My Inner Mickey Mouse

Last time I posted about three seemingly unrelated topics, Mary Poppins, Mickey Mouse, and the singing group One Direction.

Actually it was more about the author of Mary Poppins, Walt Disney and the reaction of tens of thousands of young girls to the positivity of One Direction. Then I promised to tell you what I thought any of this had to do with me.

I don’t want to spoil the movie for you and I will try be subtle in what I say so as not to. But there is a scene in the Mr. Banks movie that was very powerful to me. Disney and P.L. Travers are sitting alone over tea and they have a deep and personal discussion (or mostly Disney does) about story telling and what makes them story tellers.

Without giving too much away, it was pain and tragedy that led both these authors to create characters that brought joy to millions. For Walt it was the Mouse, for Travers it was the nanny. As the scene unfolded (by the way critics all over the internet have already delighted in telling everyone that the conversation never happened in real life. I say, “so what?” the reality of their lives was as depicted and the motivation behind their creativity was the same as depicted)…anyway…as the scene unfolded, I am embarrassed to admit I cried. I sat there in the theater and blubbered. Because I realized that though I have now completed three books and one manuscript, I still haven’t written a book I need to write.

I need to release my inner Mickey Mouse.

Some of you know my childhood story some of you don’t. Some of you only know a small part of it. But it was my childhood that honed me into a story teller. It was through my own pain that my sense of humor blossomed. And that’s okay. The last thing I want is for anyone to feel sorry for me.

On the one or two occasions I have shared my entire testimony, I have always emphasized that I don’t seek pity and I don’t think my story is any harsher than anyone else’s story. We all have difficulties and sad things we experienced. It was just that mine combined with the personality traits that God gave me and created a writer.

That being said, I have lost count of the number of times I have had someone who knows me well tell me, “You need to write YOUR story.” They think that the funny stories I have told about my own life is where my real calling as a story teller lies. I have never pursued anything like that however because I’ve never known how to tie these stories together into any kind of a narrative.

To be sure I have incorporated some of these anecdotes into my books here and there. But what both Travers and Disney did is created a central character and projected some of their own experiences onto that character. That’s what I am going to try and do (only mine won’t be a cartoon character).

While I loved writing my other books, I think my real strengths are in writing for the heart. Humor and nostalgia are where my strengths lie and the best books combine these two.

My very first published work can be found on this blog. It was entitled First and Last. It was a story that pulled at the heartstrings and was about my Pop taking me on my very first hunt as a boy, and me taking him on his very last hunt as an elderly man.

That story was published in the 25th Anniversary edition of Turkey Call Magazine and has since been republished in two more magazines. It has been seen by over a million people. And THAT reminds me of the One Direction audiences. Those girls were drawn to the positive message. The world is wacky and warped enough. Maybe they don’t want to read scary conspiracy books. Maybe they want to be uplifted and edified in the midst of the madness swirling around them.

So I am going to be doing a lot of brainstorming. I don’t know when I’ll come up with my story, I don’t know what the character I want to create will be like or look like. But I think I have a new goal as a writer.

 

Mr. Banks and One Direction

Tonight my family and I went and saw “Saving Mr. Banks”. It is the story of Walt Disney and his 20 year effort to convince the author of Mary Poppins a Mrs. Travers, to allow him to adapt her novel into a movie.

While I have already learned that at least some portions of the film are not historically accurate…I don’t care. This is a WONDERFUL movie and I already place it in my personal top 5.

I think it appealed to me so much because it is a story about two storytellers. The interactions between Tom Hanks as Disney and Ema Thompson as Travers were priceless to this story teller. I won’t spoil the movie for you but it is a must see. A very uplifting and yet poignant film.

Also the other day, thanks to my daughter, I saw something I never thought I would see. Namely, the “One Direction” movie. Ashton is at home right now and was watching the movie on DVD when I got home from work. I sat down with a glass of iced tea and watched the last half hour or so with her. Something struck me and it is related to the Mr. Banks movie.

This boy band toured the world in their documentary movie. They filled stadiums to overflowing around the world. In all cases the stadiums were almost exclusively packed with girls from 14 to say 17. The girls sobbed as the band sang. They were overjoyed to be seeing the band in person. I hadn’t been very familiar with the songs of One Direction but something struck me. The songs I heard were very positive. They sang about true love and inner beauty and unconditional love.

And all of these thousands and thousands of young ladies from all this variety of cultures around the world drank it in! That is the message these young girls long for. Instead the world gives them the message that they are only sex objects and nothing more. Most of the entertainment world treats our young women like little more than animals to be manipulated for meaningless sex.

So these fairly wholesome young guys come along and sing about true love and accepting these girls as they are and become a world wide sensation.

Not the first time this has been done I know, but it is unprecedented in this decade.

I just looked at the clock. It is late. Tomorrow I will tell you how these two things are related and what any of this has to do with me.

Skates On Writing

I am discovering that writing is no different than any other passion. Once it becomes business, it is difficult for it not to loose something. Today I was at Marshall County Library for an author appreciation day. The event was very well done and my compliments to the Library staff. They put on a first class event.

The bad news is, hardly anyone showed up. Granted it was a sunny Saturday afternoon but you have to pick a day and go with it and I assume people would prefer to get out on a day like today than a snowy or slushy winter day.

There were 20 authors and, excluding author family members and library staff, about 10 interested readers. I sold two books each at a discount to another author. It took me roughly 4 hours to prepare for drive to and participate in the event.

Unfortunately, this event is not an outlier. This is closer to the norm for writers. And that leads me to the business aspect. Writing for me, stopped being about just writing about three novels and a couple of short stories ago. You have to write, get published, market your fingers to the bone and then try to write anew.

The marketing part is the most frustrating and incredibly time consuming. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, calls to media and follow up calls, and follow ups to those follow ups, and about 100 (literally) emails per interview opportunity, all take up time and energy.

I have been trying to write a sequel to Going Green and quite frankly I am doing a TERRIBLE job this time. I write a weekly column now. That gives me exposure which is good, but it requires research which is bad. Word limits can be a challenge. It takes me much longer to write 750 words on a topic than it does 1500 words on the same topic. I can usually explain a concept in great detail. Trouble is, nobody has time to read that much explanation. So editors like word limits. To write succinctly is much more difficult for me and more time consuming. All that being said, writing time on my new novel suffers.

Today was….shall we say interesting. Of the 20 authors, 10 were writing on the occult, vampires, werewolves, wizards…not my bag. But BOY is this stuff popular now. If only I had made Ashley a wizard. Meanwhile, one author had just signed a 6 book deal with Simon and Schuster. I have to wonder if I will EVER sign one of those. Yet I would not be interested in that authors type of stories. I cannot come to terms with why so many people are into this genre but it is a multi-million dollar genre so I guess I am the oddball.

I sense that people want to escape. It’s enough to make a writer want to go back to writing humor. I have felt so serious lately I am not sure if I have a whole book of funny in me anymore.

A quick note. Two people were out of place today. I say that in that they were above the rest of us. Their stories were higher. Their stories were greater. Missy Jenkins was there, courageous survivor of the Heath Shootings, as was Beth Baker.

Missy wrote a book titled “I Choose To Be Happy”, Beth wrote, “Giving Him Back To God” about the loss of her little boy Caleb. I was honored to appear with these authors and have written them both a note of encouragement. No one moved any books today and that can be depressing. But these ladies in particular deserved better.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone was extremely nice and the library staff was wonderful. They have no control over public interest. MAN this is a tough business.

New Review by Book Critic

Despite massive and rapid changes in the world of publishing with E-books etc, one thing still holds true. The center of the big time publishing universe sits squarely in New York City. That being said, I was excited a couple of weeks ago, when my Publicist and Friend Kathleen Campbell told me she had convinced the book Critic Michall Jeffers (of Manhattan) to review my novel Going Green. Considering that Manhattan is politically overwhelmingly liberal, I am very pleased with Ms. Jeffers kind words:

http://www.womanaroundtown.com/sections/reading-around/wearin%E2%80%99-of-the-green-in-books

New Review From Cornwall Alliance

I was very gratified today to receive an outstanding review from Dr. Calvin Beisner at the Cornwall Alliance. You can see the review along with an excellent and very informative news letter here:

http://www.cornwallalliance.org/newsletter/issue/newsletter-july-6-2011/

In addition to the news letter, the Cornwall Alliance has produced an excellent documentary series entitled Resist The Green Dragon. I highly recommend it for showings in churches or Bible Study groups.

Finally, consider reading the article of my new friend Paul Driessen that is featured on the newsletter. Paul writes for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post and other national newspapers. His article “Clearing The Air” is a great summary of some of the economics behind current regulations from EPA.

You wrote a book….so what?

I am writing this tonight having just received my first shipment of the latest novel I have written. Three long hard years. And they were quite hard at times. Writing, getting published, and seeing the book for the first time, truly is a process. In some ways I think I have sweated over this story, fretted over the edits, and obsessed over whether or not we had gotten everything “just right” with the proofs, to the point of almost taking some of the fun out of it. But only some. I still wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.

I have already started reading it again. I have read it at least twenty times. I have rewritten it three. (not that many for a commercially published novel, some authors have to rewrite as many as 20 times. That’s something I am proud of)

It doesn’t surprise me anymore. The first few times I read the later drafts, I would have moments where I would say, “Humm….that’s pretty good. I can’t believe I wrote that section.” or “Wow, I really like this passage.” I can honestly say that there are no spots that I just dont like. I had one or two passages like that in the book I wrote with Dan, The Rain: A Story of Noah and the Ark. That has nothing to do with Dan or The Rain and everything to do with where I am now as a writer as opposed to where I was then. I have done this once now. I got feedback from well over a hundred readers. I guess I retained some of it and improved a bit. My initial reviews from editors at publishing houses confirmed that.

Want to see my baby pics? – I could pratter on and on. I mean lets face it. This is my baby. I have ridden for miles, alone in my car, talking to the characters, asking them why they did this or that. And yes, by now, they are quite real to me. What was once just an idea I had during my morning coffee is now a finished novel and will be in bookstores. You cant help but get attached.

The work– I dont think anyone who has not published a novel can truly understand the sweat equity that I have poured into this. I dont say that in a self serving way, or at least I dont mean to, it just….IS.

This Aint no big deal–  What I really started to blog about tonight is….SO WHAT? I wrote a book. Have I accomplished anything? Ten or fifteen years ago I would have said, “definitely yes”. But now, with so many blogs, so many tweets, so many people able to get their writing out there, I must say it feels a bit less “special”. Yet when I look at the statistics, so few people actually make it to this point. I think the numbers are something like:

  • Ten per cent of the authors that set out to write a novel , actually ever complete the manuscript.
  • Of that ten per cent, less than one per cent of those ever get published, (excluding self published works)
  • Then of all books that ARE published, 80% sell less than 100 copies.

There are just such a HUGE number of books out there.

Still, getting published has not made me feel that I have succeeded.

Some would only consider it a success if Going Green becomes a big hit and I am suddenly a full time writer but that is highly unlikely. Writing is not that lucrative so I am not going to hold the definition of success to that high a standard.

If people read this story, (not just friends but even strangers…especially strangers) and say to themselves, “I was thoroughly drawn in by this story…and it really made me think as well”, if people tell me of laughing at parts I meant to be funny, of being scared during parts where I intended to induce fear, if they care about the characters and what happens to them, and most of all, if some give me the ultimate compliment, “I couldn’t put it down…” Then I will consider myself a success. THEN this will seem like a big deal.

I am about to get the verdict!!

What I Want This Blog To Be

You need to start a blog. At least that is what my publicist told me.  When one enters an entirely new realm as I have with publishing a book, then you have to trust professionals in that business.  Yet, I have been pretty reluctant to get started.  The reason being, is I feel like we have a new segment in our culture where everyone feels the need to constantly inform the world of every thought. Tweets, blogs, social networks, can any of us possibly have that much to say that others need to hear?

I have been reluctant to add my voice to the cacophony.  I believe it may have been the brilliant Alexadar Solzeneitsyn who I will paraphrase, “Everyone speaks in these times of their rights, their right to be heard, their right to comforts or possessions or security.  But what of the right that no one speaks of. What of the right to peace.  What of the right to quiet before our creator.  What of the right to not have our eternal souls constantly bombarded by information, input and noise?”

Very few people that I know need more input or noise in their lives. Therefore I hope this blog will only be active when I have something worthwhile to say. I endeavor not to blog just to be blogging.

When I do blog I hope that at times I can return to my most comfortable place, the place where I can use my sense of humor. At times I hope it will be deeply Spiritual. At other times it will be unavoidably political.  In all cases I hope it will add value to your day. For if all I can do is add to the noise that already surrounds you, then I would rather not blog at all.