Jul 23, 2010

Summer Breaks: a novel IS PUBLISHED!

Summer vacation brings the promise of ice cream, backyard games and adventure for ten year-old Corey Decker and his friends.  As summer breaks, the band of seven friends watch in horror as a tragic car crash plays out right in front of them.  From there, the next weeks are spent laughing, playing, fighting and making up again.  When the gang learns of a "mad man" rumored to live in the nearby woods, they set out exploring parts of their Western Pennsylvanian suburban neighborhood they never knew existed.  Set in an unspecified timeless past, follow Decker and his friends over a creek and through the woods, into an old quarry and through a corn field as they seek out on an adventure to find the "Mad Man of Appleton."  What they find along the way will amuse, thrill, disgust and surprise readers who enjoy a little summertime escapade.

I am thrilled to announce that my debut novel, Summer Breaks, has been published!  Originally, I had called it "Summer of Seven" and it was just the first chapter.  That was in 1998 or so.  I had written it as part of my undergraduate project in the hopes it would one day become more than a single chapter.  Though it had been revised for inclusion in my Master's Thesis Project, it still remained one chapter.  In fact, I had to change the ending of that piece because it made no sense outside of a larger body of work.

Then, I read about NaNoWriMo.org in a magazine and decided to take "Summer of Seven" out of the dusty digital archives and see where things went as a challenge to reach 50,000 words.  What ensued was a flurry of writing almost every single night for the month of November.  I was so spent after that, I set the book aside and let it marinate.

When I started reading it, editing it, shaping it, I saw the story unfold in front of my own eyes.  I grew to like certain characters and not like others.  I had no real plan when I started "Chapter Two" other than to tag along as Decker and his friends started out their summer vacation from school.

With the help of Shan, my mom, and Oretha Ferguson (a colleague I met through the Technology Infused Education program and fellow Plurk user), my novel was honed and fine-tuned.   And then, as mentioned in a previous post, Mr. Adrian Cain was incredibly generous enough to grant me permission to use his artwork for my cover! 

I don't know how other people feel when they publish their first novel, but I am excited, nervous, relieved, and thankful.  I am especially thankful for all the folks that have supported and encouraged me to put myself out there.

Author contact info for interviews, book reviews, etc: David Henderson, davidinark@yahoo.com.  David and his family reside in Prescott, Arkansas.

The book is available for purchase in paperback: http://stores.lulu.com/davidinark for the debut price for $9.99.  Readers can also download an electronic version from that same site.  A Kindle version is currently "under review" and I will let everyone know when that is ready.  Other ePub formats can be obtained from Smashwords.com.  There will be an iBooks-friendly version available (hopefully) soon as well.

Jul 22, 2010

Reflecting on Podstock

One week ago, Doug, Phoebe and I were hanging out in the lobby of the Hotel at Old Town in Wichita, Kansas. We were sitting with Kevin Honeycutt, primarily, but at the same time, we were meeting people I have known for months now through Plurk.com.

We talked, laughed, and there were many folks shouting, "Hey! It is so great to finally meet you!" It was very much like a family reunion - you recognize many of the faces, and you instantly feel at home. And, that is exactly how the rest of Podstock felt.

Podstock (http://podstock.ning.com) is an annual event where educational technology comes to the forefront of presentation and discussion. Topics this year ranged from Google Docs to iPhone/pod/pad apps to robotics to policy. At each time slot, there were up to five presentations along with an "un-conference" session for each slot. Yes, you read that correctly. Unlike many of the educational technology conferences out there, Podstock plays the minimalist card. And it works beautifully. There were 102 people at the conference, which was a great number - big enough to fill the rooms, but small enough that you could meet and greet everyone if you put yourself out there.

The "Un-Conferences" were essentially round-table discussions around a particular topic or topics (chosen when the participants attended the session, in many cases). The breakout sessions had a lead presenter, but in EVERY session I attended, the presenter gave their demonstration and presentation (about 20-30 minutes) and then opened the floor for sharing, discussion, troubleshooting etc. Instead of "attendees," audience members were truly PARTICIPANTS! I know, you are shaking your head in disbelief right now. I can see you. But, it is true! And, brace yourself here, the presenters (or better yet FACILITATORS) were not in the least bit interested in forwarding their own agendas or selling you something they had made or written. They simply led the program for their allotted time (about 50 minutes).

Unlike just about every conference I have been to, we were allowed, nay ENCOURAGED, to surf the web, share in real-time with our professional learning networks (plurk, twitter, blogging, facebook, etc). It was incredible to see (and be a part of) this amazing living learning community. Folks attending virtually asked questions, shared their thoughts and resources and were part of the program without physically being there. In fact, Howie George carried a MacBook (Pro?) around signed into Ustream and streamed several sessions LIVE as the "Virtual Participant!"

I had the amazing experience of helping a virtual attendee with a question about images and Google Docs! It was incredible to be sitting in Wichita, Kansas, answering (and showing how to solve) a question asked from someone out "there" somewhere!

But the learning and sharing was only half of the Podstock experience! Like a family reunion, there was a lot of hanging out, socializing, and getting to know each other "in-person." One misconception held by some of the folks I talked with was that one had to be a "Plurker" to be part of the program or part of the "insiders." But, it did not take long for them to realize Plurk is just one social network we like to use. And, soon, everyone (so far as I could tell) overcame the "outsider" feelings and became part of the 102-person family of education technology integrators! And, of course, with the relaxed atmosphere, we had LOTS of fun!

This was my first Podstock trip, and I felt like I had been to every single one of them. And, I mean that in a VERY positive way. I mean that I felt like I had known folks for years and also made some brand-new friends and acquaintances! On top of that, I learned so much about so many different things! I hope I get to go back each year from now on, and I WHOLE-HEARTEDLY recommend anyone in education attend. It doesn't matter if you are fully integrated with technology in your classroom or are wondering how you could even start, Podstock will give you resources, contacts, and friendships that will last far, far beyond the two days the conference lasts.

Jul 19, 2010

The "Trust" Fund - Challenging God

On July 11, 2010, Bro Perry preached about God's Trust Fund.  That is, we should be returning God's portion of what he lets us have.  This has been something very heavy on my heart for a long time.  I have always wanted to give back, but I barely have money at the end of the month for general survival, let alone enough to cover what I believe should be returned.  One thing that stood out, though, was the concept of one-tenth, or ten percent. 

Paraphrasing, it goes something like this: According to the Word, we are to return one-tenth of what we are given through our earnings.  To me, that was astronomical.  Then, we were told to think of something we'd like to buy, but the price seemed a bit high.  Now, there is a sale and you get 10% off. In our minds, we say, "10%!? Heck, that's not worth the drive over there." Well, 10% is 10%. Period.

Talk about a smack in the face!  10% of my salary (off the top) is nothing to sneeze at (at least not in my world).  But at the same time, if I were thinking about buying something that costs what my paycheck is and there was a sale for 10% off, I wouldn't even bother. What does that save? Taxes on the item? So, what is 10% to give back to the Lord that blesses me with breath, employment skills, authorship, etc?

Another point made was that in that same text, God tells us to "Challenge" Him.  Put Him to the test.  Start returning the portion and challenge God with "too much month at the end of the money."  So, I am.  I prayed and challenged God outright.  I challenge God to meet, and even exceed, my needs as I gladly return to Him what he asks.

And I do return it gladly.  In a weird way, I feel great about it!! Why? Because it's something I have been wanting to do for years.  But, I always get to the end of the month and say, "I can't. I have nothing."  Now instead, He gets it right off the top.

I am one week into my "Trust Fund Challenge" and I plan on keeping up with it, writing about it.  Sometimes, I will write on here if there's interest or if I find some revelation (either good or bad) that I want to share.  But I am writing it down in order to make a book about it.  It will be no-holds barred.  Good, bad, blessing or curse - it will be open and honest.

Now, one of the things we are told is that God does things HIS way.  So, that may mean cutting back on eating out or not buying something I would nave never thought twice about.  It may also mean some seriously rough road.  Then again, it could also mean being blessed with something totally unexpected.  We just never know.  For example, my FIRST NOVEL is published and ready for purchase!! I am SO EXCITED!!  It's here: http://stores.lulu.com/davidinark (Summer Breaks)!!  I'll save the commercial for another post. ;-)

I know not all my friends are Christians, and I am not one to preach to anyone. This is my personal journey and challenge that I am sharing with anyone that wants to follow along.  Like many of the random things that come from my head, everyone is free to follow along or ignore it.
If we are truly friends, this won't affect things one way or another on that front.

If we are not truly friends, then I appreciate the time we've spent talking, exchanging ideas, and getting to know you and I understand your need to part ways. No hard feelings. It's been fun. :-)

If you'd like the outline for the sermon, it is here:

The adventure home

I am working on my "official" Podstock post, but in the meantime I wanted to share our trip from Wichita back to Prescott.

My Droid's GPS went flaky at some point during our stay in Kansas.  I did a search on Google and came up with various solutions (one of which required about 20 steps leaving my head spinning at the very thought of attempting it - I did NOT follow those steps!).  I found one person who said, "Turn off the phone, take out the battery, wait, put battery back in, turn the phone on, start Maps and wait."  That worked, though I also use an app called "GPS Status" to check on, well, my GPS status.  I whole-heartedly recommend you get that app if you use your GPS.

Once the GPS was working again, I programmed our destination into the phone and we were ready to roll.  The gas station across from the hotel is open 24 hours a day...if you want fuel. Want souvenirs? Monday-Friday only. DOH! Oh well. I should have purchased goodies at the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Show when I had the chance. Live and learn from our mistakes, I guess. 

Sidenote: After I got to Prescott, I met Shan and the kids at the church and our preacher's message was "Sieze the Moment."  I did not do so in Kansas as far as goodies go, but I will not make that mistake again - I will Sieze the Moment!

Where was I? Ah yes, we fill up the tank and follow the directions to the on-ramp for I-35 South.  As it turns out, the nearest entrance for us was.... CLOSED due to construction. Undeterred, I take the on-ramp for I-35 North and we get off at the next exit, make a quick turnaround, and cruise down the road heading south.

Somewhere, I got distracted and missed the Rte400 > I-235 South entrance that the GPS told me to take.  So, the GPS adjusted our course and we followed I-35 to 412 basically to Tulsa, where we grabbed 244 and kept on trucking.  But, if we had simply done that, we would not have the adventure to remember, would we?

The order of events a little foggy in my mind, but I will relate them anyway.  I-244 outside of Tulsa is under construction.  Or, rather, I-244 outside of Tulsa is GONE! There is no road. There are no bridges.  There are several pieces of equipment, but the entire road has been removed from existence. I'm sure someone is putting it back when they're done with it, but for now, the area is a wasteland.

When lunchtime rolled around, we decided to stop at Arby's for a bite.  I decided to visit the men's room to wash up and such before eating.  I opened the door and closed it without a second thought.  When I turned my head toward the facilities, I saw an older man dressed in his Sunday clothes sitting on the commode with his pants around his ankles.  The urinal was mounted on the wall next to him. As you can surmise, there were no partitions.

"Oh, I'm sorry! The door was unlocked. I didn't realize anyone was in here," I said as I backed toward the door.
"No problem! Come on in. You won't bother me any."  He began fiddling with the underwear caught in his breeches.  It was really more than I wished to experience.  I quickly stood at the urinal, not quite sure how to handle the situation.  I opted to look straight at the wall in front of me and did not say a word.  The whole time, my mind raced, wondering if I should say something to engage conversation.  Does one strike up a conversation when there are no partitions?  I wished I had just walked out as soon as I saw him.  I wished I could get done with thins a heck of a lot faster than they were happening.  I finally opted to get quit, wash up and get out.  I wished the old man a good day, not sure if the man was actually in need of assistance, as he appeared to be almost falling off the commode while fumbling with his clothes.  I decided he was handling things fine on his own.  Besides, there was no way I could picture myself being to help this total stranger with his pants around his ankles without the whole thing just being....weird. It was weird.

The entire trip home, Doug and I checked in to our FourSquare accounts, posting the places we visited as we made the journey home.  It was fun, funny, and completely nerdy. 
Unlike the trip TO Kansas, the return trip found very few (if any) live animals for us to dodge.  Instead, roadkill seemed to be flavor of the day.  Skunks, armadillos, raccoons, and critters no longer identifiable left their marks on the roads.

After lunch, we drove for a while and decided to stop for a break and some ice cream.  Along the Indian Nation Turnpike, EZ-Go (or Kum-and-Go) gas stations and McDonald's restaurants have replaced the HoJo's of olden days.  We walked into the hottest Mickey-D's I have ever experienced. It was so hot and humid inside that when someone opened the door, a cool breeze came INTO the place!  A family sitting at one of the tables near the line must have been locals.  The man said, "Welcome to the hottest McDonald's in the world. (Name of Owner) doesn't believe in air conditioning."  his wife smacked him and told him to be quiet.  He retorted that the statement was true.  She rolled her eyes.  "What!? It's true!" He took a bite of his Big Mac.  I simply agreed that it was hot.  In addition to that, the line merged from two directions at the single open register.  Yeap, that's right. Twenty people in line and one register.  What was the manager doing? Fries. Lovely.  At some point (no less than 20 minutes by my estimation), we ordered our ice cream.  Five minutes after that, we got our snack.

Speaking of the turnpike, did you know that Oklahoma does not actually "welcome" you to the state.  There's just a sign. It says, "Oklahoma."  There's probably a subtitle that reads "You're here. Our two-lane roads have a 65mph speed limit. What else do you want?"

Oh, Oklahoma also has signs posted along the highway that read "Do Not Drive Into Smoke."  As we were driving along, we crested a "hill" (I use the term loosely when referring to OK) and saw... SMOKE! Holy cow!  Off to the right, a plume of smoke rose behind some trees.  Oh my goodness, what were we going to do!? We hurtled closer and the wind seemed to be in our favor as the smoke only lightly wafted above the road. As we passed the source, it turned out to be someone burning leaves or trash or something in their yard.  Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

We all cheered when we saw the "Arkansas Welcomes You" sign as we headed for DeQueen.  In Oklahoma, we could travel at 65mph on the backroads. Legally. Really, it's posted!  In Arkansas, it's 55.  I know that doesn't sound like much, but think about the difference between sitting still and going 10mph.  You see?  Of course, if that weren't enough, we had every person pulling some kind of trailer pull out in front of us in a no-passing zone.  I think at one point, I considered just gunning the vehicle and pulling off a "Dukes of Hazzard" jump off the ramps on the back of one flat-bed.  Except we weren't in my Charger.  I figured Phoebe wouldn't care much to have her SUV hurtling through the air over a farm truck. I could be wrong.

We pulled into Prescott, and I met Shan and the kids at church.  Since we got there before they did, I stood in the parking lot beside my suitcase.  I had on shorts and my Podstock t-shirt.  I looked like I had just come from a mission trip.  I suppose in a way, I had.

Jul 16, 2010

Podstock 2010 - Road Trip

Podstock has become an annual educational technology conference, or 'unconference' as some like to call it, held in Wichita, Kansas.  This year, a team from Arkansas is attending in the hopes that we not only learn cool new things, but also to learn how we can replicate it in our state.  Podstock mastermind Kevin Honeycutt has a franchising program for his 'un'-conference and the folks from Arkansas are going to learn what it takes to make Podstock happen.

Of course, before we can get THERE, we had to get there... As in to Wichita.  And, thus begins my tale.

Around 8am on Thursday, Phoebe, Doug, and I met to load up Phoebe's vehicle for the 9-hour (roughly) trip to Podstock.  Our original plan was to take the sign above and tape it to the inside of one of her windows.  The problem?  her windows are too dark to see the sign from the outside.  So, the solution came in the form of double-sided tape.  Phoebe attached the sign to the outside of her window.  We had to use a rear side window because the wiper on the back window kept messing with the poster.  We checked the sign for security and everything looked good.  Loaded up, we begin our journey!

As we approach a local funeral home, Phoebe asks how the sign is doing.  "So far, so good," I say.  That is immediately followed by the sound of the sign ripping away from the window and flapping in the wind, still attached along one edge!  We pull over into the parking lot of the funeral home and hold a mini-service for the idea.  Not for the sign.  The sign is laminated at survived being blown off the window.  We let the sign ride inside with us the rest of the way.

Along the way, we meet what appears to be a large dog running in our lane.  As we approach, we see that the animal is running TOWARD us!  The distance between us and the four-legged creature grows smaller and smaller.  When it is close enough, we realize it is a FAWN, still will spots!  Phoebe hits the brakes and swerves, the deer puts on its own brakes, skidding along the road.  It loses its balance, falling, rolling on the ground.  We pass by.  I turn around (I am sitting in the middle row) and the little guy (or girl) is nowhere to be seen.  It must have taken off like a shot into the woods!

One might think that is the end of the adventure.  But, then this wouldn't be a road trip, would it?

We managed to dodge several dogs, two turtles, and the deer. What we, or rather *I*, did not manage to dodge was some kind of... pipe or piece of wood or something... in the road.  I don't know what it was, and we checked the tires after I hit it.  For the sake of honesty (and, yes humor), I need to explain that as we dodged MOVING, LIVING creatures, Phoebe was driving.  The only time we hit anything, I was driving. And, that thing was stationary.  It laid in the lane, not moving at all, and the part of my brain that says, "Hey, you might might to move over here" failed me.  I tried to blame it on the car in front of us, but realized that would not fly.  The vehicle in front of us was far enough ahead that the element of surprise did not exist.

During our trip, we stopped in a place called Antlers, Oklahoma.  It's a town with about 2500 people or so.  It's basically the last town on our trip before the Indian Nation Turnpike (if memory serves).  We found a little burger joint and decided to stop for lunch.

Inside, three middle-aged-ish folks (a man and two women) stood around, basically waiting for customers it seemed.  The place had several picnic tables outside and maybe half a dozen small tables with chairs inside.  The menu offered burgers, hot dogs, catfish, philly cheesesteak, and a myriad of other options.  I chose the "Big Buck" burger - a large cheeseburger with two kinds of cheeses, jalapenos, lettuce, mustard, ketchup, and pickles.  The food tasted very good, but the conversations that took place gave us pause.

At one point, a younger guy (teens, early twenties maybe) comes in, and he evidently works there.  He tells the tale of he and his friends going out for a late-night bicycle ride.  Evidently, this is a new thing to be happening in the small town (the late-night part) because he explains to one of the women (or to anyone who was listening, I guess) that several people yelled at them, wanting to know why anyone would be riding their bikes that late at night!  He explained in great detail how winded he got while riding up certain hills, and how tired he and his friends were by the end of the ride.

After his story, one of the women says, "Look at this mess back here!  If that guy on that TV show came in here, he'd really be upset!"  A moment later, she is trying to come up with the name of the show and finally settles on Kitchen Disasters.  Now remember, we are EATING in this place.  Doug never hears the conversation.  Phoebe and I stop mid-bite and look at each other with large, concerned eyes as we slowly turn our focus to each other's (and then our own) food.  We finished our meal, and decided she must have been talking about the ice cream freezer.  Why? Because that is what we needed to believe.

As we are finishing up, and older man and a young boy enter the Barn.  They stand at the counter and pick out what they want.  As they stand there, another older man comes in and the two men exchange handshakes and pleasantries.  Evidently, they haven't seen each other for a while.  The boy says, "Who are you and how do you know my paw-paw?"  Direct little bugger, ain't he?

The man introduces himself, puts his hand out as if measuring the height of something, and says, "I've known your paw-paw since I was your big!"  That was all Phoebe and I could handle without bursting into fits of laughter.  The man's was endearing and unsettling all at once.

Naturally, you can't have a road trip without a detour, so on our route, we had to take a detour that didn't seem to add any time to the trip, just took us out of our way.  When the detour was over, we found ourselves more than halfway further down the road than we expected, so at least we weren't backtracking!

The last curiosity I want to bring up occurred while traveling the Indian Nation Turnpike.  We saw round hay bales along the roadside.  Now, in Arkansas, we see that all the time, except they are INSIDE the fence line that runs along the highway.  The bales we saw were scattered along the SHOULDERS of the highway.  Phoebe decided this was a way to make money!  rather than just mow the grass along the highways in Arkansas, we should bale it up and sell it as way to raise money!  She's pitching the idea to everyone she meets.  I think she'll find a taker eventually.

Jul 12, 2010


The wind blows across the dusty road causing dirt to lift from the ground in a cloud.  The cloud rises and falls, swirls and fades off to the left. A solitary figure stands silhouetted against the mountains in the background.  He moseys a few steps forward.  A ray of sunlight falls across his face.  He is... The Blogger! 

I've been away for a few days, hoping I'd transfer pictures to go along with the post.  As it turns out, I don't have the pictures downloaded yet, so you get the text version.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, I spent the days with Kevin Honeycutt (kevinhoneycutt.org) teaching us about the "wired learner" and about his project called "ArtSnacks" (www.artsnacks.org).  ArtSnacks is a social network for students - to post artwork, writing, music, videos, etc.  It was cool having my mother in the first session and my wife in the second one.

After the first session was over, Shan and the kids and I went to supper at Texas Roadhouse with Lindy, Phoebe, Kevin and Dr. Faber.  We had a great time!  After supper, we had to run to Target and Kevin rode with us back to his hotel room.  He lent his iPad to Emily and Tyler to play with for the night!  He is a VERY cool guy.  Top that off with making me an iPad convert.  I never saw any reason to get an iPod XL, er, iPad.  But, after watching it in the kids' hands, I'm convinced the larger format is actually worth checking out.

Then, this weekend, Emily had her birthday slumber party.  We had six girls here.  There was laughter, giggling, whispers, and fun.  The girls played games, played with various Barbie dolls, and ate pizza and cupcakes with ice cream.  I was a bad husband and went to bed at midnight, leaving Shan to watch over the late-night shenanigans.  The girls stayed up until about 2am or so, then were wide awake again at 7:30!  They had donuts for breakfast then played some more.  We bought 'fairy princess' craft kits for the girls so they could make their own princesses. 

Had this been a boy's party, the kids would have just glued things on to match the picture.  Since it was girls, they only used certain pieces and parts and then they used markers to color the foam characters any way they wanted.  It was incredibly creative!  I will post pictures eventually, I'm sure! :-)

Jul 9, 2010

Summer Breaks - Cover art from across the pond

Summer Breaks (a novel) is "published, but not released to the public" at this stage of the process.  That means I have an author's copy coming to me that I can hold in my hands and check for things like quality (though that's rarely an issue), coherence, typos etc.  I can also determine if the format I chose is the best format for the book.  I went with the "digest" format for the novel because as best as I can determine, that's close to what a bookshelf paperpack looks like.  Again, I'll have a better idea once I have the book in hand.

The cover art above was painted by Mr. Adrian Cain, a rather interesting fellow I befriended on Plurk.com some time ago.  He lives in Worcester, Great Britain.  You can find some of his works on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adiecain/page3/

I don't actually recall just how "AdieCain" (his Plurk name) and I came to cross paths initially.  That is, I don't remember how the first connection came about.  Of course, with most personal/professional learning networks, things just kind of "happen."  In any case, Mr. Cain (who is really just a few years my senior and would probably bash me on the head for calling him "mister") is what I would suspect many people think of when they think of an artist: kinda wild, a little crazy, and paints as the mood hits him.

One day, he's hanging around the virtual water cooler and asks for ideas for a new painting.  I jumped on it.  I offered up descriptions of a field, overgrown and wild with a little house sitting in the distance.  The house is unkempt and ignored.  Other Plurkers took my suggestions and added to them.  Adie took all the suggestions and said he'd keep up informed of the progress.  It wasn't long (a week or so maybe) that he posted the beginnings of the work - rough sketch-in of rolling hills and the slight indication of the house.  We went bananas.  Really!   Several of the "smileys" on Plurk are banana-related (dancing ones, rockin' ones, etc). 

Not long after that, he posted the basically finished foliage portion and had more of the structure drawn in:


I was drooling.  This was shaping up to be a perfect fit for the novel!  The painting had a few things that didn't quite match the story, and even the finished product isn't exactly what I had pictured in my mind.  But, the great part about cover art is that it often gives the reader a hint of things to come, but doesn't always represent the story "exactly."  And for me, that is what makes it perfect for my novel.

In the novel, Corey Decker and several of his friends witness a horrific car accident while playing "cops and robbers" nearby.  When they learn of a "madman" that once lived in the woods behind his house, Decker and his gang set off to uncover the truth.  On their journey, they have a few misadventures, as kids often do, and along the way learn about each other and of the cruel tricks life plays sometimes.  After falling into an abandonded quarry pit, Decker and his friends come through a corn field only to discover a run-down, presumably abandonded house. 

I asked Mr. Cain for permission to use his artwork as the cover of my book, and he graciously allowed me to do so! Stop and think about that for just a moment. A guy in the United States joins a professional learning network. A few months later, he connects with an artist living in the UK. A moth or so after that initial connection, the artist hits a wall and needs an idea. On a lark, a suggestion is made, a painting is born, and soon the finished piece becomes the cover art for a novel. That blows my mind, and is something that could have really only happened through the "magic" of the Internet. Oh sure, people have communicated across the pond for centuries. But what are the chances an average guy would have happened to meet the person who would paint a cover for his novel (especially through writing letters)? Very slim, I would venture. For that matter, what would have been the chances an average guy could even publish a novel without "inside" connections to the publishing world? Again, slim. Thanks to the Internet, now anyone can publish easily. Before anyone gets all haughty on me, I recommend you watch "Ratatouille." Just sayin'.

Though the layout of the neighborhood is based loosely on the area I spent my early life, the tale comes completely from the space between my ears.  Most people have some "madman" or other legend they grew up with - the tales spun by older kids or adults to scare the wits out of younger kids or tales of strange floating lights or boggy-bottom monsters.  What makes those kinds of stories great is that finding the truth behind them is often more of an adventure than the legends themselves.

Jul 5, 2010

A novel update - All part of the process

As you may recall, last November I took part in the National Novel Writing Month challenge (write 50,000 words in 30 days).  This helped me move my long-slumbering novel-in-progress from paper weight to actual paper.  Once the contest was over, I took a little time to soak up my self-congratulatory celebration then got back to work.

Getting back to work meant ironing out some of the rough spots, making first-round edits, and turning the thing loose to a couple folks that asked to read and review it (with the added bonus of editing it).  I don't know what the average time it takes for the rewriting and editing process takes for a novel, but I can tell you it is a daunting task.  There is no way I could have done it without the help of the folks that lent a hand!  They'll be named in my acknowledgments once things get to that phase, for sure!

As of today, I have officially "finished" my novel!  I put that in quotes because if I choose to seek out an agent, editor, and go the traditional publishing route, then I am sure they will require that I do some editing.  Then again, maybe not since I've gone through that already.  You just never know how a certain editor will react.

So, now the question that occupies my mind centers on whether I want to seek out an agent or go the self-publishing route like I did with my short story collection.  There are benefits and drawbacks to each route.

Agency means finding someone that I get along with and that really wants to work with me as we develop my writing career.  There might be a lot of time involved, and there is the possibility of a false start or two.  The upside is that if everything works out, it could launch a new chapter in my life.

Self-publishing means I have control of the finished product.  The downsides mainly involve distribution and publicity.  Exposure will be much less in a self-publishing scenario, at least at first.  There have been plenty of authors that have proved very successful going the self-publishing route.  I'm just not necessarily a 'sales guy.'  The novel is in a form that I am happy with. I had a member of my professional learning network on Plurk actually provide the cover art I'd like to use.  The book is essentially print-ready from my perspective.

The first question most people ask is, "What's your book about?"  In a single sentence, I believe this describes it best:

Summer Breaks - After witnessing a horrific car crash in his neighborhood, nine year-old Corey Decker and his friends begin their summer break searching for a "madman" rumored to live in the woods nearby.

I'll let you know which path leads to the published novel!

If you've got any input, I'd like to hear it!  Know an agent that might be interested?  Feel free to pass my info along to them and/or their info on to me.  Have a preference/recommendation as to the agent/self-publishing route, let me know. 

Jul 4, 2010

A 4th of July Memory

When I was a teenager, my family moved from Pittsburgh, PA,  to Westminster, CO.  We did not stay there long before we moved to Aurora, CO.  We lived on Truckee St back when Truckee was basically the end of the subdivision.  Google Map the place now, and the road is lost in a sea of houses.

One summer, probably our first summer there, my brother and I bought a bag full of fireworks from a stand down the road.  I don't specifically remember where it was, but I'd guess near the corner of Buckley and Evans since that's where Taco Bell, Mickey D's and Shipley's Donuts stood.  We could ride our bikes without incident to get there.  Well, generally without incident.  One time, my brother flew down the hill and failed to stop at the sign when we reached the bottom.  He flew into the crossroad and ran into a car that had just turned the corner.  Yes, my brother hit a car with his bike.  I think the people in the car were so surprised and amused, they checked for damage (mainly on my brother) before pulling away laughing.  I digress.

The house where we lived had a two-car garage in the front.  My brother and I decided to light some of the fireworks even though the sun was still shining.  We decided to open a pack of bottle rockets.  We could watch them take off and pop in the sky.  We'd save the colorful, louder ones for the evening after the sun had gone down.  We each took a handful of rockets and our matches and stood in the mouth of the garage sending the missiles into the air (and into the neighbors' yards).  I don't remember using and actual bottle, though. I think we just held them until the fuse was lit, then we'd toss them like paper airplanes into the sky.

Or, we'd toss *most* of them.

After lighting one particular rocket (and though it would be easy to blame my brother here, I can't do that with full certainty), one of us dropped it to the ground.  Now, kids, if you're out there reading this and want to have your own fireworks display, please remember to put the bag of unused explosives on a shelf somewhere.  You've been warned.

The bottle rocket dropped straight INTO the open paper bag at our feet.  Sparks flew out of the top and then it popped.  For a brief moment, we thought things were fine.  And then, a series of pops, explosions, and a rainbow of colors spewed out of the bag before it blew apart into a million pieces.  If that weren't bad enough, the sound echoed throughout the subdivision as it radiated outward from the open garage!  People came out of their houses to see what on earth could be making all that noise!  There was nowhere to run.  It was our house and we were too dumbstruck to do anything more than stand there laughing our butts off, our hands still covering our ears.

After things died down, we cleaned up what evidence we could, hopped on our bikes and went to buy more fireworks.

Jul 2, 2010

"I made Mickey Mouse with my muffins!"

We're babysitting Kensley today.  While sitting on the couch eating breakfast, she held up her bowl and announced, "I made Mickey Mouse with my muffins!"  After she showed us, she even used her fingernail to make a nose and a mouth on her muffin.  Too cute!

Jul 1, 2010

LifeLock Security Alert!

I opened my email yesterday to an email with the following subject:

LifeLock Identity Alert(tm) [Reference:XXXXXX-XXXXXX]

My heart skipped a beat.  I opened it up, and the message inside told me that someone had applied for credit with a certain card company.  If that person was not me, I should call LifeLock and talk to their rep.  So, I called.  After walking through their menu system, I finally got a human and she asked me all kinds of questions to make sure I was who I said I was.  Here is a tip: REMEMBER the answers to your security questions!

We talked for a bit, and then the light came on. I had, in fact, filled out an application as part of a points-earning program that I take part in. I felt like an idiot, except that I had done that some time ago.  Turns out, the card company was just slow in reporting that out.  In effect, it could have been a week or so between the time someone had tried it and I got notified.  Luckily, everything was legit this time.

I'm very glad I have the LifeLock service.  I know the things they do are things I could do on my own if I had the time and memory.  I don't. I feel a whole lot better knowing those guys are out there watching for me.