Saturday, October 13, 2018

Houston, we have a release date

Back in March, on this very blog, I boldly announced my new book, The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo, would be "Coming Summer 2018." I figured that gave me a reasonable three month window, three months down the road. Very doable. Or so I thought. Well ... some things just take a little longer than I think they will.

But now, at long last, it is ready to see the light of ereaders everywhere. It is formatted, converted, and ready to rock on multiple platforms. We are not going to do the Kindle-only thing this time around. No, we're casting a wide, wide net in the search for readers. Nook, Kobo, Apple, pretty much any ebook retailer, we will be there. The official release date is October 24, but it's already available for pre-order on the following sites:





Friday, July 13, 2018

If it rocks, it rocks, in any language

How much of our love for music is dependant upon being able to sing along? It's a factor, definitely. Critical, undoubtedly, with certain songs or bands where screaming along with the chorus is most of the fun. But what about the bands where you can't make out a lot of the words? What about the "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" anthems? Maybe the words you're chanting are not the same ones they are. What if the folks in the video look just like us, but we can't sing along because it's all Greek to us? Or *insert language here*?

I think our brains will try to map it anyway. Guitars and basses and drums know no language. That gets us 70 percent of the way there. Our toes still tap if the beat is right. And we're used to not knowing the lyrics the first few times through a song, anyway. Or more. How many times have you heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit"? How willing are you to bet your life you know all the words, even 25 years after you first heard it?

I listen to a lot of BBC Wales. The English version, as opposed to Radio Cymru. Which is great for catching some Manics, Stereophonics, Catfish and the Bottlemen, etc. That's how I got tuned into a couple of my newer fixes. I've bought more than a handful of CDs I wouldn't have otherwise stumbled across. And then I started following DJs or music critics over there who may dabble in Welsh language artists on the side. (Or maybe the English ones are what they would consider the aside from their viewpoint?) And certain bands seem to show up in my Twitter timeline. In some cases the band name is the only word I recognize, as my Welsh has a long ways to go.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Critique group jumps very horny shark

On and off over the last several years, I'd been keeping my eye open for a local critique group. In my head, it was a handful of writers who met every month in a bar somewhere and spent a couple of hours sharing feedback on each others' works. We'd each credit the others in the Acknowledgement pages of our novels and move on to the next round of drafts (and draughts). But I never found the secret bulletin board where this group was posted, and it lived only inside my mind.

This past January, I discovered, which for perhaps apparent reasons I had previously dismissed out of hand as a site for finding discreet partners. Turns out it's nothing like Adult Friend Finder, and you can instead discover groups that knit, hike, and even critique each others' writing. However, there were no writers groups that met during non-working hours. So I started my own. Instead of a bar, I scheduled the first meeting in a coffee shop. Five other writers showed up, which surpassed my expectations, as I'd imagined the horrible awkwardness of sitting across the table from one other person, much like a "party" I hosted one night years ago.

We laid out some basic ground rules about how much was reasonable to expect each other to read each month (in the neighborhood of 10-12 pages, double spaced) and what was the best way to share our work (we settled eventually on emailing it around to the group). It was decided that the coffee shop was too loud for us to all hear each other easily, and we searched for a new home, eventually settling on a somewhat centrally located library with reservable rooms.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hillsborough haunts pages of Danny Rhodes' novel Fan

Over spring break we took a family trip to Washington, D.C. It's been years since I'd been there, and I'd never stayed in the city before or visited for more than a day at a time. This time we did four nights in the Embassy Row neighborhood near Dupont Circle. Nice neighborhood, and if my feet hadn't been so tired from walking all day every day I would have liked to have explored Massachusetts Avenue a little more and seen more of the embassy buildings from various countries.

I did find time to visit a book shop a couple of blocks from our hotel, called Second Story Books. Which is on street level, not the second story, but it sold used books, hence the name. I could have spent hours in there scanning the shelves, but unfortunately didn't have that much time. So I bee-lined for the fiction shelves and netted a couple of Richard Russo novels (Straight Man and Mohawk). And then another book caught my eye. Fan by Danny Rhodes. I don't remember where, but I read something about it in the not too distant past, just enough for that "hey, I've heard of this" lightbulb to click on when I saw it. It's a novel about a rabid Nottingham Forest fan whose life is changed after witnessing the Hillsborough tragedy from the other side of the pitch.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Coming Summer 2018

It's been three years since I released Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed. Three long years. What the heck have I been doing all that time?

Following a brief break and a series of false starts that resulted in a collection of abandoned Chapter 1s, I settled on a new story, which turned into two books, and may eventually result in a third (fourth, fifth?). My goal is to release the first, entitled The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo, this summer. Jason is 15, going on 16, and still waiting for his parents to grow up. The story is set in 2003 and told entirely through online exchanges with friends. I'll describe it as The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole meets Nick Hornby's Slam. (Not sure what the Venn diagram of readers for that combo looks like. Anyone else in the intersection with me?)

I'm currently on the nth round of revisions, with at least one more pass to come. I'm still toying with releasing both books together, but the longer things drag out, the more I rethink that.

If you'd like to be the first to know when they are available, please sign up for my email list. I promise, I do not spam. I only send messages when I have something significant to announce (which as you might guess from the fact it's been three years since the last book came out, isn't all that often).

In the meantime, if you want a taste of what's to come, here's the first ~2,000 words of The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo. (It's not divided into chapters, which should make sense once you read it.)

Friday, March 9, 2018

Discoverability and pure dumb luck

As an indie author, I have a soft spot for indie artists generally. I particularly love to discover a new band that hasn't broken big (yet). I've found bands on Twitter, sometimes from a tweet recommending them (Rizzle Kicks, H/T to James Corden), and sometimes via direct contact from the band itself (Lux Lisbon). Discoverability has always been the key to an artist's success, but discoverability is so different now to what it was a generation ago. Musicians can find an audience halfway across the world without trekking there in a broken-down van to play a crowd of 20 people. Sometimes purely by accident.

My son is 8 and into music. If you drew a Venn diagram of what we like, there'd be a reasonable sweet spot in the middle. Most of those songs are ones I've introduced him to, despite his initial reluctance to give anything I like a chance. From AC/DC to Trombone Shorty to Snow Patrol, he has added a fair number of my tracks to his mp3 player and/or Spotify list. It doesn't often flow the other way, though. He gets a lot of his music from whatever they play on Dude Perfect, which mostly all sounds the same to me, bland synthesized music and cliched lyrics that play well behind footage of morons performing trick shots.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Parkland survivors offer hope that something might finally change

A lot can change in a week.

Seven days ago, 17 lives were needlessly lost in the horrific shooting in Parkland, Fla. My first awareness of it came via Twitter, before any details were available. Another school shooting. The all-too-familiar depression and hopelessness that washes over me during these incidents struck me harder and harder as information was reported. Many injured ... multiple fatalities ... more than 10 deaths ... then, finally, 17 dead. And eventually a grim sense of relief that the count had finally stopped going up.

Happy Valentine's Day.

I had taken the afternoon off to buy and prep a steak for our traditional Valentine's cookout. But by the time my wife got home from work I didn't feel much like celebrating anything. It felt wrong to be grilling--to be doing anything I enjoyed--with such a tragedy for all intents still unfolding, knowing so many families were being irrevocably torn apart. I felt more like crying than anything else. But I put my best face on, partially because I still don't want to talk about things like this in front of my son. He's 8. He shouldn't have to know these kinds of things happen.