Thursday, June 26, 2014

Saying goodbye to a home

If I remember nothing else, I’ll remember the rooms. I found it impossible this week to walk through the quiet, empty rooms of my Montana home of fourteen years and not think of the times when they were not so quiet and empty.

When I stepped into the small bedroom upstairs, the one facing the lush garden in back, I couldn’t help but think of my three children. Each had called the room their own at one time or another. Like the brightly painted room in the basement, it was their space, their retreat, the place they could collect their thoughts and make their mark — as they (literally) so often did.

No less memorable was the table-less dining room with the low-hanging chandelier. Though it had been weeks since it had been filled with food and family, I had no difficulty remembering the holiday dinners, the birthday parties, the card games, and the family reunion in 2008.

Then there was the heart of the house, the open living room with the picture-window view of the northern Rockies. It didn’t seem right without the sofa on one side, the flat-screen TV on another, and a lavishly decorated Christmas tree in the corner. It didn’t seem right without people.

This was a place where memories were made — a venue for countless gatherings, discussions, and photographs. To see it as three walls and a floor was to see it as a carpenter might see it: barren, utilitarian, lifeless.

I knew this would happen. When people pack their belongings and empty their houses, they take more than couches, lamps, and wall hangings. They take memories. They take the very things that defined their lives in a certain time and place.

It’s fitting that this transition occurred this year. My youngest finished high school this month and will soon head off to college. My wife is in the South, training with Teach for America and getting ready to find her place on the front lines of education.

I’ll join her in a few weeks and blaze some trails of my own as a novelist with a lot more time to write, market, and do the things I like to do. Whether I’ll do so in a house or a community as inspiring as the one I’m leaving remains to be seen. But I’m optimistic.

A home, after all, is what we make of it. I plan to make the most of my next one.

Next: Saying goodbye to a city.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My Writing Process blog tour

Since taking up novel writing two years ago, I’ve been asked many times to weigh in on the writing process. More often than not, those doing the asking are reviewers seeking insights into the making of a particular book. On occasion, however, I hear from other authors and bloggers who simply want to me to participate in an an activity for authors and bloggers.

Casee Marie Clow, book reviewer and lifestyle blogger, offered me such an opportunity the other day when she asked me to take part in the My Writing Process blog tour. Writers are asked to acknowledge the person who invited them, nominate three others to participate in the tour, and answer four questions.

Acknowledging Casee is a pleasure. She is one of the most eloquent and gracious bloggers in the business — one who took the time to read and review each of the Northwest Passage novels in Literary Inklings. She also owns and edits The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower blog.

I am also happy to recommend three bloggers and writers who have blazed their own trails. They include Sandra C. Lopez, R.G. Dole, and Aaron Yost.

Sandra is the author of Esperanza: A Latina Story, which I reviewed last year, and its sequel, Beyond the Gardens. A graduate of California State University, Fullerton, Sandra was named as one of 2011’s “Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch" by Latino Stories.

I got to know R.G. this year when I asked her to review The Mine. She is the author of Immortal Longings, a novel about vampires and werewolves, and blogs at A Drip of Truth and a Drop of Lies.

Aaron is a longtime friend, former newspaper colleague, and award-winning sportswriter who edited all five NWP books. He is also an accomplished photographer who is currently finalizing his first novel. He manages the Triple Play with Aaron Yost blog.

Sandra, R.G., and Aaron will participate in the tour on June 26.

Now … on to the questions:

1) What are you working on?

I am currently writing the first novel of the American Journey series. In September Sky, an unemployed reporter and his college-age son will travel from 2016 Los Angeles to 1900 Galveston — the time and place of one of the deadliest hurricanes in history. Like the novels of the Northwest Passage series, September Sky will span several genres and offer multiple points of view. I hope to have it out by the end of the year.

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

That’s a tough question, given that my books don’t fit neatly in any one category. They do differ markedly, however, from most other time-travel novels in that they feature more history, fantasy, and romance than science fiction. They also bend the “rules” of time travel and often move in unexpected directions. They are not, for the most part, formula fiction. Each novel has its own signature.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I write what I do because I enjoy it. It’s that simple. I enjoy telling stories about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances because they enter the wrong mine or restroom or funhouse and involuntarily travel through time. I enjoy writing novels that push positive, timeless themes and prompt readers to ask the big questions — questions they may rarely ask of themselves.

4) How does your writing process work?

I always start with an extensive outline, complete with detailed chapter summaries and character sketches. I don’t know any other way to write something as complex as a modern novel. That said, I allow myself wiggle room to depart from the script. I frequently change the plot and characters as I go. I think this approach makes for a better book in the end.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Journey at the 2014 IRDAs

For the second consecutive year, I fell short of ultimate success in the Indie Reader Discovery Awards competition. IRDA judges selected The Hour of Parade by Alan Bray as the winner in the Literary Fiction sub-category. Bray was one of fifteen genre-fiction winners announced May 31 at the Book Expo America in New York. The Journey, my entry in Literary Fiction, earned the coveted “Indie Reader Approved” designation with a review rating of four stars. In doing so, it gained a distinction that eluded The Mine, a Popular Fiction entry, in last year's contest. Indie Reader's review of The Journey will run on June 23.