a gardner a hose…

My long-suffering wife has a wonderful garden that keeps us supplied with fresh veggies for months and months, not to mention blueberries and figs.  She does the raised beds thing, and thoroughly enjoys getting dirt under her fingernails and bringing baby plants along and into production.  Recently we made a trip to Home Depot with the plan to buy a hose to be used when watering the garden.  But one does not go with my LSW to a garden store to buy one thing.  It can’t be done.  It’s like me in a used book store – can’t buy just one book.

So I tagged along and watched as my bride picked out one of these and a couple of those and, oh!, need that as well.  It was fun.  I like to look at pretty flowers and she likes to acquire purchases that make gardening more productive.  So, that “one thing” grew almost as fast as the federal government.  When we checked out, we had picked up a heavy duty hose, a cone sprayer for the hose, a heavy duty nozzle, a bag of natural plant mix, two bags of pine nuggets mulch, a 175′ capacity hose reel cart, a lavender plant, a calypso plant, and another plant I can’t identify.  It was bright yellow.  She was thrilled with her purchases.  I was thrilled with mine – a large Diet Coke.

This morning, I dropped in, alone, at a used book store, landing to purchase just one book.  I have no further comment.Right-Plants-Garden-Ideas

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Up On Blocks

I am now a Son of the South. I do not hunt. I do not fish. I do not even play golf. I am an English professor for Pete’s sake which means that I fit a certain stereotype.  I like to read a lot.  I write novels.  I have weird neckties that I sometimes wear.  None of these things qualifies me to consider myself now a bona fide, yet transplanted, Son of the South.

So what does qualify me?  This:  I have an old pickup truck on blocks!  My Lord, I feel so accepted now, after decades of living in Dixie, I have come of age.  It didn’t take a dog fight, moonshine (no comment), or even my own special road kill barbecue recipe.

It was having that truck up on blocks.

I came out one morning and the truck was leaning a tad to port, so took a look and there it was – a flat tire.  I needed to fix it, but the jack I had to use was for our Altima, and it didn’t lift the truck high enough for me to take off the tire.  So, I got a big block of wood and put the jack on top of that and jacked that old pickup higher and higher until I could remove the tire.  then I took the tire in and picked it up two days later and put it back on the truck.

My old pickup was up on the block only a couple of days, but I’m counting it, even though it wasn’t on cinderblocks, or even in the front yard.  Son of the South? That’s me!dsc01884_zps7d37e549_84f986520de2de4f12b0a876c07ed96dcf80ea91

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