On the one hand, it offers a bleak realism of people who long for more and dream bigger dreams, but find themselves failing under the weight of unforgiving societal ills and the expectations of others.
On the other hand, it doesn’t leave the reader in despair. Glimmers of light shine in the darkness, even if they’re not always easy to see. There is tragedy and there is hope.
The book is hard to put down. The two main characters are relatable and sympathetic. You can’t help but root for them even when the world seems against them.
4.5/5 stars, an example of indie publishing at its best.
Author Q&A: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?
There’s a lot of writing advice out there, and some of it is contradictory. You’ll hear some recommend to never use adverbs while other people think adverbs are our friends. Truth is, you can overdo and underdo almost anything. Good writing takes practice and you find your balance over time.
The best piece of advice that I’ve personally received is: Know your first draft isn’t great. Don’t edit as you go. Just get the words on paper and then go and edit when you’re finished.
I’ve had far too many stories end up going nowhere but the trash heap because I got bogged down in editing, didn’t make progress, and grew bored or rushed off to another idea. I still have a strong desire to edit as I go, there’s a perfectionist in me. However, I now force myself to hold off on editing until the end, unless it is a major plot point that needs changed, or an inconsistency that I notice.
This has allowed more stories to make their way to completion.
How about you? What is the best piece of writing advice that you’ve received? Also if you have any questions for a future Q&A, drop it in the comments below!
Author Q&A: Which of your stories did you enjoy writing most?
This one is a little tough, because when you’re writing a story or a book, especially when the words are flowing well, each one is your favorite in the moment (at least that’s been my experience). If I don’t like writing a story, I don’t usually keep writing it. That said, thinking of everything I’ve written, my short story “Burn” (in my collection Of Stars and Space: And Other Stories) is my favorite.
That might seem odd in that it wasn’t the easiest story for me to write.
The idea for “Burn” came about after reading a lengthy article on Burning Man several years ago. That inspired me to write a story that was originally meant to be about a father and his two sons taking a trip to the festival and their experiences there. I stopped, started, scrapped, and rewrote for a year and could never make the story work the way I wanted.
Then, I shifted focus. I saw a show where a main character was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease and she had to face the reality that she was going to die young. (If you’re not sure what Huntington’s is, visit: https://hdsa.org/what-is-hd/overview-of-huntingtons-disease/. The short version is that it’s a genetic brain disease that causes physical, mental, and emotional breakdown during what is usually a person’s prime years, and leads to early death. There is no present cure.)
The story took on new life. It became the tale of a young man diagnosed with Huntington’s who decides to do all he can to “burn brightly” before the disease takes its toll. It’s an emotional roller coaster as he comes to terms with his mom’s death (also related to the disease), goes on adventures with his brothers, and marries the love of his life, all with the knowledge that his days will be cut short.
I love the story because it ultimately is about the meaning of life and making the most of each day, something we can take for granted when we think we have decades still before us.
Oh, and Burning Man still makes an appearance, but more of a background event. Jackson, the older brother of Chris (the main character), returns from a trip to Burning Man with college pals and tells Chris about the fun he had. With Chris still in high school, the two decide to put on a backyard version with their brother Tanner and Chris’ best friend, Alex. A flaming effigy finds a place at the story’s beginning and end, ultimately becoming a metaphor for Chris’ life.
Science fiction. I’ve loved stories, especially stories about space and other planets, most of my life. This true whether you are talking novels or cinema. Honestly, when I was younger (middle school / high school), I did judge a book by its cover. I would go to the library or the bookstore and often select a book if it had a spaceship on the cover.
As an adult, I do more research into the book and don’t concern myself with the cover as much. 🙂
Author Q&A: Who have been your favorite authors as an adult?
Michael Crichton. When I was a teenager, Crichton was at the height of his popularity. I enjoyed reading many of his books, especially those with more of a SciFi flair. That carried into adulthood. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago but the books his estate has released since his death have been fun to read too.
CS Lewis. I didn’t read Narnia until I was in college, but I love the stories Lewis tells in that collection, as well as his Space Trilogy. Till We Have Faces is probably my favorite work among his fiction. I have also benefited greatly in my spiritual life from his non-fiction.
Ray Bradbury. I read Fahrenheit 451 as a high school assignment, and picked up Something Wicked This Way Comes on my own soon after. As an adult, though, I’ve come to enjoy his short story collections such as The Martian Chronicles (which inspired a work of my own called Of Stars and Space) and The Illustrated Man.
Fredrik Backman. I think Beartown may have been the first Backman book I read, then I went back and picked up some of his “older” writings like A Man Called Ove. There is something about his storytelling and style that resonates with me. He is on the short list of authors from whom I will purchase a new book without even reading the description.
How about you? Who have been some of your favorite authors? Drop a comment below. Also, if you have a question for a future Q&A about writing or books, I would love to hear it.
Thinking back, there are three who come easily to mind.
Vicki Grove. She is a local author near my hometown. We read some of her books in class. She would also visit our elementary school and talk about life as an author.
Gary Paulsen. Hatchet, of course, is a classic. I also remember reading The River, Canyons, and Dogsong among others. He knew how to capture a boy’s sense of adventure.
Finally, Louis Sachar. His Wayside books have always stuck with me in their quirky humor. In fact, I’ve loved being able to read them with some of the foster kids we’ve had, and even sing along: “I’ve got one sock, looking for the other. One sock, looking for it’s brother…”
The thing that really struck me about Sachar was the interaction he would take with his fans. In the fifth grade, I believe, we had to write a letter to one of our favorite authors and I chose him. He wrote back, a very nice handwritten letter. Sometime later, I sent him another letter and talked about wanting to be an author. Again, he sent back a letter that was quite encouraging.
Those are the three that came quickly to mind.
If you have a question about writing, my books, or me as an author, I’d love to hear it. Please include it in a comment!
Ten-year-old Callum is good at mazes and video games and, well, not much else. His dad was a star high school baseball player, and his mom and sister are pretty good at basketball. Ask Callum about sports and he’ll tell you, “I’m as athletic as a sloth.” People expect him to be good at more, but since it’s not sports, he’s not sure what that’s supposed to be.
Until one day, he has to stay home from school sick. He ends up watching a baking show with his mom, decides to try baking, and discovers that he is actually pretty good at it.
Callum gets the idea to secretly leave surprise treats around his school with the help of his best friend, Ryan, even calling himself Captian Cookie! The Secret Baker! But when the school bully finds out, will his secret remain a secret?
Know a child who loves to read? My kids’ book The Secret Baker is available this Friday and Saturday (2/26-2/27/21) for free on the Kindle. It’s geared toward ages 8-12ish. Check out the blurb below. You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08F21R4RW
In our three years of being foster parents, my wife and I have had several children in the 8-10 year old age range. My wife suggested, with those experiences, to write a book aimed at kids that age. She even had an idea: Write a story about a boy who is good at video games and discovers that he likes to bake and is good at it. He tries to keep it a secret but his friends catch him looking up recipes at school.
Part of her motivation in that idea was you can find books out there about girls baking but it’s a little more difficult to find a book about a boy who bakes. In our home, both my wife and I love to bake and some of our foster kids, including boys, have gotten in on the baking as well.
Thus, The Secret Baker was born. The story does not go quite the way she envisioned, though it does involve a boy who learns he’s good at baking and tries to hide it from his friends. Without giving away all that happens, in the end, the story is about embracing what you’re good at and what you love, and getting past the fear of what other people think.
Second to this, The Secret Baker also touches on topics such as foster care and bullying.
I wrote the book for upper-elementary kids. You can check out a free PDF sample of Chapter One here: Mom and the Bakers.
The book is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats: The Secret Baker.
Here is the book’s description from Amazon:
Ten-year-old Callum doesn’t think he’s good at much. That’s about to change…
Meet Callum Martindale. He’s the son of the high school baseball coach in a family known for athletic ability. If you ask him, though, Callum will tell you that he’s “as athletic as a sloth.” Besides playing video games and doing mazes, Callum isn’t sure what he’s good at. That is until one day when he’s stays at home sick and binge watches a baking competition with his mom. Callum then discovers a love and ability for something he’d least expect…
With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 9 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.
A Grandfather’s Yarn is, perhaps, the shortest story in this collection. I wrote it as a submission to a science fiction contest a few years ago. It has two inspirations: First, was a trip a friend and I took to Arches National Park a decade ago. It was a beautiful scene and I tried to capture that with my words. Second, is the old notion that grandfathers like to spin stories with embellished facts–like the “walk uphill both ways in the snow” idea.
I combined these two inspirations and added a twist. Maybe aliens are real or maybe grandpa just likes to talk…
I sat on the porch in my chair with my three grandchildren at my feet. Peter and Lucy were eight-year-old twins, and Michael was four. Peter giggled as he listened to my story.
“Grandpa, everyone knows that aliens aren’t real!”
I smiled. “Just wait, one day you’ll meet them, too.” The night had grown dark and the full moon hung high in the sky. “Now go wash and get ready for bed.” I loved it when my grandchildren visited and they loved staying up well past their bedtime, even if they didn’t always believe my stories.